These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Kavuah T’filah

Posted on December 5, 2012 by David Bogomolny

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Fixed prayer is a salient element of halakha (Jewish law). Jews committed to halakha pray 3x every day (morning, afternoon, evening), and for many it is challenging to find meaning in the mandated, daily recitation of standardized liturgy.

A couple of years ago, I took a class that explored various spiritual practices in Hasidic and other Jewish traditions, and I came across the following quote:

The first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandatory Palestine.

R. Kook

“The perpetual prayer of the soul continually strives to… become revealed and actualized… Prayer is only as it should be when it arises from the awareness that the soul is always praying. At the moment of actual prayer the perpetual prayer of the soul is revealed in action. She then resembles a rose which opens her gentle petals toward the dew or the rays of the sun that shine upon her.”

Rabbi A. I. Kook, 1865-1935, Jerusalem
Introduction to Olat Ra’aya

We can’t know where our souls are, despite attempts to identify its location. I feel that my soul is an entity in and of itself, and I don’t presume to know where it is, or even presume that it has a location that a human being can comprehend. I believe that my soul is a ‘Divine spark’ (for lack of a better term); a part of G-d.

As such, I believe in a distinction between the ‘me’ that functions in my daily, earthly life, and my soul, which I believe is ‘of G-d’ and beyond my comprehension. R. Kook’s suggestion that my soul is perpetually praying, reaching for G-d, as I go through my life is comfortable for me – it makes intuitive sense.

Therefore, kavuah (fixed) t’filah (prayer) is actually an opportunity for me, rather than an onus. The halakhic framework established for me by my tradition creates windows to G-d in my often mundane existence, aligning the ‘me’ that I most relate to and comprehend with my soul, which ever strives for Divinity.