Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Individual

Let me begin this brief post by expressing explicitly that I believe wholeheartedly in communal prayer as a viable and necessary outlet of group expression. Furthermore, please do not leave your respective minyanim in a situation where they will be without a minyan, just for the sake of this post. Nor should those saying kaddish forgo the public space. Disclaimer concluded.

Over the past few weeks I have come to greatly enjoy davening alone. In the context of the community, you are bound to certain rules of davening courtesy. Not too fast, not too slow, not too loud, etc... When you're alone, none of those pressures apply. I have been able to be as vocal or emotional as I feel necessary without the fear of who might or might not be watching. My mumbling (discussed in an earlier post) can be as loud as I want, screaming, should I desire it, or even singing. I am free to move as I feel fit. Whether that manifests as pacing, shuckeling, or swaying, I know that nobody's space will be invaded. Practically speaking, individual davening also serves as an opportunity to hone skills as a shaliach tzibbur. In this way, I think the lessons learned can be taken back into the communal environment.

I would urge others to give individual davening a try, we may learn a lot about ourselves as a community of daveners if we give ourselves that chance.

1 comment:

Aharonium said...

Thanks for spelling this out Daniel. It's something so basic that I take it for granted even though it's at the root of the way I understand Jewish spiritual practice, and in measuring the utility of technologies meant to aid davvening (e.g. siddurim).

By starting with the individual, it's much more clear for me to disentangle performative aspects of communal prayer the functional purpose of which has become obscure. It's also made me wary of aspects of communal life that by their nature are passive and disengaging. I desire less mediation in my spiritual practice -- not more.