Barry W. Holtz is dean of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish
Education at The Jewish Theological Seminary, where he is also the Theodore and
Florence Baumritter Professor of Jewish Education. His books include, among
others, Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts and Your Word Is
Fire: The Hasidic Masters on Contemplative Prayer (Jewish Lights), the latter coauthored
with Arthur Green.
Hasidism, the Jewish revivalist movement that began in the late eighteenth century, saw prayer as being at the heart of religious experience and was particularly concerned with the nature of a person’s relationship with God. The obstacles to prayer discussed by the Hasidic masters—distraction, loss of spirituality, and inconstancy of purpose—feel very close to concerns of our own age. Through advice, parables, and explanations, the Hasidic masters of the past speak to our own attempts to find meaning in prayer.