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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: How do you daven?   Thu Oct 13, 2011 5:44 pm

I'm curious to know what everyone's worship practice is like? Do you attend services on Friday? Saturday? Morning minyan? Do you pray three times a day? Not at all?

I'm virtually certain I'm the only member of my Reform shul who lays tefillin and davens on the six weekday mornings. Lately, in fact, I've found myself picking up a siddur and davenning twice a day (morning and evening). I daven alone (until it gets too cold, usually out on our balcony), not in a minyan, but I don't leave out the Barchu or the Kedusha. (Your halachic mileage may vary here.) I feel drawn to begin a mincha practice as well.

I was inspired to say weekday prayers by two books, Reuven Hammer's Entering Jewish Prayer and Evelyn Garfiel's Service of the Heart, as well as by the now-defunct 3xdaily initiative from PunkTorah.org. I was also inspired by the fact that my shul does its best (fellow Reform Jews--does this sound familiar?) to get Shabbat worship services over in a set time, so our Amidah is usually truncated in key places. I attend services regularly on Friday night and, sometimes, Saturday, and used to wonder why we skipped around so much.

Cutting to the chase, praying regularly in the morning and beyond (and with more material than usually covered at my shul) has taught me nuances of the siddur that I find very deeply speak to me on religious and emotional levels. I did not expect that. Some Friday evenings sitting in shul, I'm aware I felt more connected to the Eternal that morning out on my balcony. Can anyone else identify with this kind of unexpected experience?

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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:11 pm

Friday evening is my favorite time (Friday evenings were always my favorite, even before I decided to convert). I leave work and get something to eat, then go to synagogue (I can't go home first; it's too far out of the way). Going into synagogue is like taking a deep breath and letting the entire work week go. However bad my day or week, it's all behind me--gone, erased. I just start to relax and come back to me. And my favorite part of the service is singing the Sh'ma with everyone else; I really enjoy hearing the voices of everyone else saying this testament of faith, just as Jews all over the world do on Friday night, and just as they've done for thousands of years.

I don't do much outside of Friday nights right now, but I'm making myself a tallit. I know women aren't REQUIRED to wear one, but I've never seen anything that BANS us from wearing one, so I'm going to have one.

I can see why you'd want to do the full prayers even if you don't have a minyan. While I understand the emphasis Judaism places on having a group (it's what keeps the people cohesive), at the same time, I don't think G-d's going to punish you for praying in less than the ideal way. I'm a big believer in having a personal relationship with G-d, and if praying without a minyan still makes you feel good, then it's a pretty good sign it's okay with G-d. If He didn't want you doing it, you'd feel uncomfortable about it.
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Samantha

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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Thu Oct 13, 2011 8:13 pm

I am hugely traditional in my davening habits, but in my own, modified way. Currently I pray twice a day (following the commandment in the Torah to say the Shema "when you lie down and when you rise up") and I wear a tallit in the mornings. Occasionally I wear a headcovering, depending on how I am feeling at the time. As a Liberal Jewess to be, I tend to simply follow how I am feeling at the time in terms of what I say, but rigidly stick to twice daily prayer. I find it is extremely therapeutic for me to focus my mind upon the here and now. If anything, twice daily prayer has deepened my faith in spades since I began doing so.

Mychal wrote:

I don't do much outside of Friday nights right now, but I'm making myself a tallit. I know women aren't REQUIRED to wear one, but I've never seen anything that BANS us from wearing one, so I'm going to have one.

Mychal, I'm a woman, and wearing a tallit has been one of the best decisions I have ever made in ritual terms. I find the symbolism of putting on a tallit for morning prayer extremely meaningful to me, and not once have I had any "questionable" comments from people. In fact, I was actually encouraged by a male convert (of 30+ years now!) in my synagogue after I let slip that I owned one but didn't yet feel comfortable wearing one due to being afraid of the reactions of others. I still don't wear it in shul, but this is more because I haven't yet finished my conversion due to unforseen circumstances.

