Holis­tic Prayer: A Guide to Jew­ish Spirituality

Avra­ham Weiss
  • Review
By – October 31, 2014

Prayer takes place indi­vid­u­al­ly and com­mu­nal­ly. We pray not only when in need, but in times of joy and sor­row, cel­e­bra­tion and thanks­giv­ing, praise and com­mu­nal peti­tion. There is a prayer book, the sid­dur. For some the rote recita­tion may become stag­nant. For oth­ers the inten­si­ty required and desired may not be achieved. How ought one max­i­mize the prayer expe­ri­ence? How should we approach the very vis­cer­al expe­ri­ence of prayer? Rab­bi Avi Weiss takes us on a jour­ney of dis­cov­ery to under­stand why holis­tic prayer — syn­the­siz­ing heart, mind, body, and soul with the com­mu­ni­ty, the envi­ron­ment, and the cos­mos — offers a viable approach to infus­ing prayer with mean­ing, grat­i­fi­ca­tion, and fulfillment.

There are books which pro­vide the his­to­ry of prayer and oth­ers which pro­vide com­men­tary. The goal of this vol­ume is to enrich the prayer expe­ri­ence. Rab­bi Weiss’ s syn­a­gogue is known as a place where spir­it­ed and mean­ing­ful prayer takes place. He shares with us many sto­ries, para­bles, inter­pre­ta­tions, and insights which enable the read­er to more ful­ly appre­ci­ate the prayers and the act of pray­ing. Although not a com­men­tary per se, many prayers are expli­cat­ed line by line. Inter­pre­ta­tions and inspi­ra­tional sto­ries are drawn from many sources to illus­trate each point he makes. Hasidic mas­ters, yeshi­va deans, philoso­phers and poets, medieval and mod­ern schol­ars are all uti­lized for their insights into prayer.

While not exact­ly a man­u­al about how to pray, Holis­tic Prayer focus­es on how we need to feel about the act of pray­ing and how we are to under­stand its dynam­ics. If we under­stand that prayer is about estab­lish­ing a con­nec­tion with God, then per­haps we can approach it dif­fer­ent­ly. Com­bin­ing emo­tion with intel­lect, Rab­bi Weiss shares with the read­er his own jour­ney to find­ing ful­fill­ment in prayer. The var­i­ous themes and the struc­ture of the prayers are ana­lyzed so that under­stand­ing them can lead to deep­er appre­ci­a­tion. He deals with how we need to inter­nal­ize the words to more effec­tive­ly com­mu­ni­cate with God.

There are peo­ple who dav­en and there are the lucky ones who are able to com­mune with God. Tran­si­tion­ing from the for­mer to the lat­ter is what this book is all about. Rab­bi Weiss is a gift­ed teacher and it is some­what strange that his decades of teach­ing at Stern Col­lege are omit­ted from his dust­jack­et biog­ra­phy. The book is writ­ten in an easy non-tech­ni­cal style and can be appre­ci­at­ed by those new to prayer as well as by those who have prayed all their lives. Rab­bi Weiss is known for his pas­sion, empa­thy, intel­lect, and deeply felt emo­tions. He has shared these with us in this book.

Relat­ed content:

Wal­lace Greene, Ph.D., has held sev­er­al uni­ver­si­ty appoint­ments, and cur­rent­ly writes and lec­tures on Jew­ish and his­tor­i­cal subjects.

Discussion Questions