Tuesday started off with an unusual request. On my way to run one of the high school’s alternative minyanim, I was stopped by a group of seniors on the staircase. “Dr. Yares,” they asked, “Can we have our grade level minyan today?”
Now, these same students have been involved in the tefillah conversations that had happened earlier in the year with the Student Government and later with the Va’ad Tefillah. Naturally, I was a bit surprised to hear them request to not have the alternative minyanim that they had helped bring about. However, when they shared their reason for their request, then I got it.
What was the reason? “It’s our last tefillah together as a grade.”
This was a profound statement from these students. While the alternative minyanim are designed to help provide tools to draw us closer to God through tefillah, the students were reflecting on another purpose of tefillah, drawing us closer to each other.
Jewish prayer can happen as an individual, but when we gather as a group of ten or more, as a minyan, we gain the ability to say special tefillot. More importantly, perhaps, is that tefillah in a minyan includes portions that are said aloud and this format emphasizes the community that we are trying to build.
How do we know that our seniors understood this? Perhaps through the request or perhaps it was through the most spirited Aleinu that the school has ever heard. Stomping, dancing, and singing with ruach accompanied this final prayer of their final in-school minyan of their senior year. The kavanah (intent) of their tefillah came through strongly and intensely.
Sometimes when we pray, we connect with God. Sometimes, we connect with each other. And sometimes, we get to do both.