PRAYER


PRAYER, the offering of petition, confession, adoration or thanksgiving to God.

In the Bible

The concept of prayer is based on the conviction that God exists, hears, and answers (Ps. 65:3; cf. 115:3–7) – that He is a personal deity. In a sense it is a corollary of the biblical concept that man was created "in the image of God" (Gen. 1:26–27), which implies, inter alia, fellowship with God (see *Man, Nature of). Although prayer has an intellectual base, it is essentially emotional in character. It is an expression of man's quest for the Divine and his longing to unburden his soul before God (Ps. 42:2–3 [1–2]; 62:9[8]). Hence prayer takes many forms: petition, expostulation, confession, meditation, recollection (anamnesis), thanksgiving, praise, adoration, and intercession. For the purpose of classification, "praise" is distinguished from "prayer" in the narrower, supplicatory sense, and "ejaculatory" from formal, "liturgical" prayer. But the source is the same; in its irresistible outpouring, the human heart merges all categories in an indivisible "I-Thou" relationship. Thus prayer and praise may intermingle (I Sam. 2:1–10) and supplication and thanksgiving follow in close succession (Ps. 13:1–5, 6). Indeed many scriptural passages might be called "para-prayers" – they seem to hover between discourse and entreaty (Ex. 3:1–12), meditation and petition (Jer. 20:7ff.), or expostulation and entreaty (Job, passim). It has been estimated (Koehler-Baumgartner) that there are 85 prayers in the Bible, apart from 60 complete psalms and 14 parts of psalms that can be so termed; five psalms are specifically called prayers (Ps. 17, 86, 90, 102, 142). But such liturgical statistics depend on the definition given to prayer.

TERMINOLOGY

The variegated character of biblical prayer has given rise to a rich nomenclature for praying. The rabbis already noted that "prayer is called by ten different expressions" (Sif. Deut. 26), but on closer examination even more can be found. The most common word for prayer is tefillah (Isa. 1:15); the corresponding verb is hitpallel (I Kings 8:42). The stem, pll, has been explained to mean "to cut oneself" and to refer to the primitive pagan custom of slashing oneself in a frenzy during worship. This etymology is not only hypothetical, but is wholly irrelevant to the biblical situation. It was the idol-worshipers who cut themselves (I Kings 18:28) and the verb used is wa-yitgodedu; the Torah forbids such practices (Deut. 14:1). In Scripture the stem pll signifies "to interpose, judge, hope." These meanings are eminently suited to the biblical conception of prayer as intercession and self-scrutiny leading to hope. Other terms are: qaraʾ ("to call" on the name of the Deity, i.e., worship – Gen. 4:26); zaʿaq ("to cry out" for redress of wrongs – Judg. 3:9); shiwwʿa ("to cry aloud" for help – Ps. 72:12); rinnah ("ringing cry" of joy or sorrow – Ps. 17:1); darash ("to seek" God – Amos 5:4); biqqesh penei ("to seek the face of" God – Hos. 5:15); shaʾal ("to inquire" – Ps. 105:40); nasaʾ ("to lift up" – Jer. 7:16); pagʿa ("to encounter," i.e., to appease, gain favor – Jer. 7:16); hithannen ("to seek favor," i.e., beseech – Deut. 3:23); shafakh lev ("to pour out heart" – Ps. 62:9[8]); and si'ah ("complaint" – Ps. 142:3[2]).

THE CHARACTER OF PRAYER

Despite its multifaceted character, biblical prayer is essentially a simple human reaction. The rabbis called it "the service in the heart" (Ta'an. 2a); the expression has its roots in biblical thought (Hos. 7:14; Ps. 108:2; 111:1). But the needs of man are so numerous and complex that prayer inevitably came to reflect the vast range of human moods, fears, hopes, feelings, desires, and aspirations. In early times – in the patriarchal age – a simple invocation, a calling upon the name of the Lord (Gen. 12:8; 21:33), would suffice. The approach to God at this stage was marked by spontaneity, directness, and familiarity – God was near. Yet the future was veiled by mystery; man was often undecided how to act. Hence the request for a sign or oracle addressed directly to God (Gen. 24:12–14), or indirectly through a priest (I Sam. 14:36–37) or prophet (II Kings 19:2ff.). From this stratum grew the magnificent prayers for understanding and guidance (Num. 6:24–26; I Kings 3:6ff.; Ps. 119:33ff.).

