One of the projects I document on this blog is my experience in my weekly tefila group, dubbed by its members as “The Year of Shacharit.”
The rabbinical school curriculum requires that students join what are called “tefila groups,” with a new focus this year: tefila (“prayer”) as a spiritual practice. The idea is for everyone to “practice tefila with a spiritual practice group that shares goals and develops a consistent set of forms for its tefila.”
We were asked to come up with ideas for these spiritual practice groups, and the groups that ultimately formed, after a few weeks of discussion and proposals, included those committed to experience prayer as catharsis; as struggle with the divine (however conceived); as liberation theology; and as obligation. The groups daven together at least once a week and then meet another day to process the prayer experience as well as the group’s continued goals.
The group I joined is exploring the liturgy of shacharit, the morning service, unit by unit, seeking to make a personal connection to each part. As my classmate who proposed the idea explained, he was inspired by a story he heard on NPR about a musician who had digitally remastered Beethoven’s 9th Symphony to make it last 24 hours. His vision for the tefila group was to essentially daven shacharit over an academic year.
On Tuesdays we pray/look closely at/meditate on one part of the liturgy, and then on Thursdays we meet to discuss that experience. We take turns leading the davenning and the discussion.
For my part, I’ve committed to myself to create a collage for each prayer or liturgical unit. (I am thrilled to have finally found a use for all of the postcards and other collectibles from my years of traveling!) I also write a short blog post about the prayer, and I post a picture of each collage in that post.