I also prefer Friday evenings to Saturday mornings; I find I can tune into things and find kavannah so much easier than on Saturdays where quite often the service is rushed due to the many children which attend the cheder (religion school). I actually begin teaching there next January, which will lop off a lot of my davening time, but I'm greatful it's affecting Saturday mornings rather than Friday nights, otherwise I really would be upset!

I grapple quite a lot with trying to come to terms that I am a Liberal Jewess with strong traditional leanings, but I'm gradually learning to accept that being unusual doesn't mean I'm crazy Laughing
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:12 pm

I used to pray up to six times a day but the past few years, not really at all. I have no problem with communal prayer but on my own I'm just not into it. I did promise myself that I would start praying the Shema and Amidah twice a day but they are going to have to be in English for a while (at least partly). I have zero desire to wear a tallit in my home and certainly not in public.

I haven't been attending services often since I'm not feeling well. I haven't been doing much of anything, really. When I feel better I prefer Saturday because it's quiet, we read Torah and it's generally a more "serious" crowd. And I use the term crowed loosely. It's no more than 15 people every time I go. Once we didn't even have ten people. We don't have Hebrew school on Saturdays. That being said, I still do go on some Friday's instead just because I'm more of an evening person than a morning person.
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Fri Oct 14, 2011 2:03 pm

Dena, I like Saturday mornings, too. The seem more intensive to me, at least at my shul. Often, though, I don't go on b'nai mitzvah days. I'm a big proponent of come-as-you-are worship--I feel what's inside is what God is concerned about, not how expensive our slacks are. I resent the pressure to dress up for a family most of whose members I never, ever see the rest of the year in synagogue.
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Fri Oct 14, 2011 2:38 pm

Saturdays at my shul are kind of sad. If there is no bar/t mitzvah, then we frequently don't have a minyan. One rabbi gets pretty liberal with the definition of minyan, and he'll count Torahs as people (we have 5), just because he hates not having a Torah reading. It was really awesome one Saturday when he got all of us up on the bimah and we sat around a table and he put the Torah on it and read it. Everyone was able to see the Torah while he read, which was really neat and, to me, pretty moving. He also repeated himself in English, line by line, so we understood what he was saying, and I found myself leaning forward, wanting to hear more of the story. But our other rabbi is stricter on the minyan count, so there's usually no Torah when she's doing it.

But even when we have a bar or bat mitzvah, it can be sad because there will be lots of people in the room, but all too frequently they're silent. Sometimes I feel like me, the cantor and the rabbi are the only people singing (the bar or bat mitzvah candidate usually doesn't sing). And that's as sad or sadder than only a few Jews coming to service, but praying and singing like you're supposed to.

Friday nights, though, have a good crowd of regulars and there's an appropriate amount of audience participation, so when I had to choose one service or the other to attend, I chose Friday.

I found out a couple of months ago that our shul also has a Sunday service for families, in connection with their Sunday school. Because of that, you don't see children very often on Friday night and not at all on Satuday, unless it's a b'nai mitzvah ceremony. And there's something about that that bothers me.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Fri Oct 14, 2011 3:20 pm

I don't see many kids on Friday and I've never seen a child on a Saturday. People with children do not come to services very much (but many are involved in other ways). We do have some special Fridays advertised as being for "families" and people do bring kids on those nights.
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Samantha

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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Fri Oct 14, 2011 6:44 pm

In over 2 years of attending my synagogue, I can only recall a handful of times that I have attended a Saturday morning service. I find Saturdays extremely unspiritual and well, distracting! They're always very full and often very noisy. Now my Saturdays are taken up by my cheder teaching (I'm currently being trained on the job and start officially in January) so I do at least do something with my time. On Saturdays I much prefer to teach.