But in emergency man does not merely want to know the future; he seeks to determine it by entreating God's help. Thus Jacob (in a votive supplication) prayed for essential material needs (Gen. 28:20ff.); Eliezer for the success of his mission (Gen. 24:12–14); Abraham for the salvation of Sodom (Gen. 18:23–33); Moses for erring Israel (Ex. 32:31–32); Joshua for divine help in the hour of defeat (Josh. 7:6–9); Hezekiah for deliverance from Sennacherib (II Kings 19:15–19); the prophets on behalf of their people (Jer. 14:1ff.; 15:1ff.; Amos 7:2ff.); Daniel for Israel's restoration (Dan. 9:3–19); Ezra for the sins of his people (Ezra 9:6–15); and Nehemiah for the distress of his people (Neh. 1:4–11). Solomon's noble dedication prayer at the consecration of the Temple (I Kings 8:12–53) includes almost every type of prayer – adoration, thanksgiving, petition, and confession. It also strikes a universal note (8:41ff.) so often echoed by the prophets. The spectrum of biblical prayer thus ranges from the simplest material needs to the highest spiritual yearnings (Ps. 51:1ff.; 119:1ff.), transcending, like prophecy, the horizon of history and reaching to the realm of eschatology (Isa. 66:22–23).

There was an early relationship between *sacrifice and prayer (Gen. 13:4; 26:25), which persisted until the destruction of the Second Temple. The sacrifice suggested man's submission to the will of God; the prayer often provided a commentary on the offering. But the two are not necessarily linked. It is noteworthy that the sacrificial regulations make no liturgical provisions (except for the Day of Atonement, Lev. 16:21); but actually the offerings were themselves a dramatic form of prayer. Contrariwise, prayer could replace sacrifice (Ps. 141:2). In the synagogue, prayer, accompanied by Scripture reading and exposition, entirely took the place of altar offerings.

Examples of prayers of intercession have already been cited. The intercessor, whether prophet, priest, king, or national leader, does not point to the need for an intermediary in worship: "The Lord is near to all who call upon Him in truth" (Ps. 145:18). The intercessor is one who, by his innate spiritual attributes, lends weight to the entreaty. The ultimate criterion still remains not the worthiness of the pleader but of those for whom he is pleading (Ezek. 14:14, 20).

THE ACCESSORIES OF PRAYER

Prayer, unlike sacrifice, could be offered up anywhere (Gen. 24:26; Dan. 6:11 in the upper chamber; Ezra 9:5ff.), but there was a natural tendency to prefer a sacred site (e.g., Shiloh or Gibeon). Eventually the Temple at Jerusalem became the major place of prayer (Isa. 56:7); those who could not be there physically at least turned toward it when worshiping (Dan. 6:11; cf. Ps. 5:8 [7]). In time to come the Temple would be a house of prayer for all nations (Isa. 56:7). The synagogue had its origin during the Babylonian exile; originally a place of assembly, it became in due course a house of prayer and study. The emphasis on congregational prayer began to grow but private prayer was never abolished. The heart and not the hour dictated the occasion for prayer. Day and night the Heavenly Father could be entreated (e.g., I Sam. 15:11; Ps. 86:3; 88:2[1]). But the need for regularity brought about a synchronization of the times of prayer and of sacrifice: morning worship corresponded to the morning oblation (Ps. 5:4[3]), afternoon orisons to the late afternoon sacrifice (I Kings 18:36; Ezra 9:5). Nightfall provided yet another occasion for worship, so that prayers came to be offered thrice daily (Ps. 55:18; Dan. 6:11; though twice in I Chron. 23:30). The seven times mentioned in Psalms 119:164 mean "often" or "constantly."

In the Bible no particular gestures are prescribed in connection with prayer. But certain postures developed naturally to lend emphasis to the content of the prayer: standing, which is normal (I Sam. 1:26; I Kings 8:22); kneeling (Dan. 6:11; Ezra 9:5); prostration (Josh. 7:6); head bowed (Gen. 24:26; Neh. 8:6); hands stretched out or uplifted (I Kings 8:22; Ps. 28:2); face between knees (I Kings 18:42); and even sitting (II Sam. 7:18). More important accompaniments of prayer were fasting, mourning, and weeping (Isa. 58:2–5; Joel 2:12); but the ultimate criterion remained earnestness of heart (Joel 2:13).

