Dropping my son off at his New Community Jewish High School, I felt the sudden urge to attend morning services. Initially thinking it was Thursday, I looked forward to hearing Torah chanted. Upon entering Shomrei Torah Synagogue’s chapel, I was saddened to realize it was Friday, not a Torah reading day. But then, surprise, surprise, I remembered it was Rosh Chodesh (celebrating the new Hebrew month) and Torah would be read. STS offers a sweet intimate minyan where most don’t know that I’m a rabbi, and aside from checking to see if I am there for Kaddish, they let me daven (pray) in peace.
I usually try to daven undercover when I go to other shuls, so that I can focus on communing with the Holy One instead of shmoozing with someone keen on asking a rabbi a question. Of course I didn’t have and couldn’t find a tallit – hanging on the rack right outside the door I later learned – so I stuck out like a sore thumb.
Still, daven I did. But my way:
Sometimes I chant real slowly or even chant through the translation. I still find that power davening thru shacharit interferes with my ability to really pray. Can G!d hear me when I mumble?
I also stretch this way and that, trying to wake up my tired bones and my yoga-deprived muscles. Does G!d care if I bend and stretch instead of stand up straight and shuckle?
Sometimes I even ignore the siddur (prayerbook), close my eyes and just pour out my thoughts, silently, to the Eternal Listener. Will G!d recognize my thanks and praise if they do not use the prescribed Hebrew pasukim (verses)?
I think so and that’s why I go. Trying to mix the traditional keva (fixed prayer) with the heartfelt kavvanah (spontaneous thanks/praise), I find my way to the One who is always here.
How do you find meaning during the prayer service? If traditional, where do you mix it up? If progressive, where do you find strength in the ancient ways?