HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

Tefillah as a Journey, on a Journey

by Yoseph Chaiton Issue: Tefillah
TOPICS : Tefillah

Tefillah, I believe, is a journey into yourself. It allows me to get in touch with the very core and essence of my being, the pure spark of the Divine, חלק אלו-ה ממעל ממש—“a part of God above” (Job 31:2), that is within every single Jew. Tefillah is the time and tool to connect with Hashem as is experienced within nature and Hashem that transcends nature. Hashem that we experienced as the “loud voice” at Har Sinai and the quiet voice we struggle to hear in the clutter of noise in our day-to-day lives.

Over the years I had the opportunity to take students on weeklong camping experiences to the many beautiful parts of Oregon and Southern Utah. These trips require a lot of detailed planning in advance and many long hours of supervision of the students. One thing that makes it worthwhile for me is early in the morning before anyone wakes up I find a quiet spot with a view of a still lake, a majestic mountain or an open field. It is so quiet and peaceful that you literally hear the birds fly. Here I find the tranquility to don my tallit and tefillin and daven Shacharit. The tefillah is meditative and refreshing; I try to capture and keep this feeling with me when I return to the busy life of home. This is Hashem experienced through nature.

I also have the privilege to accompany students on a journey to Israel. As part of our itinerary we spend the night in a Bedouin camp south of Be’er Sheva. After nightfall we walk outside the campsite. Instead of a formal Ma’ariv service, students are asked to sit on the sand and allow their eyes to adjust to the darkness. Away from light pollution the sky soon fills with more stars than we can count or imagine.

I ask the students to pick up handfuls of sand and allow it to run through their fingers. I explain to them that somewhere not far from here Hashem told Avraham to step outside his tent—to leave the confines of nature. Avraham was promised that his descendants, you and me, will be as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand of the earth. Light leaving the stars then would in some cases be just reaching Earth today. We sitting here today are looking at the same stars that Hashem showed Avraham. In the interim time how much we, bnei Yisrael, have experienced is miraculous in its own way. I explain that we can tap into these miracles, these transcendent energies of Hashem. We conclude the evening by saying the Shema, but with a new devotion.

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Most day schools are committed to cultivating Jewish prayer, tefillah, as a spiritual practice. In practice, they often find the obstacles formidable: lack of curriculum, knowledgeable and passionate prayer leaders, student interest, awareness of goals, to name a few. Articles here aim to help schools clarify their approach and strengthen the educational bases of school tefillah.

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