Again, not by choice, but following the precautionary measures that we are taking during this coronavirus siege, I pray at home alone.
It has always been a highlight of the week to be part of the communal voice in shul on Shabbat, but for the time being, I have been assigned a solo part.
When I spent time at a summer camp (let’s not say how many decades ago!) someone spoke about the virtues of davening with a minyan. He suggested an image of burning coals, each individual representing one briquette. Alone, the coal can generate a certain amount of heat, but together with a number of hot coals, the intensity is that much greater.
Do we need to be lumped together to generate that intense heat in our various shuls that pinpoint our neighborhoods? Perhaps. But can’t it be that being in our individual homes — even separated by two-meter spacing during davening — that our sincere prayers covering a more diffuse area can produce a glowing aura to reach our Creator in an expansive way?
I certainly hope so, since this is our configuration right now.
So what have I learned in this mode of solitary praying?
First of all, since I don’t have to keep up with the pace of the congregation, I have been able to daven slowly. It has become possible to pronounce the words that come out of my mouth more clearly and have them emerge from a deeper place in my heart.
As an olah chadashah learning Hebrew in ulpan, I have been noticing words and language principles in our prayers that were not apparent to me before. The davening provides examples of some practical language usage that are basic even in modern conversational Hebrew, and lessons from ulpan have enhanced my solitary davening.
Did I say that I’m not in a hurry? It has become possible to concentrate more completely on parts of the Shabbat davening that I am not as familiar with. How much improved will my davening be once we can gather together as a congregation?
So…much as I have missed being with the congregation for so many weeks, this ongoing “Shabbat in solitary” has been an invaluable experience. Did it occur to me that it would essentially serve as a time to be “home-schooled”? Not at all.
With so many parents thrust into the home-schooling mode that they are unaccustomed to, has it occurred to any of them that parents are always home-schooling their children?
Every child is home-schooled. (But this is a topic for another time…)