• Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881-1983) was one of the most influential Jewish thinkers of the 20th century.  We believe that his thought may be even more important in the 21st century.

On Prayer and Healing

Tue, 10/20/2015 - 4:01pm -- Mel Scult

As Reconstructionists and followers of Kaplan who live in a naturalist universe, we often ask ourselves how a person can pray when no one is listening. For us there is no supernatural God out there who hears our prayers.

Yet we only need one example of a Reconstructionist prayer in order to understand what prayer might mean to a follower of Kaplan. In Or Chadash, the prayer book of the Renewal Movement fashioned by the life and thought of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and his disciples, we find a prayer for healing that perfectly fits our needs. It illustrates the primary meaning of prayer for us, which is a mobilization of the self toward our ideals. We need to move from where we are to where we know we should be. Prayer can help us in that journey to the transcendent.  

Rabbi Rami Shapiro, a great liturgist, is the author of this prayer:

“May those whose lives are gripped in the palm of suffering … discover through pain and torment the strength to live with grace and humor. May they discover through doubt and anguish the strength to live with dignity and holiness. May they discover through suffering and fear the strength to move toward healing.” [Adapted from Or Chadash (draft edition 1989), page 315.]


Submitted by Ch. Matthew Shulman (not verified) on
Reconstructionists, as I understand the movement, do not see prayer as supplication to a supernal being. Is prayer, therefore, a form of continual chesbon hanefesh -- where we reflect upon our actions, role and goals in a naturalistic world? Or something more? In preparation for facilitating a class on the Amidah (and wanting to begin with a cursory look at the history and roles/functions of Jewish prayer), I have located scores of commentary on the rationales for prayer: Talmudic, Chassidic, Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. But I have yet to locate a book/article that addresses the Reconstructionist approach to prayer. What am I missing?? Thanking you for your response to [email protected], I am, Respectfully, Matthew Shulman Shabbat arrives soon. May iit be peaceful and illuminating.

Submitted by Daniel G. Cedarbaum on
Thank you for your comments. Yes, I do think that, for Reconstructionists, prayer is more than “just” cheshbon nefesh. I have sent you some articles that collectively will give you a good sense of how Reconstructionists have viewed prayer. The chapter from Kaplan’s The Meaning of God is the longest selection but it’s well worth the effort. Best, Eric

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