Guest Post by ‘Mechnanech’
Last Thursday’s guest post by ‘Mechanech’ unexpectedly proved to be one of the most enlightening posts to date on this blog. Not only because it allowed a glimpse into the mind of a noted Mechanech revealing some of his innermost thoughts and feelings… but because it generated so many thoughtful comments.
The very idea that a Mechanech who is so intimately involved in molding future generations of Jews can himself have some of the issues that many of us privately have but are unwilling to admit – sometimes even to ourselves is to some of us quite frightening (…How can I allow such a teacher to teach my kids?) and to some of us quite refreshing (…It’s nice to have someone who can empathize with what my kids are going through). Others pointed out that apathy in Teffilah can be a symptom of apathy with Judaism itself where some people just go through the motions.
The problems of Davening repetitively every day to the point of it being rattled off by rote by most people - while trying to maintain Kavanah (proper intent) is not new. It is an age old problem that even the best of us have to deal with. I have heard some very right wing Roshei Yeshiva talk about it as an issue for themselves and try to suggest ways to have proper Kavanos during Teffilah.
Mechanech’s post also dealt with the many issues plaguing the religious world that can too easily turn off young people from observance… like the seemingly never ending new female tznius strictures.
Mechanech got a lot of good feedback as well as not so good feedback. He wanted to respond. I am presenting it in the form of another guest post. His words follow.
First, of course thanks to everyone who took the time and trouble to both read my post and to respond – and I mean ‘everyone’, including empathizers, sympathizers and their opposites.
Without going into further statements or arguments (I think I said what I wanted to say), please allow me some comments and clarifications:
1. Most importantly, the piece was exactly what I called it – a “lament”. Not a complaint, not an attack, not a plea to make the siddur shorter (nowhere do I suggest that). I was lamenting my own fragile neshamah in the first part, and, correct, cueing from ‘V’haarev na’, lamenting the un-sweet character of some contemporary too-public dimensions of Orthodoxy.
2. For those of you worried about your children: I am neither burnt-out, nor bitter, nor disillusioned. ‘Lulai torat’chah sha’ashui, az ovadti …”. I am totally immersed in Yiddishkeit, totally enthusiastic, and firing on all cylinders. But like many, I struggle with personal spiritual issues, and some community issues, and wanted to share them. Is that a crime? [I spoke about tefillah recently to some students, talking about their difficulties – not mine – and at the end a senior student came up to me, shook my hand, and said, “That is the first time anyone has ever spoken to us about davenning without berating us, and for that, I thank you”.]
3. Some speculated further on the roots of my situation. I am not a BT, and was brought up in what was a traditional home, in what that meant way back then. But as noted, for whatever reasons, davenning was not a prominent part of my upbringing. (To put someone’s mind at rest, who took a cheap shot at my transliterated ‘taf’ – in fact, I always daven – b’girsa d’yankusa – in an Ashkenazi pronunciation. I am also very familiar indeed with the Haredi world.)
4. Perhaps most importantly – please read my last line. “And I will continue to try to daven.” Perhaps I should have added the word “better”? But FYI, in the Shemoneh Esrai, the two paragraphs which I always say with the maximum kavvanah that I can are ‘Hashivenu Avinu…” and ‘Shma kolenu….”.
May we all have a happy, healthy, fulfilling and above all peaceful 5744. And thank you again, and thanks to Harry for his blog.