Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Jewish Religious Questions

Priests-The Biblical definition of a priest is:

"A chosen officer or prince with the capacity to draw near to God and minister. He alone is responsible for offering the divinely appointed sacrifices to God, for executing the different procedures and ceremonies relating to the worship of God, and for being a representative between God and man."

As we have seen, the Levites were chosen as those who would specially serve God, and it was from the Levites that the priests were chosen. They originated in one family, that of Aaron and his four sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. But due to the deaths of Nadab and Abihu, the priestly succession came through Eleazar and Ithamar whose descendants provided the hereditary priests in Israel.

Their duties fell under three main headings. (Service, Teaching, and Prayer)

1. The first was to minister in the sanctuary, which at this time was the tabernacle, but when Israel became a settled nation it would be the temple.

2. Secondly, priests were responsible for teaching the people the law of God, and

3. Thirdly, when God's will was sought for the nation, it was the priests who prayed for guidance.

Something of the importance of the priest in Old Testament worship may be judged from the fact that the Hebrew word for priest 'kohen' occurs almost 800 times.

Jews-position for praying

"The Torah forbids prostrating yourself flat out on a stone floor, as

was the way of the ancient idol worshippers. Our Sages extended this

prohibition to include kneeling.

The Shulchan Aruch says that if you put an intervening substance

between your knees and the stone floor, then it's permitted to kneel."

Orthodox Jews - A brief overview on everything about their unique lifestyle

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Generally, Jews stand when reciting prescribed prayers. Optional prayers are recited seated. On Passover, we are permitted to recline on pillows as in olden days; as the Seder is a prayer service.

Required form of Hebrew or Jewish Prayer

Prayer in the Hebrew Bible is an evolving means of interacting with God, most frequently through a spontaneous, individual, unorganized form of petitioning and/or thanking. Standardized Prayer such as is done today is non-existent, though beginning in Deuteronomy, the Bible lays the groundwork for organized prayer, including basic liturgical guidelines, and by the Bible's later books, prayer has evolved to a more standardized form, although still radically different than the form practiced by modern Jews.

Individual prayer is described by the Tanakh two ways. The first of these is when prayer is described as occurring, and a result is achieved, but no further information regarding a person's prayer is given. In these instances, such as with Isaac,[1] Moses,[2] Samuel,[3] and Job,[4] the act of praying is a method of changing a situation for the better. The second way in which prayer is depicted is through fully fleshed out episodes of prayer, where a person's prayer is related in full. Many famous biblical personalities have such a prayer, including every major character fromHannah to Hezekiah.[5]

Required daily prayers

In traditional Jewish practice, the daily tefillot or prayers are divided into three separate services, Shaharit (the morning service), Minhah (the afternoon service), and Maariv (the evening service).

Origins of the Daily Prayer Services

By the Talmudic period, the institution of praying three times day was an assumed part of Jewish life.

The Mishnah records that there are three daily services, each connected to a particular time of day (Mishnah Berakhot 4:1).

The Babylonian Talmud also declares that one should pray three times a day, and a famous dispute emerges about the origins of this practice. Rabbi Yose bar Rabbi Hanina says that the weekday prayers were instituted by the patriarchs: Shaharit by Abraham, Minhah by Isaac, and Maariv by Jacob.

In opposition, Rabbi Joshua ben Levi cites Rabbi Hanina, who says that the three daily prayer services were instituted in accordance with the daily sacrifices of the Temple period (Berakhot 26b). Shaharit corresponds to the morning offering, Minhah corresponds to the afternoon offering, Maariv corresponds to an offering made on the evening, and Musaf corresponds to an offering brought on certain special occasions. Though a consensus was never reached, rabbinic authorities agreed that three daily services are the basic requirement of Jewish daily prayer.

*Most prayers are recited (in synagogue) facing the ark which holds the Torah(s).

There are also special prayers to begin the Sabbath (Shabbat) commencing with the lighting of candles at sundown on Friday night. This is one of the few instances where the prayer is said or led by the mother or a woman in the household. At the end of Shabbat on Saturday evening, we have a Havdalah service which is a series of prayers snuffing out a candle with several wicks. There are also fragrant herbs to be sniffed.

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