Friday nights are to me the heart of my Shabbat observance. They're a lot more spiritual and less manic. This evening we only had 5 people attending but it was beautiful. Usually we have a lot bigger crowd of regulars and it's definitely far more preferable - but standing in our sukkah having kiddush with 5 of my friends and our rabbi in the freezing cold with the moonlight shining on our faces this evening was certainly something to remember!

Michael - I know exactly how you feel. I never dress up for shul as I often come straight from university to Friday night services. I'm often very scruffy but nobody bats an eyelid as I'm there, and that's what matters. The only times I make a real effort is either when I'm teaching (to make a good impression on the parents) or during the high holy days. I try not to be judgemental of people who come really dressed up but often people make Rosh Hashanah look like a fashion parade. I don't think any type of religious service should be made into something so trivial.
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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Wed Oct 19, 2011 9:08 am

In honesty I don't pray as much as I should. This is probably because I use it as a meditative experience and if I have the time I like to go for a couple of hours at a time. First preparing myself with niggunim, then incorporating tehillim, then reading from a siddur, and then moving on to hitbodedut and lastly finishing up with more niggunim/tehillim. If I really get into it, I could probably go for about four hours straight.

The problem is that I don't always have four hours to do it, and I don't like doing it just to do it, as if I'm checking a block so to speak. I've been working on getting up to three times a day since I plan to keep and maintain that level as I progress in my conversion. But again, time is an issue.

As far as the experience goes, I've found that praying consistently is like hydrating consistently. When I carry around a water bottle and am consistently drinking water, I am happier, healthier feeling, more alert, and have more energy. Similarly, when I pray consistently I find that I'm more kind to those around me, more perceptive to my surroundings and generally in a better mood.
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:43 am

Rabbi-In-Training wrote:
(snip)...As far as the experience goes, I've found that praying consistently is like hydrating consistently. When I carry around a water bottle and am consistently drinking water, I am happier, healthier feeling, more alert, and have more energy. Similarly, when I pray consistently I find that I'm more kind to those around me, more perceptive to my surroundings and generally in a better mood.

I can identify with that feeling of almost rote spiritual hydration when I daven. Even when I don't have time to pray as fully as I'd like to or when my heart just isn't in it, I can tell afterwards throughout my day that I did it. Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg says something similar in her book on her secular-to-religious journey, Surprised By God.
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Wed Oct 19, 2011 1:22 pm

Depressed about this--today's "10 Minutes of Torah", a daily (and useful) teaching email from the Union for Reform Judaism, began a teaching module about the festival liturgy. All well and good, until I read this paragraph:

Quote :
In the weeks ahead, we are going to look at those aspects of the liturgy that are unique to the Festivals. It’s therefore important at the outset to lay out the structure of the various festival services as elaborations of what, to you the reader, are the more familiar Shabbat services...

It really drove home for me that most Reform Jews are only familiar with the Shabbat service, even though the most common (and, traditionally, most important) service is the daily service. I really wish my movement were not so dismissive of non-holiday liturgy. It makes me feel so out of place, sometimes.
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Thu Oct 20, 2011 1:31 pm

Never been to a daily service myself; they're not held at our Reform shul. Of course, the first prequesite for having one is having everyone live and work within walking distance of the synagogue. If I could take a break from work to walk to shul, daven, then go back to work, I'd do it. But I work an hour's drive away from my shul. Wouldn't happen if was even available.
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Thu Oct 20, 2011 1:39 pm

Mychal, you needn't walk to shul on a weekday (if you observe not driving on Shabbat.) I do wish there were a Reform shul with a morning minyam in Chicago. But you can always "roll your own service", as your level of observance sees fit. It really just takes you and a siddur.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Thu Oct 20, 2011 4:09 pm

mikedoyleblogger wrote:
Mychal, you needn't walk to shul on a weekday (if you observe not driving on Shabbat.)

I think she just meant it needs to be really close.

mikedoyleblogger wrote:
"roll your own service", as your level of observance sees fit. It really just takes you and a siddur.

