In the beginning, davening was all about singing and dancing and connecting to G-d. They were amazing times…..We would go to the old ivy covered Hillel House at G.W.U. (George Washington University in D.C) on Friday night, first daven the “service” and then make a communal Shabbat dinner (or maybe it was the other way around back then). There must have been 15 or 20 of us, blue jeans and long hair, loving the world, and in love with being Jewish, eyes shining and hearts wide open, and we danced and sang underneath the huge banner across one wall of the room that read, “Transcend!” We felt so in touch with G-d and the universe, so connected and united with the Jewish people all over the world, and all through history, that the words of the Shma burned deep into our souls, and I knew that I had found my place.
Now, more than thirty years down the road, I know that tefilla is more than that feeling – I know that the exact Hebrew words are important and that the form is important; I know that we need the specific format in order to awaken and cultivate within ourselves the values and qualities of the true Jewish neshama, and that spiritual realities are created through the specific letters and words of our holy tefillot, within us and within the greater world. I know that following the siddur is important…..
And yet….I also know that singing and dancing our prayers is vital, too. The feelings that well up from that expansive place empower and enliven our tefillot. I know that we need both experiences, and since most of us have integrated well the siddur part, we need to relearn and experience again what it is that will open our hearts to Hashem. What was it that drew us near to Him and His Torah? What is it now that can open and connect us to Him? What is it that makes our hearts sing with love for Hashem? What can put wings to our prayers? What is it that can bring us up to that elevated place where we can really talk to Him of the deepest longings of our souls?
The Sharacharit Express may not be the time or the place, but we need to find what and when it is …..A quiet early morning on a rooftop watching the sunrise, a full and joyous Shabbes table singing up to shamayim for hours, a walk by the ocean…whatever it is, we need to find it – we need to find a way to get the heart involved in our relationship with Hashem…. And then do it. Religiously.