Intro to Jewish Liturgy

The Jewish Theological Seminary of America


Syllabus Fall 2009

Professor Tzvee Zahavy

Description: In this course we will study the weekday Jewish prayer services. We will analyze their structure, content, historical development, phenomenology, sociology, psychology and theology. We will disassemble the components of Jewish liturgy, and reassemble them to see how they constitute complex definitions of Judaism.

Book to purchase for classroom use:

Books by your instructor available to you in digital form through these links and Blackboard:

  • The Mishnaic Law of Blessings and Prayers: Tractate Berakhot, Brown University Judaic Studies

  • The Talmud of the Land of Israel: Tractate Berakhot, University of Chicago Press

  • Studies in Jewish Prayer, Studies in Judaism, UPA [= SJP]

Other books, on reserve in the library and available online (indicated in the course outline as a Suppl. Reading):

  • Ismar Elbogen, Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive History. JTS, 1993.

  • Joseph Heinemann, Prayer in the Talmud. 1977.

  • Lawrence Hoffman, My People's Prayer Book: The Amidah. Jewish Lights, 1998.

  • Reuven Hammer, Entering Jewish Prayer. Schocken, 1994.

  • Max Kadushin, Worship and Ethics.

  • Stephen Schach, The Structure of the Siddur. Jason Aronson, 1996.

  • Leon Wieseltier, Kaddish. Knopf, 1999.

Requirements: Classroom attendance and participation. Regular and substantive contributions to discussions on Blackboard.

Essay assignments (submitted through the Blackboard assignment manager):

  • Four or Five short topical essays of 700-1000 words.

  • One final synthetic essay of 1200-1500 words.

  • There will be a standard option and a creative option for you to choose from for each assignment.

  • There will be no examinations.

Your assignments and postings must demonstrate that you completed and understood the assigned reading materials of this course syllabus and the lectures of this course.

You are not permitted to use Wikipedia or any other Internet or digital resources for your assignments.

Strict policy of no incompletes. The instructor is an adjunct professor, teaching this course for the duration of this semester. As such, he will not accept your late assignments and will not assign to you a grade of incomplete in this course.

You are responsible for consulting Blackboard regularly for:

  • Your weekly assignments, actual required and supplementary readings, prayer texts to analyze, and discussion boards

  • To submit all of your assignments

The following is your initial syllabus for the course. Your detailed weekly course schedule will be posted on Blackboard.

1. Good Questions to Ask

Required Readings

  • Zahavy, SJP, chapter I. Methods for the Analysis of Early Jewish Prayer

Prayer Texts to Analyze

  • Ashrei and Alenu

2. The Judaism of Daily Blessings and Prayers

Required Readings

  • Background article: Zahavy, “Judaism: The Mishnaic Period”

  • "Tosefta Tractate Berakhot." Chapter one in The Tosefta Translated from the Hebrew. First Division. Zera`im, ed. J. Neusner and R. Sarason, KTAV, New York , 1986.

  • "Mishnah Tractate Berakhot." Chapter one in The Mishnah. A New American Translation, ed. J. Neusner, Yale University Press, New Haven , 1988 (Zahavy with Alan Avery-Peck).

  • "The Mishnaic Law of Blessings and Prayers," = Part One: Mishnah-Tosefta Berakhot in The Law of Agriculture in the Mishnah and the Tosefta: Translation, Commentary, Theology. Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 1, the Ancient near East. ed. Jacob Neusner. Brill Academic Pub (November 1, 2005), pp. 399-574

  • Zahavy, SJP, chapter II. The Beginnings of Rabbinic Prayer: Textual Evidence

  • _____, chapter III. The Formative age: Berakhot Before 70

  • _____, chapter IV. The Age of Internal Conflicts, Self-definition and Transition: Berakhot at Yavneh

  • _____, chapter V. The Age of Standardization and Systematization: Berakhot at Usha

  • _____, chapter VI. The Mishnah-Redactor's Unified Theory of Prayer and Blessings

  • _____, chapter VII. The World of Early Rabbinic Prayer

  • Artson, Bradley Shavit. Barukh ha-Shem (Suppl. Reading)

Prayer Texts to Analyze

  • All the Blessings; the Birkat Hamazon

3. The Politics and Personalities of Piety: the Shema

Required Readings

  • Zahavy Article: "The Politics of Piety: Social Conflict and the Emergence of Rabbinic Liturgy," in The Making of Jewish and Christian Worship , ed. L. Hoffman and P. Bradshaw, Notre Dame University Press, 1991. [Based on a paper presented at a Symposium at the University of Notre Dame, 1988.]