Yeah, weekday prayer can be done at home or at work if you have a secluded area.
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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Thu Oct 20, 2011 4:12 pm

I think that closeness depends on your willingness to get up early. It's similar to the way my partner and I need to give at least half an hour to get to shul on Shabbat, because we live several miles away. We do it, but we know life would be easier if we lived within a few blocks. (And, honestly, we do talk about moving within walking distance.)
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Thu Oct 20, 2011 4:15 pm

I live 20 minutes away by freeway but that is not close enough for me. We are not ready to move but when we do we'll be 10 minutes away at most and maybe even within walking distance of a Conservative congregation (which does have minyan twice a day). That will probably be many years from now though.
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Thu Oct 20, 2011 4:22 pm

I hope you get there sooner Very Happy There is a high-rise overlooking our synagogue. It's way cheaper than where we live downtown. We are thisclose to moving, you know? (For trivia's sake, the high-rise on the other side of our synagogue is the "Bob Newhart" building from the opening credits of his 1970s sitcom.)
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Samantha

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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Fri Oct 21, 2011 11:49 am

Unfortunately my shul doesn't have a morning minyan, so I utilize whatever I have at home, and in all honesty, I do really enjoy davenning on my own. It is especially powerful I find just before Shabbat and helps me prepare for and anticipate the evening ahead. Plus I find the ritual of it all to be extremely beautiful; finding my tallit bag, checking my tallit strings to see if they're still Kosher, saying the blessing, putting it on, opening my siddur. I have no problems in making time for it, especially now that it seems to have slotted into my routine.
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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:46 pm

Mike,

I know of a couple of Conservative daily morning and evening minyanim in Chicago that would welcome your presence and happily count you in the minyan. My own minyan would be especially happy since it struggles just to get a minyan every morning these days given that it requires a full 10% of our rather small congregation. Like almost all Conservative shuls, they are egalitarian in the sense of women being counted in a minyan and allowed any ritual role and they have no mechitza. However, the Conservative liturgy is quite traditional so the Amidah mentions resurrecting the dead and sacrifices which might be unfamiliar to you since those aspects have been removed from the Reform liturgy. Furthermore, in my minyan's morning services it might bother you that the repetition of the Amidah is more likely than not to be traditional without the Matriarchs. (The Matriarchs are not included in any of the several different siddurim that members use for weekday services, but the sheliach tzibbur may add the Imahot at his/her option which is probably about 20% of the time.)
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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Thu Nov 03, 2011 12:35 pm

Debbie, really? Which ones? Which is your community? (I'm a member at Emanuel Congregation at Sheridan & Thorndale.) I already cover a fair amount of ground in the Reform Siddur that my congregation doesn't. We occasionally have combined services with a sister congregation that rents space in our building. They have a somewhat more conservative liturgy, and I'm finding I really enjoy services when we have such a "different perspective."
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PostSubject: Re: How do you daven?   Mon Dec 05, 2011 6:19 pm

I don't daven in the traditional way every day. But my day is sprinkled with brachot (blessings). Every morning I say "Modeh Ani" (something taught to me by my Reform rabbi) in the morning. I then proceed to perform negel vassar (ritual handwashing) where I say the brachot over that as well as the "Asher Yatzar" bracha. I then usually proceed and go about my business. At some point during the morning, I'll check my phone, which has a zmanim app, and recite "Shema" before sof zman shema. I say brachot over the food I eat. Before bed, I recite the Shema again along with Hamapil.

On Sundays I have more time; so I usually recite my version of the weekday Sharcharis service.

When Shabbat comes in on Friday evenings, I make sure to get home by candlelighting. I say the blessing over the candles then recite the respective "Yehi Ratzon" along with some personal prayers. I sit down to study Torah a bit and I have my meal and I'm in for the night. I then go to synagogue on Saturday morning. They use the conservative prayer book "Sim Shalom". While I use the Artscroll siddurim at home, I pray wit the congregation (and use whatever they use) in the synagogue.
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