Originally prayer was undoubtedly spontaneous and personal; but the need to organize religion gave rise to liturgical patterns and musical renderings (Ezra 2:65; I Chron. 16). Prayer formulas are found already in the Pentateuch (Deut. 21:7ff.; 26:5–15). The Psalms provide examples of fuller liturgical development, including choral and instrumental features (see *Psalms). The response "Amen" occurs in Numbers 5:22, Psalms 41:14, etc.; a prayer before the reading of the Torah in Nehemiah 8:6; a doxology in Nehemiah 9:5, 32; a typical review of God's dealings with Israel leading to a confession and a pledge in Nehemiah 9:6–10:1 (9:38).

ANSWER TO PRAYER

That prayer is answered is an accepted biblical verity (e.g., Gen. 19:17–23; Num. 12:9ff.); but Scripture is no less emphatic that not all prayers are answered (Gen. 18:17ff.; Isa. 29:13ff.). Ritual is not enough, while hypocritical worship is an abomination (Isa. 1:15; Amos 4:4ff.); and there are occasions when intercession is forbidden (Jer. 7:16; 11:14). It is at this point that the biblical concept of prayer is seen in its true inwardness. Paganism regarded worship as a form of magic, whereby the deity could be compelled to fulfill the worshiper's wishes; the moral element was wholly absent. In biblical faith the divine response is essentially linked to ethical and spiritual values. Man, as it were, answers his own prayer (Gen. 4:7), and fundamentally the answer is a significant change of spirit and outlook. Abraham learned the lesson of faith (Gen. 15:1–6); Moses became his people's deliverer (Ex. 3:2–4:18); Isaiah was transformed into a prophet (Isa. 6:5–8). Prayer and prophecy were probably closely correlated, the former providing spiritual soil in which the revelatory seed took root (Jer. 1:6ff.; Hab. 1:13–2:3). In many instances prayer assumes a tempestuous character (Jer. 12; Ps. 22; Job, passim [cf. 16:17]), but the storm always ends in newfound faith and peace. At times, moreover, God answers before He is appealed to (Isa. 65:24; cf. Dan. 9:20ff.), for man not only beseeches God, but God also seeks man (Isa. 50:2; 65:12). The "I-Thou" relationship is reciprocal.

In sum, the Bible conceives prayer as a spiritual bridge between man and God. It is a great instrument of human regeneration and salvation, worthy even of martyrdom (Dan. 6:11). Rooted in faith (Ps. 121) and moral integrity (Ps. 15), it banishes fear (Ps. 23) and asks, in its noblest formulations, only the blessing of divine favor (Num. 6:24–26). Clothed in language of simple but matchless beauty, it is imbued with religious love and a sense of sweet fellowship with God. Both the Christian and Muslim liturgies have been profoundly influenced by the spirit, thought, and forms of biblical prayer.

[Israel Abrahams]

In the Apocryphal Literature

There are a number of references to prayer in the apocryphal books, including the idea of the living offering up prayers on behalf of the dead (II Mac. 12:44–45). The apocryphal work, The Prayer of Manasseh, is a penitential prayer. The biblical concept that God is near to those who suffer is also developed (Ecclus. 35:13–17). Prayer is associated with the giving of alms (Ecclus. 7:10), and there is a national prayer for deliverance from an enemy (Ecclus. 36:1–17).

In Rabbinic Thought

On the biblical verse "And serve Him with all your heart" (Deut. 11:13), the rabbis commented "What is service of the heart? This is prayer" (Ta'an. 2a). "Service" (avodah) in this context is connected with the Temple and its worship, for which prayer is seen as a substitute. On the other hand, the saying of R. Eleazar that prayer is dearer to God than good works and sacrifices (Ber. 32b), though hyperbolic, may nonetheless be intended to express the real superiority of prayer. Possibly, the tension in this matter is to be perceived in the two reasons given for the statutory prayers of the day. According to one opinion, these were ordained by the patriarchs, while another view has it that they correspond to the perpetual offerings in Temple times (Ber. 26b).

The obligation of offering up prayer, though supported by a scriptural verse, is considered to be rabbinic, not biblical (Ber. 21a). Prayers are to be recited three times a day: morning, afternoon, and night (Ber. 4:1). In addition to the statutory prayers and private prayers of various kinds, public prayers were offered in times of distress; prayers for rain, for instance, in times of drought (Ta'an. 2:1–5).

