Last week, I began discussing the importance of communal living in confronting problems of social justice. But communities are also important in our individual access to spiritual energy.
What do I mean? It used to be the case that Jewish men in Eastern Europe, my ancestral land of origin, davened (not women – Judaism has seen its fair share of gender inequality). They would go to the synagogue and pray, or they would pray at home, or in a friend’s living room, wherever they could find a minyan, or prayer quorum. These prayers would contain an element of musical and textual spontenaity. Irene Heskes, a historian who specialized in Jewish music, offers this quote about davening: “in its classic sense – spontaneous, highly vocal, motivated by prayer,” including the independence of an individual in a self-established state of privacy, in the midst of a minyan. I would form my own personal connection with G-d, and you, praying beside me, would do the same, and we would each be vocalizing at different paces, and we would each be inspiring the other to achieve a spiritual awareness that we would then carry throughout the day.