Goals of Tefilah

One part of the Pardes Tefilah Education Initiative is to facilitate processes to help schools clarify their goals for tefilah education. All educators agree on the centrality of goals throughout the curriculum; once goals are articulated, we know how to move forward. We encourage you to use our Reimaging Tefilah Education: Guidelines for Schools, which helps schools develop a more defined and thoughtful approach to tefilah education.

We’ve articulated the following eight overarching goals that address the wide range of visions for tefilah education reflected in North American Jewish day schools. A summary is found below and a more detailed exploration is in the second chapter of the Guidelines: Overarching Tefilah Goals  Schools may focus on one, two or three at any given grade and may or may not cover all eight throughout the school.

Our database resources have been tagged with the appropriate tefilah goal(s) in mind to enable schools who use our goals based approach to find appropriate material. The following are the keyword, title, and explanation of each goal.


Students will be able to navigate the siddur and enunciate and chant the tefilot accurately and fluently. They will recognize the additions that must be made to the liturgy on different days (such as Torah readings and special prayers. They will acquire the necessary skills for participation such as reciting the aliyot , lifting and tying the Torah, opening and closing the ark, and responding appropriately to prayers recited responsively such as the Kaddish and the Kedusha. They will demonstrate familiarity with the basic choreography: when to sit, stand, bow, etc. For those schools that deem it relevant, learning the laws of tefilah – הלכות תפילה – could be included here as well.

Students will acquire the skills to lead a service by being a shaliach tzibbur, Torah reader and/or gabbai. They will know how to facilitate the service, including announcing the pages and when to recite particular prayers. They will know (or know how to find) the changes that are needed in the matbe’ah (core service) on Torah reading days, Rosh Chodesh, Chol ha-Moed, fast days, etc., so as to be able to direct the community.

Students will learn about the origins and continual development of tefilah and the compilation of the siddur. They will explore the transition from the spontaneity and personalization of biblical prayer to the fixed times and structure of rabbinic prayer. Engaging this tension in the attempt of Jewish prayer practice to embrace both keva and kavanah will empower students to reflect on their own experiences of prayer as a fixed, communal practice and a personal spiritual expression. This goal may include learning about different versions of prayers and different traditions/customs of various communities, including modern changes in the liturgy.

Students will study the siddur as a text: engaging with its structure and thematic content, learning the language of the siddur (as well as of individual prayers) and exploring its possible meanings. They will be encouraged to develop personal connections to the language of the siddur and appreciate the text as an important tool in their own prayer practice.

Students will view tefilah as an opportunity to connect to “God,” whether the term God means a supernatural, personal, and intervening God, or a power that unifies or connects all of us – or some other definition. Tefilah can cultivate sensitivity to the unique moments in which we experience a sense of something greater than ourselves. The prayer experience will help students develop their personal theology and increase their awareness of God in the world and in their lives. They will learn to associate their personal understanding of God with the language of the siddur.

The school views tefilah as an opportunity for self-reflection, allowing students to better understand and accept themselves and relate more positively to others and their environment. Based on the reflexive nature of the verb להתפלל, students will be taught to focus on words, emotions, imagery, and the ways in which humans are created in God’s image. Through this work, they will strengthen such dispositions as gratitude, awe, humility, forgiveness, patience, and other positive character traits in order to maximize their potential as human beings. Through their engagement with tefilah, they will feel more responsible for making the world a better place. From this perspective, tefilah could be used to cultivate sacred time* and sacred space without necessarily being a God-focused experience.

Students will appreciate the themes and ideas reflected in the liturgy as a menu of hopes and aspirations that bind us together as a people. The chanting of the tefilot and the singing of traditional melodies will help them connect to Jewish communities of the past and see themselves as being part of a common history and tradition. Moreover, they will view the tefilah group experience as an opportunity to share concerns, hopes, and goals with one another, deepening their relationships with those around them and creating a community of the present. This approach recognizes the importance of Jewish community for the continuity of the Jewish people.

Students will be exposed to a range of positive tefilah experiences and options, which may include, among others, the traditional matbe’a/core service, music, art, movement, meditation, niggunim, davening outdoors, and creative writing. These may also include exposure to different siddurim or nusachim and places and times of prayer. Students will be encouraged to construct a meaningful individualized tefilah practice in the hope that their relationship with tefilah will continue after they leave school.

At the moment resources relating to the History and Personal Practice goals are not featured on our database.

We urge those submitting materials and those utilizing them, to carefully consider their goals as some resources will be appropriate to meet more than one goal.