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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Why I Need to Davven - Part One

Davvening is praying traditional Jewish liturgy in a traditional manner. After praying recently, I got to thinking why I need this practice in my life. There are many reasons, but here are a few.

First, I need to davven because it puts me in "a different space." When I davven, I reconnect with my identity as a member of a Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation. It is not enough to remember that this is true: in davvening, in the postures it requires, the script one uses for prayer, the "processing of the psyche" that one goes through, I viscerally, experientially, and yes, spiritually, reconnect with this identity so that I have a greater likelihood of acting out of that awareness throughout the day.

Second, I need to davven out of obedience to Hashem's call upon Israel to be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation: to not davven, to not bring Him this sacririce of prayer and praise is to be derelict from my duty as a member of that people who said to Him at Sinai, "na'aseh v'nishma"--we will do and we will hear [or understand].

Third, I need to davven because otherwise I am left to my own devices in seeking to express and nurture my spirituality, and prayer becomes narrow and repetitive, subjective, or a mostly neglected discipline, or a combination of any of the above. In davvening I submit to the wisdom of my people through thousands of years. I inherit and benefit from their trial and error. In submitting to the discipline of davvening, I say "Yes" to my role, "Yes" to my God, "Yes" to my identity as a member of Klal Yisrael. And I come into the world of Jewish prayer as participant, as learner, and as co-bearer of the priestly burdens, privileges and responsibilities of the people of Israel.

Fourth, I need to davven because the depth and diversity of the liturgy speaks to me in different ways each time I do it. Although the liturgy remains the same, the experience is always different. And perhaps this is because each day I am different. Were it not for the liturgy, I would lack any prayer measuring stick--a constant--a canon--by which to take notice of how I am different today from yesterday, and, to a degree, different from all of my yesterdays, or conversely, in some ways, like them.

Fifth, I need to davven because the discipline shapes my theology and spirituality as a Jew. And if I don't submit to this discipline, then other internal and external factors will end up shaping my theology and spirituality, generally in a manner disonnant with my Jewish identity. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, "You gotta be shaped by somebody; it might be the Jewish tradition, and it might be another tradition, but you gotta be shaped by somebody."

Sixth, I need to davven because of the regularity it calls me to [praying daily, and, if I want to go the whole nine yards, three times a day]. Even if I never get to the three times a day practice, praying shacharit daily is a call I need to heed. Daily davvening is a context in which I can manifest faitnfulness to the promises I made to others ["I'll pray for you,"] also constituting a daily appointment with G-d at which time progress is made on important matters, often in a manner structured around our inherited prayer agenda, the Amidah.

Seventh, I need to davven, in order to heed the eternal call "Seek my face." This regular appointment is like a daily audience with the King, and I often find myself smiling as I go into it, because in daily davvening, I sense His presence. It is not as if I generate His Presence out of my own subjectivity, but rather I find Him there, almost as if He is waiting for us there in the midst of the practice.

Eighth, I need to davven because I need the companionship of the tradition. There is a holy specialness, a different texture and awareness that davvening brings, a sense of being part of a transgenerational and transtemporal community. This is a necessary and life-giving alternative to the horrific isolation of modern hyper-individualistic spiritualities which are woefully fixated on "my personal relationship with God" which really translated into "my isolated relationship with God," [or perhaps more so, "my insular relationship with myself]." In praying within the tradition I am never socially alone. And of course, I experience this companionship in a deeper manner when I pray with a minyan.