Thursday, April 14, 2011


Some contemporary halakhic debates about prayer are often couched in language of obligation and time-caused mitzvot. Usually we see such language when discussing the role of women inside the halakhic framework. Wrapped into the discussion of time are "halakhic hours" by which we measure the day, which becomes especially critical when discussion t'fillah. Another language of time exists however, that of sacred time. As we get set to embark on the holiday of Pesach, we will encounter "zmanim" as an important theme of our t'fillah.

In kiddush for the festivals we are sanctifying time. In reciting kiddush we are setting apart time from time. While this is also the case on Shabbat, the words zmanim or moed are not found in the Shabbat kiddush. Furthermore, we identify the festivals as a specific time.
Pesach- Zman cheruteinu (time of our freedom)
Shavuot- Zman matan Torateinu (time of the giving of our Torah)
Succot- Zman simchateinu (time of our happiness)
In other areas of t'fillah we include appropriate seasonal additions, further marking the change of seasons in our prayer, and also in our lives.

Davening when seen through the eyes of zmanim, can help us serve the purpose of marking stages in our year and our lives. It should not be just a halakhic language that gets bandied about. So as you make kiddush and say t'fillot on the upcoming holiday, take a moment to think about what it means to mark time in our davening.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kol Rina

Last Shabbat I had the pleasure of trying out a new synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Nachlaot called Kol Rina. Kol Rina meets in a miklat (bomb shelter), and you could easily miss it. Once inside, it appears as if this is a full service synagogue, with a newsletter, committees, a library, events, a rabbi, all of the markers of an established community, so I quickly overcame my shock when I noticed that the sanitary white walls of the miklat had been made to look more heimish.

On to the davening. Plastic chairs seem to be the norm. Thankfully fans lined the walls, allowing for plenty of air circulation. The mechitza was in a front-back arrangement, which is not my preference, but the amud (leader's table) was centrally located. Those assembled were primarily in their 20's and early 30's, some with children, and a few older folks.

Davening was nusach Sfard, with a Carlebach style. It took a bit of time for the energy to get going, but then it was hard to contain. Dancing broke out sporadically and repeatedly throughout the evening. There was a sense of just losing oneself in the melodies, forgetting about any of the concerns of the week preceding or following. About the dancing, one of my roommates said it best, "At Kol Rina, you don't dance, you get danced." Which turned out to ring quite true. I must admit that the latter portion of davening dragged a bit, as a few of the men were not willing to conclude their singing and move on to their respective meals. Aside from that, I highly recommend Kol Rina.