THE VALUE OF PRAYER AND CONCENTRATION IN PRAYER

Prayer stands high in the world of values (Ber. 6b). God Himself prays, His prayer being that His mercy might overcome His judgment (Ber. 7a). Nevertheless, the study of the Torah occupies a higher rung than prayer, and some scholars, whose main occupation was study, only prayed periodically (Shab. 11a; RH 35a). A rabbi who spent too much time on his prayers was rebuked by his colleague for neglecting eternal life to engage in temporal existence (Shab. 10a). Communal prayer is of greater significance than private prayer (Ber. 8a; Deut. R. 2:12). Too much reflection on one's prayers in the expectation that these will be answered was discouraged (Ber. 32b). Prayer should be offered with proper concentration (kavvanah) on the words uttered in God's presence (Ber. 31a). R. Eliezer said: "He that makes his prayer a fixed task, his prayer is not supplication" (Ber. 4:4). R. Simeon b. Nethanel said: "…and when thou prayest make not thy prayer a fixed form, but [a plea for] mercies and supplications before God" (Avot 2:13). One way of avoiding the deadening familiarity of a "fixed form" was to recite a new prayer each day (TJ, Ber. 4:3, 8a). When R. Eliezer was asked by his disciples to teach them the ways of life that they might learn them and by following attain the life of the world to come, part of his reply was: "When you pray, know before Whom you stand" (Ber. 28b). A person who has just returned from a journey and is consequently unable to concentrate properly, should not pray until three days have elapsed (Er. 65a).

PROPER FORMS OF PRAYER

Not every prayer is valid. A prayer for God to change the past, for instance, is a "vain prayer" (Ber. 9:3). The impossibility of God answering every prayer addressed to Him is acknowledged in the account of the prayer of the high priest on the Day of Atonement who used to pray before the rainy season that the prayers of the travelers who required fair weather should not be allowed to enter God's presence (Yoma 53b). A man should not only pray for himself but should also think of others, using the plural form "grant us" rather than the singular "grant me" (Ber. 29b–30a). If a man needs something for himself but prays to God to grant that very thing to his neighbor who needs it, such an unselfish prayer causes God to grant him his wish first (BK 92a). Man should never despair of offering supplication to God "even if a sharp sword rests upon his neck" (Ber. 10a). In praising God, man should be circumspect, using only the standard forms of praise found in Scripture and established for use in prayer (Ber. 33b). Prayers of thanksgiving, particularly in the form of the benediction (berakhah), are repeatedly enjoined by the rabbis (Ber. 6:1–3), as well as praise of God for His wondrous works and the marvelous beings He has created (Ber. 9:1–2; Ber. 58b).

THE ADDRESSING OF PRAYERS DIRECTLY TO GOD

R. Judah said that if a human being is in trouble and wishes to invoke the aid of his patron he must first stand at the door and call out to a servant or a member of the patron's family and he may or may not be allowed to enter. But it is otherwise with God. God says, "When a man is in trouble, do not cry out to the angel Michael or to the angel Gabriel but to Me and I will answer immediately" (TJ, Ber. 9:1, 13a). On the other hand, R. Johanan said: "When one petitions for his needs in Aramaic, the ministering angels do not heed him, for they do not understand Aramaic" (Shab. 12b). Possibly a distinction is to be made between the angels bringing man's prayers to God and direct intercession, with the angels as intermediaries between man and God (cf. Tob., 12:12, 15). Some men were renowned for their capacity to pray and to have their prayers answered, so that great scholars, less gifted in this direction, would ask these saints to pray on their behalf (Ber. 34b). A number of miracle tales are told to illustrate the immediacy of God's response to the prayers of such men (Ta'an. 3:8; Ta'an. 23a–b).

In Medieval Thought

Although medieval Jewish thinkers profoundly considered major theological problems, there is surprisingly little discussion in their writings of the intellectual difficulties involved in prayer. One of the few discussions as to why prayer should be necessary, since God knows man's needs, is that of Joseph *Albo (Ikkarim 4:18). Albo replies that the act of turning to God in prayer is itself one of the conditions upon which God's help depends, just as it depends on other forms of human effort.

