Jewish prayer lives in a tension of fixed liturgy and intentionality. The fixed liturgy is filled with great beauty and poetry. Yet anything, however amazing, risks becoming rote. Further, just as there are multiple intelligences, there exists a variety of spiritual experience. For some, me very much included, recitation, singing, and Torah reading are spiritually meaningful. I realize for others there is a greater interest in more singing, or more quiet moments, or so many other modes of spiritual expression.
Rabbi Akiva knew of this problem nearly 2000 years ago. He said that we are forbidden to make our prayers rote. We must have something new or innovative every time we pray to retain our spiritual focus. Otherwise, what ought to be connection with the Most High becomes mere ritual.
For this reason, we are offering a variety of alternative prayer experiences with which to experiment this year. If you rarely if ever come to services, I invite you to try an alternative. Perhaps it will be meaningful to you in a new way. If you always go to the Main Sanctuary, I invite you to try one of these other offerings to increase the spiritual depth you get from the regular service.
You are also welcome any Shabbat to arrive just for Kiddush. Our fabulous Kiddush luncheon starts at 12:15. It is a central moment for our community and everyone is always welcome whether they came to a service first or from working out or straight from their living room!
All of our alternatives, with the exception of the Living Room Minyan, will take place in D129. So just know on nearly every Shabbat you can make your way to D129 and find something innovative, different, musical, joyous, and filled with learning. Here are the options:
On the first and third Shabbat each month we are offering a Living Room Minyan in people’s homes. This small havurah style minyan enjoys traditional davening and either full Torah reading or a rich Torah discussion. Services start at 9:15 and include a light oneg at the end. They are also looking for daveners and Torah readers if you are interested. It will be meeting at the Lewises’ home in December, and the Dinitizes’ in January.
On the first Shabbat of the month David Meir-Levi is leading Slim Shabbat, a 2 hour Shabbat service with singing, triennial Torah reading, and a Torah discussion. 10:15 AM
On the second Shabbat of each month is Kol Sasson, a joyous exploration of Jewish song and learning. This group, led by Cantor Sharon Bernstein from Sha’ar Zahav, focuses on great singing and a lively Torah discussion. 10:15 AM
On the third Shabbat of each month is a contemplative service led by Rabbi Amy Eilberg. The service focuses on fewer words and chants, along with sitting practice, to help inspire a feeling of Shabbat rest and healing. 10:30 AM
On the fourth Shabbat of each month, Nechama Tamler is offering an interactive Torah learning. 11:15 AM.
There is always our Sanctuary service either on the 4th Floor above or the Cultural Arts Hall. We have an incredible feeling of community and song as we read the whole Torah portion and celebrate life cycle moments together. For me, this is a place of restoration and healing that inspires invigorates me for the week to come. It is my landing place spiritually, even as I enjoy finding time to participate in the other alternatives as well.
I invite you to come and pray, or learn, or just experiment with one of these differing modes to celebrate Shabbat and restore the self.
– Rabbi David Booth