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Tefillah, Jewish Prayer

Tefiliah, Hebrew for prayer, incorporates the Jewish Amidah prayer, the Sephardim, the Prayer Book, and is one of the many terms, especially most common in the Bible, for prayer in general. The Hebrew root means "to think, entreat, judge, intercede," and the reflective means "to judge oneself" and "to pray." Prayer in the Bible is both individual and corporate, with the Psalms containing both as well as being embedded in both Temple and sanctuary ritual. The destruction of the second Temple accelerated the development of regular liturgical prayer, as a counterpart to the vanished Temple worship and sacrifices, which was known as avodah she-ba-lev, "the service/worship of the heart" (B.Ta'an. 2a). With a strong emphasis on blessings and benedictions, Jewish prayer eventually (around 8th or 9th century AD) led to the compilation of prayer books. The risk of formalism (despite reiterated reminders that prayer, if it is not to be empty, must be accompanied by emotion and right intention, iyyun tefillah, B.Shab. 127a) led to the more emotional and freer styles of prayer returning, especially among the Hasidim. Biblically, if possible, Jews should pray facing toward Jerusalem; Muhammad initially followed this custom as well, see Qibla. A.G.H.


Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 959

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