MAIMONIDES

True to his doctrine of theological negation, *Maimonides in the standard liturgy only permits the use of those divine attributes in prayer which have been ordained by the "prophets," and he is opposed to the indiscriminate writing of hymns (Guide, 1:59; cf. Ibn Ezra to Eccles. 5:1). In spite of the talmudic statement that the obligation to pray is of rabbinic origin (mi-de-rabbanan), Maimonides observes that this only applies to the number, form, and times of prayer, and that it is a biblical duty for the Jew to pray daily (Yad, Tefillah, 1:1). The need for adequate concentration in prayer (kavvanah) is particularly stressed in the Middle Ages and formed part of the general tendency prevalent among medieval Jewish thinkers who stressed greater inwardness in religious life. *Bahya ibn Paquda (Ḥovot ha-Levavot, 8:3, 9) remarks that prayer without concentration is like a body without a soul or a husk without a kernel. Maimonides' definition of kavvanah reads: "Kavvanah means that a man should empty his mind of all other thoughts and regard himself as if he were standing before the Divine Presence" (Yad, Tefillah, 4:16; cf. H.G. Enelow, in: Studies in Jewish Literature Issued in Honor of Prof. Kaufmann Kohler (1913), 82–107).

THE KABBALISTS

The kabbalists stress the difficulty of petitionary prayer to a God who is unchanging. They advance the view that prayer cannot, in fact, be offered to God as He is in Himself (Ein Sof), but only to God as He is manifested in the ten divine potencies (the Sefirot). God Himself is, therefore, not entreated directly to show mercy, for example, but prayer is directed to God as He is manifested in the Sefirah of loving-kindness. As a result of the power of man's prayer, this potency might function on earth. The magical nature of kabbalistic prayer and the dangers of setting up the Sefirot as divine intermediaries were the topic of much subsequent debate (Ribash, Resp. no. 157). The kabbalists, in fact, substituted for the older doctrine of kavvanah the concept of special intentions (kavvanot) i.e., meditations on the realm of Sefirot. Instead of concentrating on the plain meaning of the prayers, the kabbalist dwells on the realm of divine potencies and directs his mind, when reciting the words, to the supernal mysteries which govern and are controlled by them (see I. Tishby, Mishnat ha-Zohar, 2 (1961), 247–306).

The Ḥasidim

In Ḥasidism, the kabbalistic type of kavvanot yields to a far more emotional involvement and attachment (devekut) to God. "The metamorphosis which took place in the meaning of kavvanot at the advent of Ḥasidism, and more explicitly after the Great Maggid [*Dov Baer of Mezhirech], consists in this – that an originally intellectual effort of meditation and contemplation had become an intensely emotional and highly enthusiastic act" (Weiss, in: JJS, 9 (1958), 163–92). In Ḥasidism, prayer is a mystical encounter with the Divine, the heart leaping in ecstasy to its Source. Violent movements in prayer were not unusual; some of the ḥasidic groups even encouraged their followers to turn somersaults during their prayers (Dubnow, Ḥasidut, 112–5).

Prayer is frequently seen in Ḥasidism as man's most important religious activity. R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady, the founder of the intellectual *Ḥabad sect in Ḥasidism, writes: "For although the forms of the prayers and the duty of praying three times a day are rabbinic, the idea of prayer is the foundation of the whole Torah. This means that man knows God, recognizing His greatness and His splendor with a serene and whole mind, and an understanding heart. Man should reflect on these ideas until his rational soul is awakened to love God, to cleave to Him and to His Torah, and to desire His commandments" (M. Teitelbaum, Ha-Rav mi-Ladi u-Mifleget Habad, 2 (1914), 219).

In Ḥabad Ḥasidism, the true meaning of prayer is contemplation on the kabbalistic scheme whereby God's infinite light proceeds through the whole chain of being, from the highest to the lowest. Man should reflect on this until his heart is moved in rapture, but he should not engage in prayer for the sake of the pleasure such rapture will bring him; he must take care not to confuse authentic ecstasy with artificial spiritual titivation (Dov Baer of Lubavitch, Kunteres ha-Hitpa'alut). Many ḥasidic groups, otherwise strictly conformist, disregarded the laws governing prayer at fixed times on the grounds that these interfere with the need for adequate preparation and with the spontaneity which is part of the prayer's essence.

THE PRACTICE OF SWAYING IN PRAYER

During the Middle Ages, the practice of swaying during prayer is mentioned. The Zohar (3:218b–219a) refers to the difference between Israel and the nations. It states that the soul of the Jew is attached to the Torah as a candle is attached to a great flame, and hence Jews sway to and fro while studying the Torah. *Judah Halevi (Kuzari 2:79–80) also refers to the custom as practiced during the study of the Torah, but makes no mention of prayer. Isserles, however, quoting earlier authorities, also mentions the custom for prayer, while other authorities disagree (see Sh. Ar., OḤ, 48:1 and Magen Avraham, ad loc.). The explanation given by Simeon Brainin (quoted by Judah David Eisenstein in JE 11 (1907), 607), that swaying during study and prayer was intended to afford the body with exercise, is incredibly banal. Bodily movements during prayer are, of course, not unusual among the adherents of most religions.

