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Conflicting Opinions: Tefillah Exploration Week

Gila’s Perspective:

Tefillah Exploration Week happens once a year for three days at Heschel and offers students an opportunity to try a new tefillah environment. Throughout the year, hours are spent in the same tefillah groups, and it is natural for many students to want a change of pace in their mornings. Tefillah Exploration Week provides this break for students, allowing them to strengthen their connection with tefillah in numerous ways.

Spending time in a different prayer space allows students to see prayer from a new perspective and gain interest in the new topic they learned about. Even when students do not have experience in their new minyan, Tefillah Exploration might allow them to gain perspective on their regular minyan and appreciate it more.  

One of the major issues in Heschel’s tefillah curriculum is the lack of flexibility regarding switching minyans. Exploration Week, which takes place later in the year, can help students decide if their minyan is truly right for them or if they should switch in the next year. 

Furthermore, Tefillah Exploration Week offers both Egalitarian and Orthodox services for students who want a full service while still providing a new experience. For example, this year, the Egal option was a Sephardic service, allowing students to pray thoroughly while learning what a Sephardic service looks like.


Simon’s Perspective: 

While Tefillah Exploration Week allows people to gain new perspectives on tefillah, some people are very comfortable in their minyan and do not want to pray in a different environment, even if it is just for a week. Furthermore, some students connect to Judaism in a very specific way or feel obligated to pray in a way that is not provided during Tefillah Exploration Week. 

I personally connect to Judaism through traditional prayer and believe in the obligation to engage in as full a prayer service as possible. While there have been traditional Egalitarian and Orthodox services, they are still generally different from the normal tefillah experience that people are used to. This can bother people who find a connection with daily repetitive prayer. 

Though some people feel they lack flexibility in their regular minyanim, I do not think Tefillah Exploration Week is the solution. Since it only lasts for three days, it can not solve the problem of wanting more flexibility because after Tefillah Exploration Week, people need to return to their old minyanim. Additionally, it forces those who are comfortable with their regular tefillah experience to go somewhere else. 

The solution to the lack of flexibility in Heschel’s tefillah curriculum is to allow switching minyanim during the year, not forcing students to explore other minyanim for just three days. I do not believe that it is the school’s place to lead us on a journey of spiritual exploration; that is for someone to do alone.

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