Wednesday, June 16, 2010

TORCH Recap: Teaching Tefilah

I had a really hard time choosing between this session and the concurrent talk my Mrs. Avivah Werner (Home Education on a Shoestring) but ultimately chose tefilah because I've had my own difficulties with prayer lately. I am so glad I did, but look forward to the conference CDs becoming available so that I can hear the other talk as well.

Mrs. Yehudis Eagle opened the session with a recommendation for the book  A Pathway to Prayer by Rabbi Mayer Birnbaum. (Which I recently found in our bookcase but I've never read.) The books go step-by-step through the Shemonah Esrai with insights and tips along the way. The English version also has line-by-line translations.

She next shared an idea by Rabbi Lunzano: Pray in your everyday language. Therefore you should accustom yourself to speak Hebrew. (My notes are sketchy here so I may have this attribution incorrect. I'm also unsure if this is a quote or paraphrase.) The idea here is that you are more comfortable if you have a full understanding of what you are saying rather than just being able to sound the words together. As we get older it is more difficult to learn new languages, so the younger the better!

Two thoughts from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein were also shared. First, before prayer think of something new you encountered in creation. This caused a bit of a stir in the room as we all wondered what kinds of things we could think of. I'm sure childbirth was high on many lists. When asked for examples, she shared her own (which I can't recall) and I jotted down ideas like "new flowers," "sunny day after rain" and "fresh fruit."

Second is to emphasize "Ata" in prayer to reinforce whom you are speaking to. This makes the prayer more personal and less rote memorization and just "going through the motions."

She also shared that she and her younger children learn a perek of tehillim at a time. With this, they use a melody that they like even if it isn't a traditional one. They also use it as a starting point for vocabulary so that the children have a deeper knowledge of the perek and a better grasp of the Hebrew. 

Another family she knows with younger children has Beit Knesset at home on Mondays and Thursdays with a small sefer Torah. Of course I immediatly thought of this (PDF file. See Page 7). For older children every effort should be made that they be at the Beit Knesset as much as possible. This way they become familiar with the melodies, atmosphere, sights and routine of daily prayer.

Another book she recommended was Talks and Tales

For music and melodies she recommended a CD called "A New Day" which I cannot find a link to online. If you have one, please share!

An audience member recommended Tefilah Trax.

As a side note, I need to either develop a photographic memory, learn shorthand so I can transcribe everything said or bring my own tape recorder next time!