In Modern Thought

The early reformers were much concerned about such questions as prayers for the restoration of sacrifices or the return to Zion, and whether prayer might be recited in the vernacular. Very few challenges, however, were presented to the idea of prayer as such in its traditional understanding. In the 20th century, Jewish thinkers began to consider the basic philosophical problems surrounding prayer. Petitionary prayer was felt to be especially difficult in the light of scientific views regarding cause and effect. A definite move away from the idea of prayer as a means of influencing God and toward its function as a way to affect man's attitudes can be observed. "Self-expression before God in prayer has thus a double effect; it strengthens faith in God's love and kindness, as well as in His all-wise and all-bountiful prescience. But it also chastens the desires and feelings of man, teaching him to banish from his heart all thoughts of self-seeking and sin, and to raise himself toward the purity and the freedom of the divine will and demand" (K. Kohler, Jewish Theology (1918), 275).

The tendency in some circles to reinterpret the God-idea itself in impersonal terms has cast prayer into a different light. It is seen as an attempt by man to attune himself to those powers in the universe which make for human self-fulfillment and as a reaching out to the highest within his own soul. Defenders of the traditional view of God and of prayer to Him have, however, not been lacking. (See Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly of America, 17 (1953), 151–238, for these two opinions).

[Louis Jacobs]

Women and Prayer

Biblical examples of female prayer include the songs of Miriam (Ex. 15:20–21) and Deborah (Judg. 5:1–31). Hannah's entreaty at Shiloh (I Sam. 2) became the rabbinic exemplar of supplicatory prayer for women and men (Ber. 31a–b).

Although Berakhot 20a–b is clear that women are obligated to pray (since prayer is a supplication "for mercy," necessary for all), rabbinic Judaism exempted women from communal prayers which were to be recited at specific times. Women's prayer was to follow the spontaneous model of Hannah's worship from the heart and could be uttered at any time and in any language (Sot. 32a–33a). However, rabbinic literature has little to say about the content of women's personal worship. Some authorities have claimed that women were not obligated in rabbinic time-bound commandments, including prayer, because regular synagogue attendance would interfere with their primary domestic roles. However, women not responsible for home and family were also exempt from communal prayer. Others have suggested that women were not obligated in time-bound public rituals because, like slaves and minors, they are of subordinate status: In the system of rabbinic Judaism, male heads of households perform religious acts on behalf of women, children, and other dependents under their aegis.

An exception to Judaism's normative exemption of women from participation in communal prayer occurred in medieval Ashkenaz, between the 11th and 13th centuries, when Jewish women's central roles in economic and social life, coupled with a concurrent religious revival in Christian Europe, empowered women to demand more significant participation in Jewish worship (Grossman, Pious and Rebellious …). This included fulfilling time-bound positive commandments such as shaking the lulav and sitting in a sukkah as well as regular participation in synagogue worship on the Sabbath and holidays. Medieval rabbis, among them R. Jacob *Tam, permitted these innovations. A century later, some Ashkenazi sages agreed to include women in the quorum of three or ten needed for the invitation to recite grace after meals. *Dulcea of Worms (d. 1196), wife of R. *Eleazar of Worms (the Roke'aḥ), was one of a number of Ashkenazi women, including Richenza and Urania, described by contemporaries as serving as "prayer leaders of the women." These women stood in the women's section of the synagogue near a small window which was connected to the main sanctuary and repeated the cantor's prayers aloud so that the women could follow the service.

In East European synagogues of the early modern era, women called firzogerin (Yiddish for "foresayers") led prayers among women in the synagogue. Some may have composed *tkhines, vernacular petitionary prayers written for and sometimes by women.

In the modern era, particularly in North America, gender issues in prayer have defined the differences among Jewish denominations. Nineteenth-century American Reform Judaism introduced a number of changes, including family pews, mixed choirs, and the confirmation ceremony (initially intended to replace the bar mitzvah), directed at reducing women's inequality in prayer. Penina *Moise of Charleston, South Carolina, was the author of America's first Jewish hymnal, published in 1842; many of her contributions were used in Reform worship well into the 20th century.

