I committed myself to davening 3x per day with the beginning of the Pardes school year, and I’ve been pretty good about davening consistently since then. My commitment to myself was not simply to daven 3x per day – it was also to create a meaningful davening experience for myself, and I’m happy to say that I’ve been succeeding at this.
Previous to reading our course texts on davening, I hadn’t sought any guidance on davening practices… I simply davened in ways that felt most meaningful and natural to me. My davening style shifts based upon circumstances – I daven differently in groups than I do on my own – I daven differently depending upon my mood – I daven differently at different times of the day – I daven differently outside than I do inside – I daven differently at home than I do at Pardes, and differently than I do at shul – etc., etc.
I would like to share a couple of elements that I sometimes include in my davening.
- I enjoy singing ‘Aleinu’ at the end of my davening. First of all, this brings me back to my pre-Bar Mitzvah childhood when I attended “junior congregation” at my home shul. ‘Aleinu’ is one of my favorite tunes, and it’s the final prayer of the traditional liturgy so singing it feels celebratory to me – like ending my davening on a cheerful note.
- During the first several brachot of the Amidah (and somtimes more), I sometimes close my eyes and stand still, swaying just barely, allowing the weight of my body to pull me in various directions, and gently bringing my center of gravity back to my center, again allowing my weight to create sway. Occasionally, I touch the fingers of one or both hands to a nearby surface, bring myself a feeling of groundedness, as my soul rocks back and forth within my swaying body.
- When reciting the first line of the Shema, I sometimes emphasize the ‘nu’ at the end of ‘Elokeinu’ to bring the idea that <G-d is the G-d of all Jews> to the fore of my mind. This is in addition to emphasizing the ‘d’ sound at the end of ‘echad’, which is a traditional practice.