Desert Island Texts

Desert Island Texts

If you were cast away on an island with just one Jewish text for company, which would you choose?

Irene Blaston, vice chairman of Radlett Reform Synagogue, selects: Really Useful Prayers, edited by Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain.

Really Useful Prayers by Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain is a collection of prayers written by 23 different Reform rabbis to cover many of the everyday eventualities of modern day life, ranging from traumas to celebrations, from relationships to special moments. Some of the prayers are based on quotes from classical Jewish text and others are entirely original work.

The subtitle of the book is “What to say when you don’t know what to say” and it is the perfect practical, but spiritual, guide to situations where perhaps one didn’t even previously realise a prayer might be needed.

While the prayer before a driving test may not be quite as handy on a desert island, the prayer On not being heard taking inspiration from the daily Amidah may be just right.

I particularly like the prayer for achievement, which includes “… I bless You for enabling me to say with pride, ‘I have done it. I have overcome my fears’”.

The book has sections on illness and healing and chapters on ‘Facing the World’ and ‘Situations that test us’. It also tackles the big questions – does prayer actually work? Are there certain things for which we should not pray?

Rabbi Romain’s editorial explains that in Judaism we tend to rely on the set format of prayers, rather than the more creative nature of impromptu prayer. The Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK recognised the gap and created this collection. The prayers within it certainly spark the creative juices and empower the reader to explore the complex world in which we now live, encouraging the use of new and meaningful prayers to deal with all situations, however personal and challenging.