Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pray Pray and Pray Some More

My holiday in Efrat was very nice and relaxing. It was primarily comprised of sleeping, praying and eating split up with walks, playing with my cousins and starring into the amazing picturesque hills and mountains that surround the city.

Over the holiday, I prayed in five different synagogues. My cousin is a rabbi at a boys high school. We prayed there for the first morning of the holiday. The service was long and full of singing and dancing. It was an amazing prayer. We started at 7 am and prayed till 10:30, then had a break for Kiddush (essentially cake and coffee) then resumes services from 11 till 1:30 pm. The +250 students were so into the service, which made it very spiritual and uplifting. The students danced and enjoyed the prayer immensely.

Later that day, I prayed Mincha (afternoon service) at a Yemenite synagogue. The Yemenite traditions are different than the Ashkenazi customs I am used to. It was cool to see the different traditions. They Yemenite service prayed slower than Ashkenazim and the service was very interactive between the leader and the congregation, more so than I am used to. Also, responsive prayers were very drawn out and deliberate.

The following morning I prayed with my cousin at the Sephardic synagogue which he usually attends when he does not need to pray at the synagogue with his students. The Sephardic prayer style was different to that of the Ashkenazim. The prayers that the Yemenites, Sphardim and Ashkenazim say are all pretty similar, but the way in which the service is run and the leader-congregation interaction differs.

On Shabbat, I attended a bar mitzvah of my cousins neighbor at the “Happy Minyan,” a congregation that prays in the Ashkenazi format with a focus on the prayers and tunes of Rabbi Shlomo Karlbach. Rabbi Karlbach was a prolific composer of Jewish songs and tunes to prayers. Many of his tunes are popular far beyond the congregations that follow his teachings and music. The service was beautiful and full of singing both songs I knew and did not know.

The fifth synagogue I prayed at did not have any special stories – it was the same synagogue I prayed at the previous week, just down the street from my other cousins home. The services there were fun, because I sat next to my 10 year old cousin Noam… we played together a bit during the services .

Rosh Hashana in Efrat afforded me a rich and eclectic holiday with new experiences and learning opportunities. I hope the year to come continues to bring more of the same.

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