by Ariella Daniels, Toronto, Canada
Two Shabbatot ago, a fellow Shalemer took a couple of us to a synagogue in Jerusalem, called Yakar. Through my Sephardic upbringing, I am most comfortable in a kehilla where the services incorporate the vocal participation of the entire congregation. In the shul I attend in Toronto, the chazzan has an incredible voice, and he carries with him the symbolism of being a “messenger” of the people to Hashem.
At first, the service at Yakar was confusing for me; the reciting of the prayers was silent. Where were the over-the-top tunes? How am I suppose to focus on my prayers if I am stuck in a situation where all is silent and my thoughts are able to roam free. It was like this up until the point that I realized I was completely consumed by my prayers, focusing on nothing else. It was almost like I absorbed the kavanah that surrounded me. It was when the community began to sing as one, “Nishmat Kol Chai”, that it became clear to me that it is, in fact, each individual that makes up a community. The kavanah given by each individual is so powerful, that it can even bring tears to a person’s eyes. Until now, I had known this feeling through the inspiring melodies of my father who serves as the chazzan in my synagogue at home, but this time this connection was brought on independently. There is a kind of humility and holiness that the Yakar community portrays, providing power to the most simple of melodies, bringing the atmosphere to another level, to an enlightened state of mind and heart. Instead of relying on the Chazan to inspire us through his kavanah, and through the power of his vocal cords, at Yakar it is the entire kehilla that provides both the intention and the emotion.