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The “Post-Kedushah” Test

As I travel among all the Ramah camps and have the privilege of joining many different edot for tefillah, I experience a variety of levels in the quality of the davening. Some of our leaders are better prepared and better trained, and some of our young adults are struggling to learn these new leadership skills.

I have my own private “litmus tests” to evaluate the quality of the service, which include watching the percentage of campers who participate, the engagement and enthusiasm of the staff, the set-up of the room, and elements of creativity.

One of my favorite litmus tests is the “Post-Kedushah” test. Generally, the entire group sings the first part of the Amidah together, and then Kedushah is recited. Immediately upon completion of Kedushah, I watch to see how many campers and staff continue the silent recitation, and if not, are they respectful of those engaged in prayer? Do they sit down immediately, or stand in silent thought?

IMG_7881This past Sunday, while davening with Solelim (entering 7th and 8th grades) at Ramah Outdoor Adventure in the Colorado Rockies, my friend Gabe and I were stunned. As soon as the Kedushah ended, everyone ran off in opposite directions! Were they protesting, or leaving early?

Each camper and staff member went off into nature to either complete their Amidah or to engage in private meditation. Some choose to go into the nearby woods, others stood in the field gazing at the majestic mountain peaks, and still others prayed by the banks of the rushing waters in the stream.

After we finished our own prayers, I asked one camper, from Boston, the meaning of this practice. “Group prayers are fun,” she said, “but I don’t really get to think. It’s too distracting. I love being able to pray or think by myself in nature, and those are some of the best memories I have of camp.”

I will continue to advocate that our camp leaders teach everyone to remain standing, try to continue their own personal prayers, and learn that the Amidah goes well beyond the first three berachot. But the next time a post-Kedushah moment results in campers scattering, I’ll likely just close my eyes and marvel at the incredible opportunities for spiritual growth that take place at Ramah.

TELL US: What are your tefillah “litmus tests”? Please send us your comments!

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