Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Finding Your Voice in Your Tefilla

Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Dean of the Center for the Jewish Future at YU, gave a class last week on "Tefillah - Preparation, Redemption, and Transformation".  I recommend this twenty minute listen because I think he draws a worthwhile parallel between Shabbat and Tefilla.

For many educators, Shabbat is both the most special time and concept to engage students to their Jewish identity.  R Brander elaborates on several dimensions - pointing to the songs sung on Shabbat and halachot involved in their preparations.  He raises honest points - that "it is hard to connect in Tefilla"  and shares a personal tragedy and how tefilla helped him through such a challenge. Further he stresses the need to make the special connection between prayer and the structure of  Shabbat which "re-calibrates our lives and purpose".  Tefilla, he argues, has a cosmic redemptive moment that is similar to Shabbat - I feel this way but I am not sure that my students do.

Finally, R. Brander ends the shuir speaking about finding one's own voice in tefilla - and I think this is the most powerful part of the lesson.  How can we address the challenge to allow each student to find their own individual voice "within the symphony we create with HaKadosh Baruch Hu".  He warns against imitation but I fear that this is often our standard pedagogical approach.

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