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13 pages of insights into the beauty, power and meaning of the prayers.
These Shabbat Gems are filled with new, inspiring material that explain and elucidate many of the prayers we say on Shabbat. They are intended to both entertain and educate the audience between prayers. They are rich with Jewish wisdom, wit and joy, and will help bring greater meaning to both committed Jews and casual congregants. Below is a synopsis of the Gems.
Tefila L'Moshe: The Bank Account of Life (p.186)
We live through time, this Psalm reminds us, but we are not always conscious of how precious and irreplaceable it is. The greatest difference between time and space is that we can return to a place but we can never return to a moment in time. We do a thought experiment to discover if we've been investing time wisely, or merely spending it. Life's too full of blessings to waste attention on artificial substitutes. Live graciously, celebrate your Jewishness and enhance other people's lives. Each day is a gift from G-d, make a blessing over it and turn it into a blessing for others.
Prayer and the Self-Made Man (p.187)
Why do so many people find it hard to pray in our modern age? How do we overcome the illusion of self-sufficiency? We explore the answers and see why prayer is one of the most powerful sources of energy for human effort.
G-d is Your Shadow (p.188)
We look at the Baal Shem Tov's interpretation of the verse, "G-d is Your Shadow". And then we move on to a humorous story about Reb Zusha. Together they illustrate how a person receives help from G-d commensurate with how he acts towards his fellow.
Giving Thanks (p.188)
Does G-d need our gratitude? Yankel the tailor didn't think so but his Rabbi was able to set him straight. Just as the repeated hammer-blows of the sculptor shape the marble, so too our daily prayers wear away the rough edges of our character. Gradually, we begin to think less of what we lack and more of the blessings we have. Prayers of gratitude open our eyes, enabling us to appreciate the blessings which have been sent into our lives making every day a celebration.
The Power That Replenishes Our Strength (p.191)
We learn about the heroic actions of a brave Jew living under the brutal rule of the Russian Czar and how the puzzling meaning of a line in Baruch Sh'amar finally became clear to him. The theme of this prayer is further illustrated by a story about an inspirational gift from a rabbi's daughter: a T- shirt with a verse taken from a chapter in Isaiah. Lastly, the essential difference between an altruistic atheist and one who believes in G-d clarifies the main idea of this majestic prayer.
Steven Spielberg on Shabbat (p.192)
“You'll notice,” Spielberg said, “dramatic scenes gradually build the music to a crescendo, and then: stop-rest-silence. The words spoken on the screen in that silence are clearer and more powerful. Those words have extra potency because they are spoken out of silence… Spielberg’s insight, I think, is a good description of Shabbat…
Freud's Kosher Prescription (pp.194-195)
"Trust not in nobles". The straightforward meaning of this verse is that man is undependable. Only in G-d can we place our trust. But there is another reading of this verse, wonderfully illustrated by a story about Freud. A university student once came to him seeking a cure for debilitating headaches. Freud got to the root of the problem and sent him away with a very kosher prescription.
Nothing but G-dliness (p.199)
The magnificent poem, Nishmat, which closes the Shabbat morning Psalms, expresses the fact that G-d's energy animates all of creation. There is no distinction between matter and spirit. We contrast this with the symbolism behind the famous Renaissance painting, The School of Athens, in which Plato and Aristotle take a very different philosophical approach. This idea is further illustrated with a story of a merchant who penned a truth about reality. The Rebbe comments on the merchant's observation, with an explanation of his own, that brings it all together.
Nishmat- The Rebbe and the Repairman (p.200)
A moving story about the Rebbe and a home repairman throws new light on a contradiction at the heart of the Nishmat prayer. The Rebbe illustrates why we should never consider ourselves inadequate.