Rafi was a student at Maimonides School, a K-12 Modern Orthodox institution in Boston. He was studying the “R’faeinu” (“Heal us”) prayer for health in the Shemoneh Esrei which includes the words “bring complete recovery for all our ailments . . . [God] heals the sick of His people Israel.” Rafi had given no special thought to the relevance of the prayer, he says. Then a relative became very sick; R’faeinu became relevant.
Rafi’s lessons about the meaning of the R’faeinu prayer gave his prayer greater kavanah, more intensity and devotion, he says. His relative recovered, and Rafi says its tefillah curriculum strengthened his prayer life—which is the purpose of the high school-level prayer curriculum.
(From Jewish Action, Winter 2013)
In Jewish law and practice, one is obligated to pray certain prayers at certain times every day. Our students are taught how to recite these prayers, and when.
But for kids who don’t speak Hebrew very well, reciting prayers can feel meaningless or worse, a drag. So every Jewish school in the world is struggling with how to have the children pray as they should – yet enjoy it and feel the depth of the moment of communication with G-d.
In our school, we also struggle with that issue, and like many other schools, we combine learning about the prayers with actually praying together. The key is singing together, as this brings an energy to experience.
Then came COVID and when we came back to school we found ourselves distanced from one another and not allowed to sing.
The children rose to the occasion, though. We used some of our own experiences to understand the meaning of what we are saying – somewhat like Rafi mentioned above. We still enjoy singing certain prayers, even though we sing softly and much less often. We appreciate the importance of connection – to each other and to God – in a way that we didn’t before.
The importance of reciting the prayers is our guide, and the need for most of our students to be able to pray, and lead the prayers, for their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. But we have found some inspiration in life’s challenges that help make the Tefillot more personal, more meaningful, and maybe a more permanent part of our students’ lives.