Judaism is based on a strong sense of community. One of the best ways to maintain a sense of community among Jews is to participate in intricate prayer rituals. Therefore, Jewish customs focus heavily on prayer. There are three principle types of Jewish prayer. While not every sect will observe every one of these of prayers, they provide a good overview of Jewish tradition.
Many Jewish sects require members to pray three times a day, once in in the morning, once in the afternoon and once in the evening. These daily prayers are called the shacharit, the minchah and the arvith, respectively. According to tradition, each of Judaism's three patriarchs -- Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- introduced one of these prayers. Jews perform these at synagogue to increase the bond between the members of the congregation. Often, the afternoon and evening prayers are combined into one service, which takes place around sunset. Different sects will conduct these prayers in different ways. For example, Orthodox services are austere and structured, while some Reform congregations allow for more freedom and personal expression during prayer.
Berakhot, or blessings, are the most common type of prayer. There are countless types of blessings, which are intended for a wide variety of events that may take place during the course of a day. Blessings come in three main sub-types: blessings to celebrate material pleasure, blessings carried out before performing a mitzvah, or religious commandment, and blessings recited during special events or on special days. Some sects require Jews to recite over 100 blessings a day, while others, notably Reform and Conservative Jews, do not have such a stringent interpretation of tradition.
Grace After Meals
Birkat ha-mazon, or grace after meals, is never used in synagogue and is a prayer of thanksgiving. The four parts of birkat ha-mazon are the blessing for the provision of food, the blessing for the land that provided the food, the blessing for Jerusalem and the blessing for goodness.
Regardless of the type of prayer a Jew is engaged in, he or she should have kavanah, or the mindset of prayer. This prevents prayer from become stale or rote. It means open one's heart to God and feel each word as if it were the first time.
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