Tuesday, May 29, 2018

davening at the gate

I had a twenty-four-hour whirlwind out of town trip for a wedding. I went solo. No children, no schedules, no reminders. It was jam-packed with reunions and a whole lot of talking for an introvert.
Yet as I was waiting to board an early morning flight back home, I opened up a siddur app to daven. Oh, I did say brachot on the flight in, but it was more in my usual tone of mechanical mumbling in the desire to discharge my obligation of tefila before I eat. On this trip back, I found myself wanting to daven, wanting to find the meaning behind well-worn familiar words. No, I did not say more than birchot hashahar since I was waiting at the gate. However, even that five-minute tefila had a different flavor than what I usually end up doing.

I keep on thinking how few positive and uplifting davening experiences I have. There was unbelievable davening in Israel, that I attributed to being surrounded by people who understand the words and mean them. There was my intense desire to daven at the Kotel because in the presence of those ancient stones a different mood comes over me. I want to pour my heart out. There was Rosh haShana tefila that I cried over this year, asking and beseeching Hashem to please give me a good year and prolong life. I think that was influenced by my belief that I am surrounded by a caring congregation. That illusion has since fallen away. I cannot daven in a place of hypocrisy. I have been having hard time going to shul, simply physically entering the building. I have attended a few bar mitzvahs, but I cannot fake a tefila.

So what do I need to daven?

  • removal from the ordinary
  • brain space away from children
  • a feeling of security and trust
  • a heartache
  • a space to organize my thoughts
I do not know the answer to the biggest personal theological question: why did I end up in this pickle? Why did we end up in a community where the rabbi and the shul are the major obstacles to prayer and halachik observance? Why did Hashem lead us on this path?

And what do I tell my children about G-d and prayer? How can I lead them by example when I do not feel comfortable in shul and cannot model "good davening behavior"? I know I am modeling integrity, but I do not know if my kids know or appreciate the full extent of my dilemma.

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