Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sounds of Silent Prayers

One of the hardest (and most special) parts of davening in a community is the Amidah. When else do you stand in a room with a hundred of people in absolute silence? The answer to this question may be never. It is often hard for people to remain quiet for the 2-4 minutes it takes for people to say their personal 'silent devotion'. The beginning seconds are bothered by the rattling chairs and soon the chatter of those that finish quickly. It is hard to resist the many small conversations but they noise the make can be incredibly frustrating to people trying to concentrate/meditate on their tefilla.

My brother-in-law recently expressed his frustration that at his shul there are couple of folks that whisper their words loud enough to create a hum and noise that interrupts his focus. We looked into the Shulchan Urech in Hilchot Tefilla halacha 101 where it states that you should not only pray in your heart, rather you should move the words on your lips and hear the words in your ears quietly and not hear his voice; these words are appropriate for oneself, but if in a community it is forbidden to disturb the community. This is an allusion to Hannah's prayer in Samuel 1 Chapter 2 which many prayer practices are learned from. Interesting to see the Mishna Berura's comment on this verse which links people who daven loudly as following in the prophets of falsehood and accuses them of lacking in faith by assuming that Hashem could not hear their whispered prayers.

In our overly stimulated environments that are saturated with technology and visual and audio prompts we rarely encounter a few solid moments of silence. As educators, I think it is highly worthwhile to ensure that the students get comfortable with the meditative silence and learn to suppress the urge to cough or chatter with a neighbor during this special moment of tefilla. I have done this exercise in nature (at night) and students have responded positively to questions of awakening feelings of spirituality. Can you do this in a school classroom/synagogue? In an effort to encourage developing spiritual focus I think it is worth testing the respect your students have for the silent moments and possibility of listening to their own hearts.

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