Rambam Mesivta’s second annual “Tefillah Week: Rerouting the Routine,” held this past week, involved guest speakers, inspiring words from Rambam’s rebbeim, innovative programs to enhance the appreciation and understanding of tefillah, and culminated in an all-night learn-a-thon and vasikin minyan.
The entire mesivta davened together on Monday and then was treated to an energetic dvar Torah from guest speaker Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, regional director of NCSY. In addition to telling poignant stories about unaffiliated Jews finding meaning in tefillah, he offered practical advice to the talmidim encouraging them to “pick one thing a day to focus on being thankful for by Modim,” and to see davening as “a relationship, connection, and commitment.”
The entire school davened Shacharis according to shiur on Tuesday and Wednesday in separate classrooms to allow for small discussions about the big ideas of davening. Additionally, part of the theory of Tefillah Week is to get out of the routine of davening, so by changing the setting of the regular tefillah, the frame of mind is changed as well. The whole school davened Minchah together on a daily basis and, during the course of the week, heard tefillah-related divrei Torah from Rabbi Haar, Rabbi Eliach, Rabbi Boiangiu, and Rabbi Ziskind.
On Tuesday, the “Wall of Chizuk” was created by the whole school. Following Shacharis, the talmidim were asked to explore the siddur and write down the lines they found most inspiring. These excerpts were then displayed outside the shul and students were encouraged to seize on one line a day to focus on during davening.
Wednesday also saw an innovative method of improving kavanah in davening: “The Davening Time Capsule Project.” Each student wrote a letter to himself concerning three goals he had for davening. These letters were then buried in a time capsule and each letter will, G‑d willing, be returned to each student by graduation. At that time, each student can measure how he has met or exceeded these goals and place his letter in his tefillin bag as a constant reminder that improving one’s davening is a lifelong endeavor.
Thursday saw another powerhouse speaker with Rabbi Steven Weil, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, who, in addition to speaking to the entire school, met with each grade individually to discuss different aspects of tefillah. He urged the talmidim to pray for what they “need, not what they want.”
Tefillah Week concluded with a night of all-night learning featuring shiurim from Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, the rosh mesivta, Rabbi Haar, Rabbi Muskat, and Rabbi Ziskind. The night also featured some gym time for playing basketball and keeping the juices flowing. A special guest appearance was made by Rabbi Yehoshua Konig who invigorated the boys with his presence. At midnight, Dunkin Donuts, coffee, and hot cocoa were delivered by Senior Council President Gavriel Shechter. For dessert, at 1:00 a.m., a barbecue was held and delicious burgers and dogs were cooked by Dovid Rosenzweig, Tzvi Strauss, and Sam Cohen.
Assistant Principal Hillel Goldman, the creator of Tefillah Week, summed up the week by stating that, “As I looked around at the vasikin minyan, I saw close to 100 talmidim, exhausted as they probably were, davening with intense kavanah. I feel confident that while Tefillah Week was a success, its lessons and memory will not be limited to just that week.” v