Davening From One Generation to the Next

Our oldest teaches at a Jewish day school in New York, and although the school is physically closed, the classes continue. Each morning she greets her students and then leads them through a bare bones version of Shaharit (morning) services. Home now, she conducts this service from her room, door closed, but we can hear the high pitched voices of the first graders joining in, enthusiastically saying Amen!, even leading some of the prayers and reciting the Hebrew blessings. The words aren’t always perfectly pronounced, but the spirit is undeniable!

At my synagogue we’ve moved to all online services during this strange time. We rotate clergy and our ritual director, each taking a day, logging on, and conducting the service via Facebook live. Our members join in, and in the chat area post good morning greetings, check in with one another, and form a minyan – a caring, connected, prayer community.

Yesterday it was my turn to conduct the morning service. The timing was such that my daughter and I were leading our respective services simultaneously, she in her bedroom upstairs, and I in the basement. My wife told me at one point as she walked from the second floor to the first she could hear me and my daughter at the same time, and we happened to be in the same section of the service. From my daughter’s room the voices of the first graders joined in, the six and seven year olds reciting the ancient prayers. In my service there were some who joined the minyan in their 80s, and at least one person in his 90s.

I feel in a way those two services were inextricably linked. The young children were in New York City, my congregants were here in Baltimore. But for a few moments there was magical, invisible thread that ran through our home, from the second floor to the basement, from young to old, from Gotham to Charm City, from antiquity to the recent past to the present to the future. A thread woven from commitment and caring, grounded in ancient words and shared history, and passed from one generation to the next.

Author: Steve Schwartz

Husband, father of three, Deadhead, and rabbi. I am now in my 22nd year of serving a large congregation in the Baltimore area.

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