Rambam Mesivta’s “Third Annual Tefillah Week: Rerouting the Routine,” capped off an amazing first half of the school year. The program included guest scholars-in-residence, inspiring words from Rambam’s rebbeim, and exciting activities to enhance the appreciation and understanding of tefillah, and concluded with an All-Night-Learn-A-Thon and vasikin minyan.
The entire mesivta davened together on Monday and then were treated to an engaging dvar Torah from guest speaker Rabbi Steven Burg, eastern director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He urged everyone to recognize that “the direct opposite of spirituality is cynicism and sarcasm” and to focus on “allowing yourself to pray.” Rabbi Burg then met with each grade individually for question-and-answer sessions.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the entire school davened Shacharis by shiur in separate classrooms to allow for reflection discussions on davening. Part of the thought process behind Tefillah Week is to get out of the routine that can be detrimental to 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 Mr. Hillel Goldman, Rabbi Yitzie Werblowsky, Rabbi Avi Haar, and Rabbi Yosef Ziskind.
On Tuesday, the talmidim were asked to set up “davening chavrusahs,” a new concept that applies the concept of a learning chavrusah to davening. It begins with a handwritten letter that is mailed to the student’s chavrusah offering words of chizuk and inspiration. Once that letter is received, the response back is a text message or e-mail that will begin a lifelong back-and-forth of encouragement and inspiration that will allow the davener to have someone act as his chavrusah, urging him to consistently take his davening to the next level.
Wednesday also saw an innovative method of improving kavanah in davening: students created their own davening bookmarks that featured translations and personal connections related to davening and Hashem’s greatness. In so doing, the talmidim focused on a particular tefillah and visualized the meaning of the prayer and that they should strive to do this for every portion of davening, allowing the tefillos to come alive.
Thursday featured Scholar-in-Residence Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, regional director of NCSY New York, who focused on praying with zerizut, enthusiasm, and not being self-conscious about davening.
Tefillah Week concluded with an all-night learning program featuring shiurim from Rosh Mesivta Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, Rabbi Haar, Rabbi Jonathan Muskat, Rabbi Ziskind, and Rabbi Aryeh Young. The night also featured basketball time in the gym, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, hot cocoa, and doughnuts, followed by midnight cholent and kugel.
The highlight of the night for many, however, was the siyum on Masechet Ketubot accomplished by senior Menachem Freedman. The proud parents were there as Menachem set the tone for the evening with an inspired Hadran. The siyum was followed by singing and dancing and the appreciation of learning, davening, and the pursuit of enhancing learning and davening.
As the talmidim left school, there was a palpable feeling that Tefillah Week would extend beyond the week and that, in some ways, it was only beginning. v