Over the last few months, we’ve all experienced a number of sweeping changes to our lives–some financial, some logisitical, some medical–but the one overarching difference in our now normal routines is the blurring of any boundaries that we once took for granted.
We used to make a separation between work and home. Now those locations are the same.
We used to make a separation between going to school and being in the house. That too is no longer the case.
And even more than those examples–we once entered the synagogue to pray, reflect, read Torah, say Kaddish, and shmooze over black and white cookies. While some people had already worked from home before all this started, and others routinely took online classes or even home schooled their kids–pretty much no one ever thought that congregational life would be possible without, you know, actually gathering as a congregation. Sure, some people pray as individuals at home–but by definition that means omitting the communal prayers like Kaddish.
Another boundary blurred–home and worship space are now the same. And that provides a unique challenge.
Can one experience the same connection–the same kavannah— at home as when they’re in the sanctuary? One might think that I would have a lot to say on this topic, but I am probably the most mystified about this subject than most. Yes, I’m now well accustomed to leading all types of services while staring at myself on the Facebook Live screen or in my ubiquitous Zoom box. But I have practically no experience in being a congregant or participant in these services. While I have become comfortable with the once awkward task of leading prayer into a computer screen, I don’t know what it’s like to sit by myself in my den, kitchen, or living room and sing along with someone–to rise and be seated back on my couch.
And so I’d love to begin a dialogue on this subject:
When you watch Shabbat services or participate in a Zoom minyan–whatever your particular routine is–do you set aside a dedicated space at home that you know is your worship spot? Or might you sit with your laptop anywhere that’s convenient? Do you modify that space in any way in order to transform it into a holy space for prayer?
Do you sing out loud when there’s a congregational melody, or does that somehow feel awkward? Is there ever a feeling of self consciousness?
How much of the service has become passive for you? You’re now watching a service a lot like you’d view something on Netflix. Do you multitask while the service is going on? Do you have another browser window open or perhaps just have the service playing in the background while you walk into the kitchen for a snack or get some work done?
Do you make services a family experience–gathering together in front of the computer (or connected bigger screen TV)? Do you sing together as a family?
Looking ahead–would you enhance or alter any of your now routine practices during a potential virtual High Holiday service? Would you expect family members to be present, engaged, and participating in the service? How long do you think you could realistically sit in front of a computer or TV and have an effective worship experience? There’s a reason why TV shows are usually 30 or 60 minutes, and most movies hover more or less around the 2-hour mark.
I would be fascinated to hear your responses to these questions, which I’m sure will vary widely among everyone. Leave me a comment here or feel free to respond on my Facebook posting.