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    Short prayers – B’ha’alot’cha

    When Miriam contracts leprosy her brother Moses prays for her recovery: E-l na r’fa na lah – “Please, God, heal her please” (Num. 12:13). Five words but they say it all.

    We think of this prayer when people come out with the complaint that Jewish prayer services are so long. Can’t everything be said briefly?

    The fact is that most of our prayers really are short. What takes the time is getting into the mood for prayer by means of p’sukei d’zimra, chapters of Psalms that help us to tune in, and readings that enhance our knowledge of Judaism and its teachings.

    It is interesting to see that two crucial elements in Jewish prayer, not over-long already, have abbreviated forms that can be used in time of emergency – the Amidah and the Grace After Meals. And we have advice in the Talmud from Elijah the prophet, who tells Rabbi Yose that when one is travelling a short prayer is better than a long one (Ber. 3a).

    People who think the services are too long should begin with the short versions. If this trains them in spirituality, well and good.

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