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prayers for the awakening self

a psycho-spiritual siddur for

judaic weekday practices

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With Mandala Art by Maja Apolonia Rode

 

 

 

Prayers for the Awakening Self: A Psycho-Spiritual Siddur for Judaic Weekday Practices offers psycho-spiritual translations of traditional Jewish prayers designed to invoke deep personal transformation of heart and spirit.

Testimonials

 

"I loved this siddur. Yesher koach!"

- Rabbi Rami Shapiro (Author of The Angelic Way and Minyon)

 

"This is a remarkable piece of work. I really enjoyed it, especially the humanistic translations of the prayers. Keep up the excellent work."

- Rabbi Roger Ross (Executive Director of The New Seminary)

 

Introduction

I have traveled far from my religion of origin, Judaism, and have returned to it to deepen my experience of the Divine and to heal old wounds. My early experience of Judaism was wrought with painful experiences and disturbing observations. The rituals and practices seemed hollow to me. I found a lot of the language and stories of the bible and prayer books deeply disturbing. Many of the doctrines of the tradition appeared to cause separation and conflict both within the Jewish community and between the Jewish community and the outside ‘non-Jewish’ world. After my Bar Mitzvah at the age of thirteen, I left Judaism behind me feeling frustrated and wounded. Many years later, as I sat by the bed of my dying mother, I once again reentered the world of Jewish prayer and began my journey home to Judaism.

 The following prayers represent a process of spiritual exegesis that I have employed as a vehicle for my return, deepening and healing my relationship with Judaism as my religion of origin. This process consists of a radical interpretation of the daily prayers into a language that resonates with my own heart. Through this technique I have attempted to heal old wounds and purge myself of the obstacles between the Divine and myself.

I begin by reading the various translations of a given prayer. During this process I observe my reactions to the texts in order to discern areas of intuitive preference, disturbance, and discomfort. I then explore these psycho-spiritual emotional issues through a focused meditation process. Once I gain clarity in relation to the areas of preference and discomfort, I search the literature for deeper and alternative meanings of the words within these problem areas. Finally, with the aid of intuitive and Divine guidance processes, I re-translate the prayers using these deeper and alternative meanings in combination with the translations of others. Once complete, I utilize the prayers in my daily practice.

Gradually I discovered that many of these alternative definitions and hidden meanings pointed to psycho-spiritual qualities of experience. As I used these psycho-spiritual definitions and meanings in place of the traditional words and phrases, all the disturbances and discomfort I had experienced around the traditional prayers disappeared. As I utilized these translations in my daily practice I began to experience deep mystical states and feelings of joy and peace.

The following are some of the traditional words and/or concepts and their alternate translations that have arisen out of this exegetical process. These words and/or concepts have been translated into the inner language of my own soul using rabbinical and Kabalistic sources combined with inner guidance.

 THE NAME OF GOD

The Name of God in Judaism is a name that can never be spoken because God is beyond that which can be named (Prager, 1998). In keeping with this psycho-spiritual concept I have excluded all use of a proper noun for the Name of the Divine. The various names of GOD are translated as the Source of Life, the Holy One, the Unnamable One, etc (Kol Haneshamah, 1996; Shapiro, 1990). Additionally, all references to gender in relation to the Divine have been excluded, since the Divine is considered to be beyond such distinctions (Prager, 1998).

LORD, KING AND KINGDOM

The phrase ‘King of the Universe’ has been changed to the more psycho-spiritual phrase ‘Fountain of Being’ (Kol Haneshamah, 1996; Shapiro, 1990). This shift also transcends the present day diminished reverence to monarchial systems and avoids the gender reference to the Divine.

 

ISRAEL

 

The word Israel has been used in the Jewish tradition as a label for the tribe of all Jews and for the land that the tradition has held as sacred. To utilize the term’s psycho-spiritual qualities I use the more literal and mystical definitions of the word. These definitions include – One who wrestles or struggles with; one who yearns; the song of the Divine; and the Awakening Self. Many of these definitions relate to the story in the book of Genesis of Jacob wrestling with the stranger from Heaven (Gordis, 1995). The use of these alternative definitions also avoids the use of the term Israel as a separator of peoples (Jews and non-Jews) or as a possible idol of worship (the land of Israel).

 

THE HOLY TEMPLE

 

All references to an external temple have been replaced with the notion of an internal altar or meeting place between the self and the Divine in order to, once again, uncover the psycho-spiritual significance of the term and avoid a tendency to idolize an external form.

JERUSALEM

In keeping with this notion of connecting with the hidden psycho-spiritual meaning and avoiding the idolization of external forms, the references to Jerusalem as a holy place in the world are transformed into that holy place that arises between us as ‘The Community of Wholeness.’

 

TORAH

 

Wherever possible I try to avoid terminology and ritual that seems to create an idol out of the Torah and other spiritual literature of the tradition, while trying to hold them as sources of sacred information that guides the soul.

 

MINYAN

 

The idea that certain prayers are only said when a certain number of people are gathered together is opened up to include the use of a meditative stance in which an individual in prayer can energetically connect with others around the world to join in a ‘Collective Minyan’  experience at any given time.

 

NAMES OF PEOPLE

 

The names of the patriarchs are translated into the attributes that they represent in the Kabbalistic system, which assigns them various spiritual and psychological characteristics (Strassfeld, 1985).

   

NAMES OF PLACES

 

The names of biblical places are translated into their literal meanings to reveal their symbolic message. For example, the river that Jacob sends his loved ones and possessions across is called the Jabbok River. The word Jabbok means evacuation, dissipation, wrestling, or struggle (Hitchcock, 1874). Thus the Jabbok River can be said to be the river of struggles.

   

 During this exegetical process I have not altered the original Hebrew of the prayers in order to retain the mystical power of the ancient language. The English translations are meant to become not just extensions of the Hebrew but rather, a living partner that adds both depth and breadth to the experience. 

The structure of the prayer services and the order of the prayers are based on the Rabbinical Assembly’s Siddur Sim Shalom (1985) prayer book and Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin’s To Pray as a Jew (1980). The Holy Scriptures of The Jewish Publication Society (1955), The Living Torah by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (1981), and The Soncino Chumash (Cohen, 1993) were used as the foundation for the translations of Torah passages.

 
A Doctoral and Rabbinical Studies Project for
The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, Palo Alto, California and
The Rabbinical Seminary International, New York, New York

 

 

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