Image: Rabbi Stern. I was not able to find the owner of this photo of Rabbi Stern; if it is your work, please let me know so that I can give credit.

Rabbi Chaim Stern (1930-2001) was one of the most influential Reform Jewish scholars of the 20th century. He was first and foremost a liturgist, editing and translating prayer books for Jews in North America and in the United Kingdom. He was the editor of Gates of Prayer, the Reform siddur [prayer book] from the 1970’s through 2007 and his work is still very much present in Mishkan T’filah, the new Reform siddur. He also wrote a haggadah, Gates of Freedomand a collection of prayers for the home, On the Doorposts of Your House.

He was a congregational rabbi as well, serving Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester, in Chappaqua, N.Y. for 33 years.

There are many of Rabbi Stern’s writings that I love, but this one, from page 49 of Mishkan T’filah, is a special favorite. It reminds me that “fixed prayer” – reading and reciting prayers that others have said before me – is an important part of self-maintenance if I wish to be fully equipped to meet the challenges of a Jewish life:

Why fixed prayers? To learn what we should value, what we should pray for. To be at one with our people, the household of Israel. To ensure that the ideals painfully learned and purified, and for which many have lived and died, shall not perish from the community, and shall have a saving influence upon the individual.

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