Prayer is for everyone…

There is a wonderful Chasidic story about a boy who did not know how to pray – so the rabbi advised him to recite the letters of the Hebrew alef bet. When someone protested that this would not help, the rabbi suggested that as long as the boy said the letters and put his heart and his soul in it, then God will surely put the letters in the right order… Our tradition constantly reminds us that we have to try and have both the kavannah, the intention to pray, and the keva, the formal liturgy. We struggle to bring both together, realizing that it is not always possible – and yet we try… In today’s world we also struggle with having the right balance of Hebrew and English, of music and readings, of stories and intellectual lessons. Sometimes the balance comes naturally to us, yet so often we have to make an effort to get it right.

Over the last two years I have heard many stories about various services with Rabbi Jerry at Temple Emanuel – especially from those who grew up in the congregation and attended the family services. As is often the case, there were plenty of adults who made sure they came on Friday of the family service – to hear the story, to see the wonder in the eyes of the children, to experience the joy of Shabbat in a slightly different way. As our school welcomes new young children, as we begin to have babies and young children around once again, the ritual committee has asked me to re-institute the Inter-generational Family Services at Temple Emanuel. This innovative service will be child-centered, and not just child-welcoming (as all TE services are, of course). It will be a little shorter, introduce the ‘visual tefilah’ that we have been using at our Hebrew school with much success, and will contain a story in place of a sermon – but it will also retain the full service structure and allow the mourners to say kaddish at the end. It will begin at 6.30pm, to allow more families with young children to come. To make it easier to remember when this special Shabbat service occurs, it will take place on the first Friday of every month, beginning on January 6, 2012 at 6.30 pm. (This will be the new ‘early service’, the second week of the month will return to the regular 8pm time as of January). If you have young children or grandchildren – this service is for you! I look forward to seeing you and your descendants at least once a month J. If you don’t have little children – please don’t feel that you have to stay away – the young children NEED to see adults praying, and the adults NEED to see the children learn their way around the synagogue.

As you may have noticed, our wonderful new prayerbook, MIshkan Tefilah, has arrived! We have used it for Sukkot and Simchat Torah services, as well as for Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – and now we are ready to start using it on a regular basis. As you may remember from my previous columns, the Mishkan Tefilah is not a replacement for TE ‘blue’ prayerbook, but is a wonderful addition that will enhance our prayer experience alongside our current siddur. After a thoughtful discussion at the recent Ritual Committee meeting, a following schedule has been agreed: on the first and the third Shabbat of the month we will use Mishkan Tefilah, on the second and fourth Shabbat we will use the ‘blue’ TE prayerbook. We will also continue to use the loose-leaf prayerbook for the musical Shabbat services! I suggest that to avoid confusion we will keep the Mishkan Tefilah (MT) prayerbooks on the shelf outside the sanctuary and bring them in for the assigned services, while the ‘blue’ books will remain in the usual place inside the chairs. If you are not too sure what book to use – just ask your neighbor! J Just remember – the book is only there to help us along the journey of prayer, so no matter what book you are holding on any given Shabbat, it is your voices and your prayers that matter the most!

I would like to wish you all a happy and joyous Chanukah and I look forward to celebrating it with you on December 23rd with our phenomenal Musical Shabbat Chanukah!

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