What is this course?
Prayer (Tefillah) is the Jewish tradition’s core spiritual practice. The Rabbinic tradition calls it Avodah she’Balev - literally, “devotion of the heart”. It is a practice of connecting with the Divine through the prism of our own soul, that engages the body, heart and mind. This course offers a holistic approach to encountering Tefillah as the spiritual devotion that it is.
Drawing from the full range of Biblical, Rabbinic, Kabbalistic and Chassidic sources, this course provides an entryway into the states of mind, heart and body from which an inner experience of Tefillah can emerge. Participants will gain knowledge and practical tools to help them develop and deepen their own personal practice in Tefillah through a meditative, embodied approach.
Topics covered include:
Exploring the nature of Kavanah (focused attention) and ways to develop it
Approaching Tefillah as a path of spiritual intimacy
Transforming Tefillah from prescribed ritual into a personal practice
Uncovering the embodied practices in the postures of Tefillah
The course combines text study (all texts provided in Hebrew and English), guided practice and a forum for group processing and ongoing support. The content is appropriate for advanced students and novices alike, although a basic familiarity with Jewish prayer will be valuable.
How does it work?
The course consists of six classes, of approximately 1.25 hours, which participants can watch or listen to at their own convenience.
Sessions consist of close study of texts and are be accompanied by guided practice.
Please note that Kavanah: The Inner Path of Prayer is the first of two back-to-back courses Rabbi Ami is offering on Tefillah. The next course, Shemoneh Esrei: A Contemplative Journey Through Prayer, is a 10-session course that unpacks the structure and words of the central daily prayer - the Shemoneh Esrei or Amidah - and presents it as a powerful, contemplative practice. The two courses are standalone, but participants have an option to sign up for both courses at a reduced rate.
Each session includes:
1) A recorded class, in which Rav Ami leads a 1.25 hour study session. Sessions include a close reading of Jewish texts in their original, clearly translated and explained, together with relevant background information and discussion.
These sessions can be listened to or watched at your convenience.
2) A printable handout of relevant texts from Biblical, Rabbinic, Kabbalistic and Chassidic sources, provided in full translation with introductory comments and guiding questions.
3) A guided practice, informed by the study session and offered with clear instruction by Rabbi Ami, provided in both audio and video format.
4) An open channel to the teacher and other AJS course participants, to process the journey through the teachings and practices of each class.
The Six Sessions
1) Evolutionary Tefillah
This session is a search for the roots of prayer - in the human soul and psyche, and in the context of the ecosystem in which we live and breathe. Through Rabbinic and Chassidic texts, we will explore prayer as part and parcel of fulfilling our role in the process of Creation.
2) Kavanah: Cultivating Intention
“Kavanah” is the term for the focused attention that is a prerequisite to prayer. This session will present the primary frameworks for defining Kavanah, and practices that help guide us toward focused, engaged prayer.
3) The Art of “Being With”: Prayer as Spiritual Intimacy
Tefillah is meant to be an intimate encounter between ourselves and the Divine. How do we make sense of this in the context of the practice of prayer? How can we approach tefillah - and experience it - in this way?
4) Three Steps: Stepping Out of Exile
The central Tefillah - the Shemoneh Esrei or Amidah prayer - begins by taking three steps and reciting a verse from Psalms. We will explore how this seemingly small practice frames our approach to the Divine, and offers a powerful invitation to bring our whole selves into the experience of prayer.
5) Baruch: Bending Into Life
Our prayers are filled with blessings, with making “brachot.” This session explores the meaning of “bracha” and offers an active and conscious approach of engaging in the act of blessing.
6) Bowing and Standing: Embodying Presence
This session explores the primary body postures in prayer - standing (“amidah”), bowing and rising. Using the Kabbalistic kavanot (meditations) of the Arizal, we will learn how to incorporate mindful body practices into Tefillah.