Revisioning worship begins with personalized prayer. The order of prayer, fixed in a book is revised and reordered into a booklet, or scroll. Your computer allows you to construct your own Seder of Daily Prayers. This Siddur will be ever changing. This is also a model for public prayer. Purpose is found in the preparation.
Traditionally the operative principles of prayer were to be:
Quality not quantity.
Keva and Kavvannah,( the body of prayer, with soulfulness.)
Both are often forgotten in modern worship.
Davenen, traditional modes of prayer, works for those who have mastered
the long mantra of our liturgy. They are not part of this conversation. The grunts and groans and genuflexions of the orthodox are true worship for them.
If knowledgeable of the Hebrew language the Torah reading is also
worship in an orthodox milieu. In that setting there may be quality to their quantity. Reading the entire Torah portion may be a revelation.
For moderns Jewish worship is simply too lengthy. No service should ever go over one hour. In our neighborhood the Catholic Church always has a full parking lot for a one hour worship. Many synagogues with over a thousand members are lucky to have one tenth attend on a regular basis, the exception being the High Holydays.
One Rosh Hashanah I had the following revelation after reducing the worship service from six to three hours long: tedious services one attends three times a year are a guilt offering. If I suffer through I will be forgiven my lack of attendance the remainder of the year. Oy.
At Temple Shabbat Shalom Rosh Hashanah services are one hour long.
Our Torah study session is optional, before or after services, and our Torah reading brief. A Soulful Torah service that is also worship is based on quality not quantity. We prefer a paragraph to an indigestible portion. I also prefer to call the entire community for a group Aliyah rather than the traditional Priest, Levi, Israel calling. We all recite the blessings before and after the reading, together, with one voice.
I have to confess that in my experience many Jewish worship services border on avodah zara, strange worship, almost idolatry, if you will. The only worship I experience in these settings is a breaking of my heart. How do we fix this?
To begin, as mentioned, we limit the time of the service. Next we agree on a script. Worship is not the “Rabbi’s service” Worship begins with a set order of prayers that must be modified to fit the needs of the worshipers. This is done before services are performed. Preparation is an obligation.
What type of performance is worship?
Opera? At first glance, yes. The script is a pageant, a magnificent prayer for revelation. The traditional melodies are operatic, grand and moving. Now, imagine in the beast of all possible worlds, the best of all possible performers, and you, fluent in Italian, experiencing this opera. Would you return, week in and week out, your entire life? No.
How about a musical?
In your vernacular?
Instead we have, week in and week out the same liturgy performed like a junior high school production. In the best of all possible conservative synagogues we may have a cantor soloist who is pleasant to listen to, but is this worship?
Are musical instruments allowed?
They are obligatory.
Our worship is in need of radical reform.
Jews, look to the Christians for your liturgical Tikkun. They are light years ahead.