At the start of the year, Schoology was filled with posts about the different clubs, classes, and presidential campaigns, and other start of the year information. Many events were lost in the shuffle, and for some students, one of these was the exploratory minyan. Started by Rabbi Manu Hass and Rabbi Schiowitz, the minyan, led daily for all Ramaz students, goes through tefillot that we say on a daily basis and delves into what each prayer really means.
The minyan is structured so students can both daven on their own and participate in a group discussion. The first twenty minutes are for quiet personal tefillot, and then, the remaining time is for group discussion. Rather than just a lecture or shiur, all students participate in the conversation.
On the first day of the year, Manu raised the question: Who has difficulty praying? Very few students raised their hands. Shocked, Manu explained that everyone’s hand should be in the air. Davening is hard, he acknowledged. The words we say are difficult, and most times, we do not understand what we are saying. In school, students have a limited amount of time to daven, and oftentimes, many feel as though there is not nearly enough time to actually work on understanding the words themselves. This minyan was started to serve the purpose of working to comprehend the tefillot students have said their entire lives.
To many, this minyan may sound like a class. Why take an optional class? Are students really benefiting? Many say that they like saying the words, even if they do not understand it, and another studying said, “I do not have the time to sit around discussing what the prayers mean to me, school is crazy and I cannot spend time trying to understand each prayer”. However, the students who go began to learn a lot, and love the minyan. When asked why she enjoys the minyan, Anna Braun responded saying, “I think often many people complain that they have a difficult time davening, simply because they can’t understand or can’t relate to what they are saying. Exploratory tefilla offers the ability to connect to our davening on a deeper level, starting with textual analysis and delving deeper into our relationships with God.” Finley Horowitz said that “I joined the minyan because I wanted to learn more about tefillah and to have something that encouraged me to daven every day.”.
Every student at Ramaz has spent hours davening both in school and outside of it. But, many do not spend much time analyzing the words in their siddurim. The exploratory minyan provides the perfect solution to helping every student learn about the age old obligation of davening.