What does it feel like when you pray? I don’t mean when you come to services, or when you sit begging God for something really important. What does it feel like when you know that right now, in this moment, you’ve connected? You’ve been touched by God? You’ve been moved by energy, or spirit, or community. What does it feel like?
You may never have experienced what some will call transcendence, a visceral feeling of connection; or you may have had that once upon a time, and spent a lifetime seeking it out again. Or you may have never felt what I’m talking about and therefore have trouble coming to worship services, or even finding a point to organized religion. I have felt it, not every time we come together, not even every time I’ve done a good job. But I have felt that, the tingling on my skin, as I know that I’m communicating and being heard. The times I’ve felt that have been - surprise surprise, I am a cantor after all - times of music. But I have also found repetition is very hard. I can try the same music, I can try with the same group of people; but frequently it is only in change I am able to recreate that feeling.
In change… change is so hard, and TRT you have been so good, so patient, and so open to the changes we have attempted in the last years in our worship. So we will strive to continue to create change: Rock Shabbat should never be the same thing twice, not even with the same artist. We will continue to ask you to push yourselves on what worship can look like. We will continue to ask ourselves, what else we can do. What other forms of worship, not Rock Shabbat, will people connect with; will people learn from, will give people the opportunity to feel prayer? This past winter we tried an integrated service, study and dinner which we called Eat, Pray, Learn. We brought in a group of Torah dramatists called Torah Turnings to teach us about Esther in a new and dramatic way. We’ve had services accompanied by guitar, and healing services, too. Even a service to bring our cherished at-home creatures, our pets, in for a blessing. Each of these styles of worship is an attempt to connect us to prayer, to God, to community; to discover what works, and also to acknowledge that even things that work don’t always work the same way twice.
So we continue on our journey… how will you be moved? What will move you? Will it be a worship to honor our teachers and students? A worship lead by our youth group in a Rock Shabbat style? Will it be Rock Shabbat with Eric Komar or with Beth Schafer? Will you consider incorporating anything you’ve learned from worshiping here into your seders at home, or into an at-home regular ritual? I said that repetition of the same doesn’t always get me the same results, and this is true, but I have also learned that repetition of intention, approaching God regularly, praying regularly (even when I sometimes feel nothing), only with this kind of practice am I open to the precious moments where I truly get to feel. So I hope you will continue to experiment and journey with us on what prayer can look like and feel like, and I hope you will find a way to be moved, to feel and to incorporate these experiences into your life as well.
Cantor Joanna Alexander