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Praying Anew: Unlocking Meaning in the Words of the Siddur (Rabbi Elie Kaunfer)

Thursday, January 13, 2022 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

|Recurring Event (See all)

An event every week that begins at 12:30 pm on Thursday, repeating until Thursday, January 27, 2022


Praying Anew: Unlocking Meaning in the Words of the Siddur

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer

The Jewish prayerbook is a collage of texts that reflect our deepest emotions, longings and experiences. But sometimes it takes some work to unlock this meaning. Together we will interpret the texts of our prayers, uncovering new insights and learning a method of understanding the prayerbook in a new way. LINK


Session 1: New Ways to Understand the Siddur: The Literary Method of Interpretation

Explore the literary approach to Jewish liturgy using the case study of the first paragraph of the Amidah. Our prayers quote or reference biblical sources all the time. By comparing the text of the prayer to the sources it draws from, you can unlock new meanings for the prayer book. Why do we say “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to say “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”? Why do we call God “great, mighty, and awesome”? Why not more adjectives? Why those? What do they mean?


Session 2: Resurrection Revisited: A Closer Look at the Blessing of Giving Life to the Dead

In this session, we will open up the second blessing of the Amidah – said in all formal Jewish prayer services – to explore different possibilities of meaning. Which biblical and midrashic texts stand behind this blessing, and how can they open up our field of vision around this controversial prayer?


Session 3: The Mourners Kaddish: A New Interpretation

Join me as we explore the essence of the kaddish, perhaps the most misunderstood prayer in Judaism. We will move on an interpretive journey that has implications for all prayers we say. Along the way we will encounter the power of the Kaddish, a poignant depiction of God’s relationship with us, and what people can offer the Divine.


Session 4: The Non-Cognitive Aspects of Prayer 

What are the parts of the prayer experience which are not encapsulated by the words of the siddur/prayerbook? In what ways are the words designed to conjure up an experience which isn’t contained within the plain meanings of the words? How does the volume of prayer change the experience? Join me on a journey beyond the words of the siddur and into a more holistic prayer experience.


Rabbi Elie Kaunfer is President and CEO of the Hadar Institute. Elie has previously worked as a journalist, banker, and corporate fraud investigator. A graduate of Harvard College, he completed his doctorate in liturgy at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he was also ordained. A Wexner Graduate Fellow and Dorot Fellow, Elie is a co-founder of the independent minyan Kehilat Hadar and has been named multiple times to Newsweek’s list of the top 50 rabbis in America. He was selected as an inaugural AVI CHAI Fellow, and is the author of Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us About Building Vibrant Jewish Communities (Jewish Lights, 2010). He also received semikha from his long-time teacher, Rav Daniel Landes. Elie serves on the board of Natan and on the advisory board of Upstart. Click to watch a short video of Elie as scholar- in-residence at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.

There is no fee, but please RSVP for planning purposes. This event is held virtually on Zoom. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the event. For more information, contact Program Director Ilene Tatro at itatro@cbisd.org.

CSP Partners: Beth Israel (San Diego, CA), Brotherhood Synagogue (Gramercy Park, NYC), Congregation Beth Shalom (Seattle, WA), Congregation B’nai Tzedek (Fountain Valley, CA), Congregation B’nai Israel (Tustin, CA), Jewish Collaborative of Orange County, CA, Shomrei Torah Synagogue (San Fernando Valley, CA), Temple Bat Yahm (Newport Beach, CA), Temple Beth El of South Orange County (Aliso Viejo, CA), Temple Beth Emet (Anaheim, CA), Temple Beth Ohr (La Mirada, CA), Temple Beth Tikvah (Fullerton, CA), Temple Beth Shalom (Needham, MA), Temple Beth Sholom (Santa Ana, CA), Temple Emanuel (Newton, MA), Town & Village Synagogue (NYC, NY), University Synagogue (Irvine, CA), Valley Beth Shalom (Encino, CA) & Walnut Street Synagogue (Chelsea, MA)


Thursday, January 13, 2022
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Event Categories:


San Diego, CA United States


Adult Education