Sign In Forgot Password

i'll have a pound of kavana please. 

07/08/2021 09:34:35 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

As more and more people return to in-person services, I have heard many remark that the virtual services were just not for them. I certainly can understand, because the ideal way to pray is with a minyan of people all in the same room at the same time. Is it not interesting that I had to define minyan, for in the past it was clear what I meant? It led me to think quite a bit about the word kavana, which can be translated as “intent”. It refers to the physical and mental state of mind one establishes as you engage in prayer.

It is rather difficult to find or keep kavana if a jackhammer is in operation nearby, or for that matter any loud, continuous noises that cause concentration to wane. Is it not possible to create a prayerful moment in one’s home if you, and possibly your spouse, are the only ones there, watching the proceedings through a livestream?

Before we even consider how this might be possible, or if it is indeed possible at all, we should take a moment to give thanks to God, who endowed human beings with the wisdom and creativity to make livestreaming possible. While we might have unprintable things to say about our Internet provider when it comes to signal strength, the fact that an audio and video signal can move through either copper, optic fibers, or the air, is quite incredible, and we should not take it for granted. Thus a brief moment is due to praise God for enabling human beings to create this.

To return to the original challenge, what is it about in-person prayer that is not replicable at home, other than the obvious absence of other human beings? I offered a workshop last September offering suggestions to duplicate a meaningful prayer experience in the home. Permit me to share some of the salient points.

  • Set aside a space in your home that could be conducive to prayer. Lying in bed in your pajamas with a mug of coffee in your hand and your laptop on your belly is most likely not the most conducive of prayer spaces. We should create a mikdash m’at, a small sanctuary, in our homes, by identifying a good space to do so. We even sent a lovely mizrach created by Sandy Riemer, a piece of art signifying the East, which is where we direct our prayers, to be hung on the eastern wall of your home.
  • Think about the furniture and geography of the space. What should a mikdash m’at look like? What should we sit upon? Based upon the type of device, where do we place it?
  • Most importantly, and this gets to the essence of kavana, why are we here at this exact moment? If it is to engage with the Almighty in prayer, what do we need to do to prepare for that?

The same mental and physical preparation for home prayer is necessary for an effective in-person service, regardless of whether it is held in Levy Hall, Calvary Episcopal Church, or a cornfield in Iowa. If you are ready to converse with God, God is always there to converse with you, no matter the time of day nor the location. Just as you get yourself in the proper mood to enjoy dinner out, or a movie, or a cultural event, so too must we get ourselves in the proper mood for prayer. We must find our own kavana. Sometimes that is easy to do, other times hard. But it is doable if you wish it. May you find kavana in your prayer experiences, and may your conversation with God be uplifting.

Thu, September 23 2021 17 Tishrei 5782