How does a good Jew pray 3x a day?
March 26, 2017 3:42 PM   Subscribe

What should I pray every day.

I'm trying to become a tad more religious and started going to a conservative synagogue. I know I'm supposed to pray 3x a day, but I don't know exactly what. I think it's the shema 3x a day and also an amidah?

The Shema is super long so I don't think I'm supposed to say the whole three paragraphs 3x a day. It's probably part of it. As for the Amidah I'm confused as hell about that one. I have no idea how to properly recite that every day. If someone could paste the exact verses that I'm supposed to recite. (transliterated is best, but I can try to read hebrew as well if that's how you have it)
posted by bearam to Religion & Philosophy (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, I wish I had more time to formulate a larger answer but it's term paper deadline time for me. So, to state quickly:

The 3x day prayers are morning, afternoon and evening, but in practice the afternoon and evening services are shorter and usually rolled together so that one immediately follows the other, making it twice a day only. On Shabbat all services are longer, and the Havdalah service marking the end of Shabbat is included Saturday night immediately following the evening prayer.

Some prayers can only be said with a minyan, a group of ten Jewish adults, together. Some synagogues only recognize men towards that count, others will be more egalitarian.

If you think the three paragraphs of the Shema are too long, you're really not going to like the Amidah.

What prayer books does your synagogue use? I'm no expert, but I've found the Artscroll siddurim to be readable, pairing English translations along with transliterations and also containing clear instructions on when to do what things along with commentary/meditations on what some of it means.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 4:02 PM on March 26, 2017

I think you might have better luck asking a more specialized forum like Chabad's Ask-A-Rabbi .
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:34 PM on March 26, 2017

Hmmm. Chabad's Ask-A-Rabbi would be asking a rabbi who was affiliated with Chabad, and that's a fairly specific branch of Judaism. I actually think that you should ask *your* rabbi. Explain that you're hoping to become more observant, and ask if the synagogue has any resource for adults who want to learn more about Judaism. They probably do. There are also things like the Melton School, which provides education for Jewish adults who want to explore Judaism in a deep and sustained way.

Judaism is a religion that is practiced in a community. Reach out to your community! There are probably people who would be delighted to help you get more involved.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:56 PM on March 26, 2017 [14 favorites]

I think you are underestimating how long one spends doing the prayers. Based on what I know (Conservative Jew, husband did morning prayers at home the year after his father died and we both go to the local evening minyan.) figure maybe 10 minutes for morning prayers at home (which includes putting on tallit and tefillin, if you want) and less than 30 minutes for doing a combined afternoon and evening prayers as part of a minyan. (Figure less at home when you drop some things because you don't have a minyan and you can skip the Mourner's Kaddish twice)

The rabbi at your synagogue should be absolutely delighted by this question and can help you figure out what to do and how to find it in the prayers book. Also, a good rabbi will also help you figure out how much of this you want to take on - if you want to do all in and do everything if you want to start with something simple like just the prayer that is said on rising (it's kind of fun one - thanking God for things like plumbing that works). This is a great impulse and however much you do will enrich you so don't let perfect be the enemy of the good - figure out what is doable and meaningful for you and start there.
posted by metahawk at 6:42 PM on March 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

I think what you're trying to do is awesome, but it also reads a bit like "I want to do a couch to 5K, am currently on the couch and could use some pointers on how to reach 5K today because it's really seeming like a big distance." The reason this seems like way too much to just kick in and do, is because - especially if you're coming at it from a minimal involvement with religious Judaism - it genuinely is way too much to just kick in and do. Technically, there are 3 separate prayer services a day (actually 4 on Saturdays, though the extra one segues out of the first so most people just lump them together as one). In addition to that, there are also morning blessings and bedtime prayers, which is where the third Shema of the day comes in (it isn't in the afternoon service). On top of that there are blessings before and after meals, which differ based on what and when you're eating. I'm sort of making it sound extra complicated on purpose, not to throw you off, but to emphasize that the only realistic way to approach Jewish prayer is one prayer at a time. Otherwise it's too easy to get overwhelmed or frustrated.

