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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Something New

A Reflection

On Tuesday I led Shacharit for the first time!

All these years I could have led it but never did. Being at an orthodox synagogue was an easy excuse, and there were always opportunities to lead at Shaarei's women's minyan or at another conservative minyan in town. But I never did it! I don't know; maybe it wasn't on the front burner, maybe it just wasn't important enough for me to give it a try. Yes, that, but also maybe this... I was a little bit afraid of leading minyan. All these years as a synagogue school director and having services for the children, I rarely led. I taught about the prayers, but I didn't really lead the prayers.

All those years of sitting behind a mechitza I wasn't paying close enough attention to the details of the service. I wasn't on top of when to say things out loud and when to be silent. It's like when we take a car trip. If my husband isn't driving he has no idea where he is going. To have the confidence to do something new, you have to pay attention!

KI has been very supportive. There is another minyan member, also saying kaddish for a parent, who has recently begun to lead the service. Both of us are novices, and perhaps making occasional errors, but the intention is there. It has been great to have another person getting his feet wet with leading and it has been more than great to have supportive minyan members who are so quick to be supportive when someone tries something new.

In addition to the group being supportive, there are a few special and specific people who gently suggest. They don't push, they just suggest that people take on something new.

Where would we be without people to nudge us forward? Who is that person for you?

So, what is the recipe for trying something new, even during a pandemic?

  1. Don't get stuck in your own lack of confidence. What is the worst thing that will happen? You'll be embarrassed. So what? You'll soon get over it!

  2. Pay attention to how others do things. Of course, you can learn from a book, but there is nothing better than observing a person who is already comfortable in the role. You can then begin to imagine yourself in that same role.

  3. Make things happen. It is easier to keep everything the same, especially during a pandemic. It is so easy to feel helpless and hopeless. Instead, try something new (think dance, a new book, an instrument, a new volunteer position, whatever you are afraid to try) and try it!

Back to leading davening, of course there is responsibility in leading prayer for others. One needs to have strong intentions (kavannah) to be an authentic conduit for other's prayers. I can only hope that when I lead davening again, that my fear will be less and my ability to lead will be stronger. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity and still pumped that it happened and I conquered a fear! We all have them, but we can all make an effort to stand up and try even if it is easier to sit back and watch.

May all of you go from strength to strength. Happy Chanukah!!!

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