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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.’
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 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 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 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
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.
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.