"The Art of Jewish Prayer"
Previous generations of students of religion have often thought of prayer as an ideal form of spontaneous spirituality, expressing the heart's deepest longings. This may be the case, but in most religious traditions prayer represents a finely crafted, deeply conventional art form. This lecture will explore this dynamic in the case of Jewish prayer in antiquity, from the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in the first century CE to the development of the intricate form of synagogue poetry known as piyyut. It will be argued that we should understand Jewish prayer in the context of ritual language, sacrifice, and the visual art of the ancient synagogue.
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