Not sure what you're using for resources right now, but Judaism is pretty text-based, so if you're not comfortable bringing your questions to the rabbi at your shul just yet, it's fine to get a book to start from - though this question is exactly what the rabbi has weekday office hours for, and he/she will be thrilled for the chance to help you answer it. But for books, I always recommend To Be A Jew, and Judaism for Dummies. There's also To Pray As A Jew, by the same author as To Be A Jew, which looks into the prayer services as a whole. You also want a siddur (prayer book). This is the Conservative siddur I recommend, but if they use a different one at your local synagogue, I'd pick up a copy of that. I don't believe it's transliterated. But I know transliterated siddurim are available on Amazon, some with audio links.

What I would suggest (again, assuming you want to DIY this instead of talking with a rabbi at first), is to get yourself a siddur - you can also borrow one from the synagogue - and pick a prayer. Pick a food you eat regularly and learn the blessing for it. Or what you say when you first wake up in the morning. Then when you're ready, add another prayer. I think the Shema is a great idea, since it's central to Judaism and we're supposed to say it twice a day - it says so right in the prayer. When you get up in the morning and when you go to bed at night. The technical answer is yes, we say all three paragraphs, but you're right - that's really long, and it's asking a lot. So the right answer (ask your rabbi) is start with the first paragraph and get used to it. Add on only when you feel like you're ready. Saying it in English is also fine. Here's a good transliteration. The Amidah is not only really long, it changes paragraphs based on the time of day and whether it's a weekday, shabbat, or holiday. I'd wait till you're feeling confident with the Shema before adding it. Honestly, for a second prayer to add daily, I'd suggest Ashrei [English + transliteration here]. It's part of almost every service, it rhymes, and it's a lot easier to learn. Or Aleinu - it's super important in Judaism, and it's in every prayer service. I'd wait to start saying the Amidah till you're either feeling confident or for when you're in synagogue for a service at first - and even then, give yourself permission to read the English if it gets too knotty. The Amidah is a personal prayer that we say collectively - so doing your own flavor of it is perfectly fine, but saying it with a congregation is (theoretically anyhow) more meaningful.
posted by Mchelly at 8:10 PM on March 26, 2017 [10 favorites]

Also, just since it's the title of your post, the answer to "how does a good Jew pray 3X a Day?" is "with a minyan." Jewish prayer is meant to be a collective action, so while Jews pray on their own all the time, and that absolutely counts, the prayer service was instituted to take the place of the sacrifices, which were made on behalf of the community. Some prayers are considered personal, but the act of praying is meant to be one of those things which brings the community together. Some of the most important prayers can only be said with a minyan present. So if you're already attending shabbat or holiday services, you're already doing it right. Most Conservative synagogues hold services three times a day, and if you have the time and want to drop in for a non-shabbat service, they'd love to count you. Being there and being counted - even if you don't pray a word - also counts as prayer in Judaism, and is a huge mitzvah, especially if your being there makes the difference between having 10 adults or not having 10. People mourning a death in their family can't say Kaddish without a minyan - there's no workaround. And there's nothing worse than the feeling of being there and wanting to say that prayer and not being able to because too few people were able to make it. So there's also that.
posted by Mchelly at 8:26 PM on March 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

You don't have a lot of answers to your question, and it sounded very anxious, so I thought I'd chime in with just one quick note - don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good when it comes to prayer. If you are becoming more religious, you're going to be getting into the habit of praying more, so there's no reason you can't start now with whatever moves you to prayer. It doesn't have to be a perfect Amidah and Shema with a minyan, you'll get there. Just try to carve out some time three times a day to pray. You can totally read the transliterated Shema, or just recite the first part, or just think about the role of G-d in your life and thank him for your many blessings.

All of the above advice is outstanding advice from the Conservative/Conservadox framework, but again, it's ok to start somewhere. No one is going to accuse you of being a bad Jew because you've got an imperfect Amidah.
posted by juniperesque at 7:22 AM on March 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

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