When living in Israel, one is afforded the opportunity to attend many different places for t’fillot. On every corner there is a beit k’neset (synagogue) which is ready to welcome any passerby. Each one is a little different in terms of spacial arrangement, attendance, and general atmosphere. I’ve referenced on a few occasions the importance a friendly environment, acoustics, and so forth. Obviously the davening itself is just as important. So, I offer you the following case study: Mizmor l’David.
Mizmor LeDavid is an independent minyan in Jerusalem. They meet in what appears to be the multi-purpose room of a local school. Participants are seated on plastic chairs. The room is cramped, and often far too warm. The mechitza which divides the space roughly in half is made of cloth on a wood frame, but is not usually opened during the d’var torah. Men and women deliver the d’var Torah, however only men serve as shaliach tzibbur (public emissary). The davening is Shlomo Carlebach style, with dancing often following the conclusion of L’cha Dodi (a liturgical poem that welcomes the Shabbat Bride).
My Take: Despite the cramped (some people even daven outside and listen through the open windows) and often overheated surroundings, I have yet to find a minyan that matches the energy and spirit of Mizmor. There are some other fantastic, and fairly famous minyanim around this neighborhood, but none of their Kabbalat Shabbat experiences are as consistently moving or energetic as those of Mizmor. The passion overwhelms all of the detractors (little personal space, uncomfortable seating, and the heat). Often I feel as if the energy builds, and then when it finally reaches its breaking point, participants begin dancing. Sometimes I force myself to stop my own singing, and just listen. The fact that I feel fully integrated into the davening while I’m just sitting there, speaks to the total experience of this particular t’fillah.
My blessing for everybody is that we find a place such as Mizmor where we can fully experience the t’fillot in a vibrant and communal manner.