  • Zahavy, SJP, chapter IX. The Scribal Influence on Prayer: The Shema`

  • Zahavy, "Political and Social Dimensions in the Formation of Early Jewish Prayer: the Case of the Shema`," in the Proceedings of the Tenth World Congress of Jewish Studies , Jerusalem, Division C, Vol. 1, pp. 33-40, Jerusalem, 1990.

Prayer Texts to Analyze

  • The Shema and its blessings

4. The Politics and Personalities of Piety: the Amidah

Required Readings

  • Zahavy, SJP, chapter X. Priestly and Patriarchal Influences on Prayer: The Eighteen Blessings

  • Bickerman, Elias J. The Civic Prayer For Jerusalem. (Suppl. Reading)

  • Zahavy Article: “How Society Shaped the Liturgy of the Scribes, Priests and Rabbis,” in When Judaism and Christianity Began: Essays in Memory of Anthony J. Saldarini, Brill Academic Publishers (2004)

  • Elbogen, Ismar. Jewish Liturgy, TBA (Suppl. Reading)

Prayer Texts to Analyze

  • The Amidah

5. Making Psalms into Prayers

Required Readings

  • Zahavy, SJP, chapter XI. From Temple to Synagogue: The Hallel in Early Rabbinic Judaism

  • Hoffman, Lawrence. Beyond the Text (Suppl. Reading)

  • Jacobson, B.S. Meditations (Suppl. Reading)

Prayer Texts to Analyze

  • Hallel

  • Psukei dzimra

  • Shir shel yom

6. Sacred Exterior Spaces of Prayer Experience

Required Readings

  • Zahavy, SJP, chapter VIII. The Synagogue in Mishnah, Tosefta and the Talmud of the Land of Israel

  • Langer, Ruth. From Study of Scripture to a Reenactment of Sinai (Suppl. Reading)

  • Blank, The Use of B'rakhot around the Torah Recitation, TBA

Prayer Texts to Analyze

  • The Synagogue Torah Service

7. Sacred Interior Spaces of Prayer Experience

Required Readings

  • Zahavy, SJP, chapter XII. The Psychology of Early Rabbinic Prayer

  • Zahavy, " Kavvanah (Concentration) for Prayer in the Mishnah and the Talmud," in New Perspectives on Ancient Judaism , Lanham, 1987. [Based on a paper delivered December 2, 1985, at the Bar Ilan University Talmud Department, Departmental Seminar, Ramat Gan , Israel ]

  • Zahavy, "Altered States of Consciousness: Prayer in the Mishnah," The Reconstructionist, Vol. LIII, No. 6, April/May 1988.

  • Zahavy, "Three Stages in the Development of Early Rabbinic Prayer," in The Festschrift for Marvin Fox, Brown Judaic Studies, 1989, vol. I, pp. 233-265.

  • Wieseltier, Leon. Kaddish (Suppl. Reading)

Prayer Texts to Analyze

  • The Kaddish

8. Talmudic Rabbis Discuss Prayer

Required Readings

  • Zahavy, SJP, chapter XIII. A Rabbinic Compendium on Prayer: The Editorial Structure of the Talmud of the Land of Israel Tractate Berakhot

  • Zahavy, Yerushalmi Berakhot, TBA

  • Heinemann, Joseph. Prayer in the Talmud, TBA

9. Modern Rabbis Discuss Prayer

Required Readings

  • Hoffman, TBA

  • Kimmelman, TBA

  • Solovetchik, Worship of the Heart: Essays on Jewish Prayer, TBA

  • Kadushin, Max. Worship and Ethics (Suppl. Reading)

10. Resources for your liturgical studies

  • Jewish Prayer Bibliography (1990)