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Prayer: the offering of petition, confession, adoration or thanksgiving to God.613
First it should be noted that the English word “prayer” is a somewhat misleading translation for the Hebrew tefillah.614 “Prayer” implies request more than does tefillah. “Prayer” does not have the reflexive aspect embedded in tefilla615 “Prayer” is more universally applicable than the distinctively Jewish tefillah. “Prayer” is possibly not as metaphysically charged as the Hebrew tefillah. Therefore we will generally employ the Hebrew term tefillah for the balance of this section.616 There are many definitions and understandings of tefillah. Our concern is not to provide a full-scale analysis of the concept. Rather, it is to demonstrate that our formulation is reconcilable with tefillah. If teftllah as we know it is not easily reconcilable with our formulation, it does not necessarily follow that our formulation is wrong.617 However, if our formulation is reconcilable with tefillah, an important hurdle is surmounted.
However, even if tefillah remains problematical, we will have advanced Jewish philosophy. For, we would be trading in the vexing, severe core challenge of the theodicy dilemma, and would remain with a pre-existing philosophical friction area
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613 Encyclopaedia Judaica, S.V. “Prayer.” vol. 13, col. 978.
614 See Gordis, A Faith for Moderns, p. 258. “The English word ‘prayer’ is derived from the Latin verb precare, ‘beg, entreat,’ exactly like the German Gebet. . . . The Hebrew verb ‘to pray’ is derived probably from a root meaning ‘to judge.’ and its original meaning may therefore be ‘to examine or judge oneself.’ ”
615 See Breuer’s introduction to the Hirsch Siddur. “Tefilluh (from which derives hitpalel) requires that we imbue ourselves (palel) ever anew.” 616. See Gordis, A Faith for Moderns, p. 257. “The first prayer recorded in Scripture is that of the Patriarch Jacob at Beth-el. When, as a lad, Jacob left his father’s home to go toward an unknown destiny, he found himself at nightfall in an open field. With a stone as a pillow, he fell asleep, and in a dream saw a ladder stretching from earth to heaven.”
617 Berkovits notes that “theoretically it is possible for one to be a pious Jew in the strictest orthodox sense of the word without ever uttering a word of prayer.” See his entire paragraph in Stitskin, Studies in Torah Judaism, p. 93. The Ramban, in contradistinction to the Rambam, holds that there is no requirement for tefillah except b’sh’as tzarah (“in time of distress7). See Nachmanides’ comments on Maimonides’ Sefer ha-Mitzvot, Positive Commandment 5.
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