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.