I went to Shabbat prayers yesterday for the first time in a few weeks. I had been feeling a little distant, uncomfortable that I hadn’t gone to a communal service in a while, so I took advantage of my Saturday off, took my baby daughter along, and went to Chabad, my usual/default synagogue.
Long story short, it wasn’t the connecting experience I had hoped it would be. It would too easy to blame it on having to watch the baby that kept drawing me out of the prayer mentality, but my baby is super well-behaved and frankly, she was great during the entire service. No, it wasn’t her, it was me.
There are circumstances that always help to bring me out of the prayer mental space, things like people talking around me, or wandering about seemingly aimlessly. It is a simple fact of life that these are common in Jewish synagogues, although I’ve no idea why. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing. In any case, it’s something I’ve never liked, and I always find them an interruption. But again, it wasn’t them, it was me.
My mind just wasn’t in it. My heart just wasn’t in it. I said the prayers in Spanish instead of Hebrew so that I wouldn’t just recite them, but instead read them and fully get the meaning, but more often than not I was just voicing words, parroting them off. I know these prayers by memory now, so it’s easy to fall into the rhythm and simply go through the pages, and tried as I might not to, that’s exactly what kept happening.
It’s not the prayerbook’s fault, the words have been the same for centuries. My spirit just wasn’t in it. It’s a reminder that connection with the divine isn’t something that just happens, you have to work at it. Simply being in a communal sacred space isn’t enough to elicit that connection. Simply listening to the words of the Torah isn’t enough to elicit that connection.
We’re starting the month of Elul, the month leading to the High Holy Days, a time traditionally used for self-reflection and preparation for the start of a new year and the day of atonement. This is a reminder that I need to work more at that connection. Much like when my wi-fi fails: no connection? Retry.