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12/30/2022 01:04:55 PM


     How many of you have ever followed a diet? There seem to be a few core habits that make diets work: consistency and flexibility. On the one hand, we have to commit to a daily regiment of eating or avoiding certain foods. On the other hand, we are encouraged to "change it up" and add new foods so we don't get bored . I would say the same concepts apply to prayer. The two main ingredients of Jewish prayer are "Kevah" and "Kavanah". "Kevah" refers to the consistency with which we pray and include  rubrik of prayers that make up a Jewish prayer service (known as the "mat-bay'ah".  "Kavanah" refers to the intention with which we pray. The two are often in tension. There are days when I pray just to keep up the consistency, but I have no kavanah. And there are other days when I am so into the intention it seems I don't get to the mainstay prayers we are supposed to do everyday. I also notice that congregations fall into the same dilemna. We want to get in all the prayers we are required to do.... but, we want to finish at a certain time. The Cantor's challenge is often one of infusing kavanah into the prayers by way of a new melody or emphasis on one part of a prayer and still get done "on time". 

     There are many paths to developing "kavanah". Of course the better you understand the meaning of the prayers, the more inspiring the words themselves become. Some people like to focus on just a few words of each prayer and repeat those words as a mantra until it makes its way into our hearts. For others, singing as part of a congregation brings kavanah. The melodies are not just there to make it easier to remember the words, the melodies are there to elevate our kavanah.  One way to infuse a little "kavanah" into prayer is, of course, to offer new melodies. Although old melodies are comforting, a new melody gives us the opportunity to infuse new meaning into a prayer and to perhaps focus attention on the meaning of the words in a new way. 

     On February 4 we will be reading the Torah portion of B'shalach which includes the climactic parting of the Red Sea and our escape from Egypt. Because this Torah portion features a beautiful poem/song we dub this Shabbat as "Shabbat Shirah" (The Sabbath of Song). For many years it has been customary for Cantors to embellish this service with new melodies or choirs, etc... I am looking for several singers (reading music a plus but not a requirement), old and young to participate in a special Shabbat Shirah service. Rehearsals for adults will be on Thursday evenings at 7:30, however, if you want to participate but can't come to every rehearsal, contact me and I can still have you participate in some way. Rehearsals for religious school children will be Sundays at 12:30. Let's infuse Kavanah into our Shabbat Shirah service on Feb. 4!!! 


Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784