Disclaimer: There is no way that my words will accurately encompass, describe, or depict my Yom Kippur t'fillah experience, but I will try nonetheless.
I believe that one of the secrets to meaningful davening is finding or creating a community that davens with intention. What does this mean? A community whose focus is to come together in prayer before God, where every member is standing alongside, whether figuratively or literally with the shaliach tzibbur (public emissary). When Kol Nidre began on Yom Kippur eve, I knew immediately I was in for a treat. Instead of standing passively and listening to Kol Nidre, the participants chanted along with the shaliach tzibbur in a haunting tone, setting the atmosphere for the evening and the following day.
The Musaf (additional) service on Yom Kippur is lengthy and, as I wrote in my post last week, has the potential to be a real snooze-fest. However, the gentleman who was the shaliach tzibbur brought the entire davening to life. He selected upbeat melodies when appropriate, somber ones when necessary, and the members of the kahal (congregation) participated actively. This particular fellow did not have the traditional voice of a cantor, but rather, an average but very pleasant voice. This goes to show that you do not need a chazzan with an other-worldly voice, instead you need somebody who is familiar with the service, and who can stand before God as your emissary, and that is just what he did. When the time came to bring our faces to the floor in prostration, the entire congregation joined in, similar to Kol Nidre, it was not a show that the participants came to witness, instead it was a communal endeavor.
Finally, my growing knowledge of Hebrew proved invaluable. I can only say that any serious davener should undertake the lofty and lengthy project of understanding as much and as many of the t'fillot as possible. This method may lead to theological questions, but that is just the kind of davening culture that I am hoping to cultivate.
I hope that your Yom Kippur was as meaningful as mine. Check out my other blog, Shibbles' Eyes for more observations about Yom Kippur that do not specifically related to t'fillah. Also, look out tomorrow for some pre-Sukkot thoughts.