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Prayer Column: Rav Micha'el Rosenberg

My daily prayer practice begins with the Rabbinic insight that prayer must be regular, and that it must line up with both our experience of the world*, as well as the socially constructed, but equally real experience of our cultural/work day. Praying early in the morning, in the middle of the day, and at the end of the day is therefore the core framing of my practice.

In recent years, my prayer practice has benefited from two personal developments: Incorporating breathing work into my davening, and realizing that I prefer to daven slowly. I’ve incorporated breath work especially into the Amidah, using consciousness of my breath both as a value in itself, and as a way to slow down when saying God’s name. Specifically, I aim to breathe in when saying attah and out, slowly, as I say God’s name, focusing on the inherent breath-iness of the sheim havayah.

For those berakhos where we bow, I incorporate breath slightly differently, reflecting the Rabbinic ideal that, though we should be bowing while we say attah, we should upright when saying God’s name. In those blessings, I therefore breathe out while saying attah, and slowly breathe in as I rise from my bow, again breathing out for sheim havayah. This practice has helped make davening a calming practice rather than an agitating one, and also focuses my attention on being in relationship with the God of All Breath.


*cf the view of R. Shmuel b. Nahmani at Yerushalmi Berakhos 4.1

Rav Micha'el Rosenberg

Rabbi Micha'el Rosenberg is a member of the faculty at Hadar. He received rabbinic ordination both from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and from his teacher, Rav Elisha Ancselovits. He also holds a PhD in Talmud and Rabbinics from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Micha’el has served as associate professor of rabbinics at Hebrew College, and as the rabbi of the Fort Tryon Jewish Center in Washington Heights. He is the author of Signs of Virginity: Testing Virgins and Making Men in Late Antiquity (Oxford University Press, 2018), and with Rabbi Ethan Tucker, he is the co-author of Gender Equality and Prayer in Jewish Law (Ktav, 2017).

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