Women's roles in prayer in Conservative Judaism were circumscribed until the 1950s, when the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards first raised the possibility of women being called to the Torah. By the 1980s and 1990s, after Jewish feminists agitated for change, women were counted in the minyan and called to the Torah in a majority of Conservative synagogues. Havurot (prayer and study groups without professional clergy, which arose in the 1960s) promoted egalitarian worship and opportunities for women's religious leadership. The Reconstructionist movement established gender equality as a founding principle. By the late 20th century, Orthodox women also expanded traditional roles by forming women's prayer groups where women led services, read the Torah, and celebrated life cycle passages. However, such groups did not say those prayers for which a minyan is required. By the first decade of the 21st century, new prayer communities in Israel and North America included women as much as possible in traditional worship. In these prayer groups, a meḥiẓah separates men and women but divides the room evenly between them. With a traditional minyan of ten men (or, in some cases, ten men and ten women), women lead certain parts of the service (the introductory morning blessings and the prayers welcoming the Sabbath) and fully participate in the Torah service, including reading from the Torah.

In the last quarter of the 20th century, feminism had a significant impact on Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist liturgies. Changes included eliminating references to the community of worshipers as male and adding the names of the matriarchs to those contexts in which the patriarchs were traditionally invoked. Other innovations focused on gender neutral ways to address God, using both English translations and new Hebrew epithets such as Mekor ha-Ḥayyim ("Source of Life").

In the last decades of the 20th century, women also constructed new prayers and rituals for events in their lives not previously sanctified in Judaism, such as onset of menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, weaning children, and menopause. Others created liturgical roles for women and girls in traditional lifecycle passages, such as egalitarian wedding ceremonies, lesbian commitment ceremonies, and rituals acknowledging separation and divorce. Healing ceremonies addressed women's pain and losses from violence and abuse, illness, miscarriage, infertility, abortion. Other life cycle innovations, such as bat mitzvah and simḥat bat (baby naming/covenant ceremonies), were female complements to existing rituals centered on males.

[Susan Sapiro (2nd ed.)]

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

K. Kohler, The Psalms and Their Place in the Liturgy (1897); A. Greiff, Das Gebet im Alten Testament (1915); F. Heiler, Das Gebet (1923); A. Wendel, Das freie Laiengebet im vorexilischen Israel (1932); Idelsohn, Liturgy; P.A.H. de Boer, in: OTS, 3 (1943); S.H. Blank, in: HUCA, 21 (1948), 331–54; 32 (1961), 75–90; idem, Jeremiah, Man and Prophet (1961), 92–93, 105ff., 234ff.; F. Hesse, Die Fuerbitte im Alten Testament (1951); M.D. Goldmann, in: Australian Biblical Review, 3 (1953), 1ff.; D.R. Ap-Thomas, in: Scottish Journal of Theology, 9 (1956), 422–9; idem, in: VT, 3 (1956), 225–41; J. Scharbert, in: Theologie und Glaube, 50 (1960), 321–38; J. Has-Paecker, in: Bibel und Leben, 2 (1961), 81–92, 157–70; E.A. Speiser, in: JBL, 82 (1963), 300–6; H. Ḥamiel (ed.), Ma'yanot (1964); H.A. Broncers, in: ZAW, 77 (1965), 1–20; L. Krinetzki, Israels Gebet im Alten Testament (1905); A. Gonzáles, La oración en la Biblia (1968); M. Kadushin, Worship and Ethics: A Study in Rabbinic Judaism (1964); R. Schatz-Uffenheimer, in: Studies in… Gershom G. Scholem (1967), 317–36. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: R. Biale, Women and Jewish Law (1984); J. Baskin, Midrashic Women (2002); M. Bar-Ilan. Some Jewish Women in Antiquity (1998); T. Cohen, "Women's Spiritual Alternatives," in: J. Harlow et. al., Pray Tell: A Hadassah Guide to Jewish Prayer (2003); S.B. Fishman, A Breath of Life (1995); A. Grossman, Pious and Rebellious: Jewish Women in Medieval Europe (2004); J. Hauptman, Rereading the Rabbis (1998); D. Orenstein (ed.), Lifecycles (1998); S. Grossman and R. Haut (eds.), Daughters of the King (1992). WEBSITE: www.dnoam.org (Darkhei Noam); http://www.geocities.com/shira_hadasha/.


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.