Joe Rosenstein

A Spiritual Journey

The words of the traditional morning service are designed to take the person who prays along a particular spiritual path.

This Siddur attempts to make that path accessible to you; it serves as a guide that exposes the beauty, depth, and relevance of the traditional service.

Through translations, commentaries, and meditations, this Siddur enables and encourages you to develop your own markers along the way so that each time you follow the path you will build on your past journeys.

What is the goal of this journey? What are the steps along the way? The spiritual aim of the morning prayers is to bring us to the realization that God, however we understand God, can make a difference in our lives. In this Siddur, we describe this realization as coming in six stages:

  1. becoming aware of our blessings,
  2. joining the chorus of praise to the Source of those blessings,
  3. finding our individual voices in that chorus,
  4. recognizing the many images of God,
  5. understanding the unity in that diversity and recognizing the personal God in the transcendent God, and, ultimately,
  6. realizing that God can make a difference in our lives, in theory and in practice, and that faith can change our lives for the better.

All these stages are dramatically structured to prepare us for the personal audience with God that we call the Amidah. Unlike earthly rulers who may refuse to meet with us, God is always receptive. When we step into God-space, we are always welcome; when we turn to God, God is always present.

When we reach the central part of the Amidah, we have come to the moment for which we have been preparing, the moment for which we have been praying. We have arranged within our minds and within our hearts who we are, who God is, and how we relate to one another. We have established intellectually that God can make a difference in our lives, that God’s blessings and guidance and assistance are always available to us.

We have come before God in the Amidah, and we now have the opportunity to choose to bring God into our lives. We do this by asking God for assistance. “Ribbono shel olam, Creator of the universe, please help me. Although You have given me great resources, ultimately I am not in control of even my world, so I need your ongoing assistance and guidance.” By asking God for assistance, we acknowledge, emotionally as well as intellectually, God’s existence and significance. By letting God into our lives, we position ourselves for spiritual growth.

This description, taken from the User’s Guide in Siddur Eit Ratzon, is similar to those that appear in other discussions of Jewish prayer. To help the traveler along the way, selections from the User’s Guide, with further explanation and elaboration, appear at key transition points of the morning service.