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RABBI SCHLESINGER'S LESSONS

  A session of the seminar for religious program coordinators under the direction of rav Meir Schlesinger was held on 27-29 October. The seminar was devoted to the Jewish prayer, its structure, history, and appropriate rules. The JDC country director Max Wiesel also took part in the discussion. Participants of the seminar were religious program coordinators from 11 Hasadim of Kazakhstan, and representatives of Kirgizia - Alexander Margolis and Boris Braginsky (Bishkek).

  What is a Jewish prayer tradition?

  The Torah prescribes us to serve G-d with all our heart, and "serving with heart is a prayer". A prayer has to be formulated in the following way: first glorification of G-d, then our requests, and in conclusion expression of our gratitude.

  In ancient times prayers were said both in the Temple and out of it. Gradually the prayers accompanying sacrificing and additional prayers about the needs of Israel developed into modern public and then individual prayer. After the Temple was destroyed the Sanhedrim set "Hamida" prayer consisting of eighteen blessings.

  Three permanent prayers were set for every day. After the destruction of the Second Temple the prayers were meant to temporarily substitute sacrifice. Because of the threat of losing the unified form of the prayer, the Sanhedrim compared all variants of "Hamida" and reconstructed the original text of the prayer.

  However it does not mean that the one who prays must repeat one and the same text. On the contrary, hidush tfila - prayer update - is very important, because a complete prayer must always have something new in it.

  There are several canons of prayer - nusachs. Every Jew may pray in accordance with the practices of his community.

  For most of us the prayer has been rather a theoretic part of the Jewish Tradition - the majority of Kazakhstan towns do not have synagogues. Nevertheless, rav Schlesinger's seminars made us understand the significance of the prayer.

  On the last seminar day we held Minha prayer in the central synagogue of Almaty, where rav Elhanan Kohen gave us a lecture on the Jewish Tradition. At the end of the seminar each of us received a nice present from rav Schlesinger - a set of tfilin, talit, "Shma, Israel" sidur, humash, mezuzah, and a Torah scroll. It is impossible to overestimate the role of the seminar in the religious life of Kazakhstani Jews. Admittedly, it was the best seminar of all.


Alexander Abramovitch

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