If you participate in yoga, you know that before you begin, there is a physical and spiritual warm-up. The same holds true for any athletic endeavor: loosen up before. Singers will vocalize to warm-up prior to their public singing. Attorneys will review their closing argument before they present it to the judge and/or jury. What about attending synagogue services for the High Holy Days (although this question holds for any time one prays)? The question is not “Do I warm up?” Rather, the question to ask is, “How do I warm up?”
I know that it is the annual synagogue reunion, as there are many present that you have not seen in quite a while, and that requires time to get caught up. The social element is an important one, but not the most important one. How might one use the time in services effectively? Below are some suggestions.
Don’t Look at Your Watch. If you are more concerned with the passage of time and not how well you have spent your time, then you are doing your soul a disservice.
Browse Through the Machzor. If you find a text that resonates, stay with it, even if the congregation has moved to the next page. Reread it, meditate on it, derive personal meaning and inspiration from it.
Save the Chatter with Your Neighbors. You are present to talk to God. Your neighbors can wait.
Come Early, Stay Late. If you have predetermined your duration, you are cheating yourself out of a potentially meaningful experience by limiting what you could possibly achieve. The brisket can wait.
Leave the World Outside. With the non-stop 24-hour news cycle constantly barraging us, wouldn’t it be wonderful to just leave it alone? Besides, it will still be there for you, waiting to draw you back in.
Sometimes Just Listen. The words and the music of the High Holy Days are a 2,000-year-old symphony. Let it flow over and through you, to carry you aloft to undiscovered terrain. Permit yourself to be draw in, and not merely be a passive observer. Be an active listener and engage with the prayers.
We are given this unique opportunity to pray as a community. Take advantage of it. Your soul will thank you. May the coming New Year of 5780 be one of joy and blessing for you and all those that you hold dear. L’shana Tova Tikatevu V’techatemu.