“If I only attended this one session, it would have been worth coming to convention!”
Take a look around you the next time that you are in the synagogue sanctuary. Look at the faces and the body language of the men and women at prayer. Observe the intensity of the involvement and participation in the liturgy. I’ve been talking with many Conservative Jews recently about prayer and what they tell me is essentially that they don’t feel involved.
When we are involved in an activity, whether it is attending the theater, visiting a museum, playing golf or even getting a haircut, we enter the venue with clear expectations of what we expect to gain from the experience. Yet how many of us have thought about or articulated our “goals” for attending Shabbat morning services?
How does one experience prayer “from the heart” today? While we may be moved by the beautiful voice of a talented Hazzan, we yearn to actively participate.
At the recent FJMC International Convention held in Toronto, a new initiative entitled Tefilat HaNeshama-Prayer of the Soul was introduced. Through group training sessions and experiential religious services we discovered a new way, using mindfulness, meditation, silence, and chanting to enhance our prayer practices. Several dozen men and women attended these sessions and services and were “certified as trained” to share their experiences back home.
Spearheaded by FJMC Vice President David Singer, the program was led by Rabbi Daniel Liben and Hazzan Joanna Dulkin.
Rabbi Daniel Liben, Hazzan Joanna Dulkin, David Singer
“The goal of prayer is to help us grow into the people that we were meant to be” – Rabbi Daniel Liben
FJMC has published a guidebook to implementing this program in your own community. The Guide leads you step by step through a sample service, has links to chants, niggunim, and guided meditations and includes everything you need to bring this innovative program to your community. What is exciting about this service is that it incorporates these practices into a genuine prayer experience that includes the key portions of the traditional liturgy.
For more information about Tefilat HaNeshama please check out the full website.
Is the experience of prayer meaningful for you or are you “bored to tears so not going anymore”? Does your community offer a place where prayer is participatory, vital, engaging, passionate?
Bob Braitman was FJMC International President (2005-2007) and is co-author of FJMC’s publication “Building Shabbat Community”.