Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Postmodern Tefilla Tip # 1

I recently was struck by a passage in Jonathan Sack's The Dignity of Difference (2003).  In the chapter titled, "The Imperative of Responsibility" the good Rabbi Doctor Lord wrote:
The 'individual' - the creation of the seventeenth century - had an identity, which is to say, a stable sense of self from birth to death. His or her life could be told as a narrative, factually in an autobiography, fictionally in a novel, both of them genres which achieved great popularity in the modern age.  Something happens when change is so rapid that nothing confers meaning - when lives become lifestyles, commitments become experiments, relationships become provisional, careers turn into contracts, and life itself ceases to have the character of a narrative and becomes instead a series of episodes with no connecting thread (page 75).
Since reading this, I have been thinking a lot about my students (and children) and, knowing that it is impossible to reverse the trends of post-modernism to return to a more stable identity, how I can educate them towards a connecting thread and empower them to have the strength to become their true personalities.  

I truly believe that tefilla is one of the most powerful vehicles for strengthening this thread of identity.  Especially if there is a school emphasis to create an extra sensitivity in the students and widen their perspectives to enrich their total learning experience.  The approach that regular tefilla offers is a reflective spirit and engagement in ideas and materials that can put them into an uncomfortable space where they can speak, learn, and develop attitudes that help create their own narrative. Rather than see the prayer slot as a dumping ground for ritual exercise - take an aggressive step to make your minyan the incubator of Jewish identity, the moment to coalesce the themes and goals of your mission as a school.

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