My fellow blogger Tzvee Zahavy has written a fascinating book titled God’s Favorite Prayers (Teaneck, NJ: Talmudic Books, 2011). The book deals with Jewish prayers and spirituality...Michael Pitkowsky, aka Menachem Mendel, has published an insightful review of my new book on his blog, menachemmendel.net. He concludes with his recommendation, and some interview questions for yours truly:
Zahavy says that God’s Favorite Prayers was written as a result of his spiritual quest. His quest was to discover God’s favorite prayers and the ideal synagogue. In his quest for the perfect religious experience and in order to find the ideal synagogue, Zahavy decided “to pray at least one time in every one of the synagogues in Jerusalem” (p. 10).
The book narrates stories about people he has met in his search for the ideal synagogue. Zahavy introduces several people and different events that touched his life and made an impact on his spiritual journey. His journey was an attempt at discovering the deep meanings present in classical Jewish liturgies and to focus on the prayers recited in Jewish worship.
The approach Zahavy takes to explain the importance of prayer and spirituality in the lives of those people who worship God in the synagogue is by introducing six ideal personalities who serve as archetypes of Jewish worshipers and their prayers....more...
I recommend God’s Favorite Prayers to anyone who is looking for a book that will help him/her gain a greater appreciation and knowledge of the different Jewish liturgical experiences and possibilities that are available.
I sent Tzvee a number of questions that he was kind enough to answer.
Q: In your book you skillfully illustrate the different types of liturgical texts and experiences that are found in Judaism. Do you envision most people being able to identify with these different types concurrently, or will they find themselves drawn to certain experiences and texts more than others?
A: Worshippers ought to be educated to use the prayers of the various archetypes to evoke the varied elements of their spiritual personalities. In actuality, some people will be eclectic and some will be one dimensional. I do believe that every Jew has the potential to activate all six archetypes in a greater or lesser degree by tuning in to the contents of our masterpiece prayers in the siddur and the machzor.
Q: And what about you personally?
A: I identify more strongly with the Scribe and less so with the Celebrity. At times I am a Meditator, especially at the end of Yom Kippur. I write about my father who fit more into the Priest archetype. In a sense, I try to describe the genetic makeup of the Jewish soul as expressed in the prayers. The application of my framework will vary according to the time, place and person.
Q: What is your opinion about new liturgical texts? Are there any that you find meaningful, and if so, why?
A: On Tisha B’Av I use the version of the Nachem paragraph that Abraham Rosenfeld wrote after the Six Day War. I do hope that bringing more substantive focus to the emotional meanings of the prayers and to their “personalities” will enable us to revise and sharpen their dramatic spiritual impact.