Monday, September 19, 2022

Tefillah can be tough

I listened to Episode 30: Not a "T'fillah Person" of The Light Lab, in which Jewish educator (Masters in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary) and singer/songwriter Eliana Light interviewed Maharat Rori Picker Neiss and Rabbi Shai Held.  I could write pages about how Jewish liturgy and I get along, and, in point of fact, I’ve already done that, but I’ll hold the link to one of the “prayer posts” on my blog until the end of this post and give you the short version.

One of the topics discussed was the length of services.  I have, basically, two problems with that. 

Problem number one is that, as someone who didn’t get a good Jewish education as a child, I don’t read Hebrew particularly quickly, and, therefore, I have only two choices—either I can read every word, or I can keep up with the minyan. In recent years, as a member of a synagogue so small that we don’t always get a minyan, I have found that my priorities have shifted from trying to say every word to trying to “be there” in the prayer-book whenever I have an opportunity to say prayers that can’t be said without a minyan.  If that means that I skip huge swaths of prayer (even entire pages), so be it.  I just try to say Amen to all of the b’rachot (blessings) in the Sh’ma section and try to say all three paragraphs of the Sh’ma, plus the entire Amidah prayer.  Anything else is gravy.  

Problem number two is the good old keva (rough translation:  structure) vs. kavannah (rough translation:  intent, focus) conflict.  As someone with limited comprehension and limited speed-reading ability in Hebrew, I find it quite impossible to focus on the meaning of the prayers when there are so many of them to say. 

Another prayer challenge of mine is that my synagogue is not only small, it’s also a little short on ruach (spirit, enthusiasm.)  Rabbi Held spoke about how praying with good music (preferably music that’s easy to sing) can make prayer more meaningful.  We have a relatively non-participatory congregation—most of my co-congregants sing barely loudly enough to be audible.  As a former synagogue choir member in a previous synagogue, I really miss being surrounded in prayer by enthusiastic singers. 

As promised, here’s a link to one of my “prayer posts,” “Learning, the hard way, or learning from the inside out: An am haaretz teaches herself to daven.”

Here’s a link to a shorter version, “Learning from the inside out.”


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