Please enjoy a D’var Torah this week from Yael Bendat-Appell, our Camper Intake Coordinator. After three years as Assistant Director, last year Yael transitioned to her new role which allows Camp Ramah in Wisconsin to better meet the needs of our campers and their families on an ongoing basis year-round as she acts as the central address for conversations about the social, emotional, and mental well-being of our campers. Yael and her husband Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell live in Deerfield with their children Adin, Orli and Shaiya. Reflections on Rosh Hashanah by Yael Bendat-Appell
As a parent of young children, the amount of time that I actually get to be in the sanctuary as part of the larger prayer community is much smaller than I’d like. Between the baby’s naps, Tot Shabbat services, and other childcare needs, the moments of dedicated time for t’fillah (prayer) are few and far between.
Yet this past week on Rosh Hashanah, the stars aligned and for a whole whopping 30 minutes or so, I found myself in shul (synagogue) without a child in my arms or tugging at my sleeves. As soon as I realized that I had this precious opportunity, I opened my machzor (holiday prayerbook) and jumped into davening (praying) an abridged version of the Rosh Hashanah shacharit/musaf (morning) service.
As I whispered the introductory words of the amidah (central, standing prayer), Adonai sefatai tiftach, u’fee yagid tehilatecha – My God, open my lips, and my mouth will tell of your praise (Psalms 51:17), I felt deep appreciation for the fact that I am comfortable with prayer and that I have the skills to navigate the structure and words. Uttering the words of the silent amidah brings a sense of familiarity and comfort to me. And revisiting the words and their accompanying tunes at various life stages brings with it an opportunity for reflection and deepened meaning.
Yet as we know, the skills, as well as the comfort and familiarity with prayer, do not just develop on their own. As a young child, prayer was part of my life in school, in the synagogue, and perhaps most importantly, at camp. At camp, children sing the tunes and say the words of t’fillah on a daily basis. Even more importantly, over the course of their summers at camp, children are empowered to master t’fillah — leading services, giving divrei Torah (teachings), and learning the skills to be literate and knowledgeable Jews.
On this Rosh Hashanah, I felt so acutely aware of my own prayer life. And so grateful to my parents for giving that to me through the educational decisions that they made.
One day, perhaps many years from now, the magic of Ramah and our educational choices will help another generation – including my own three kids – open their siddurim (prayerbooks), jump right into the familiar tunes and prayers, and feel grateful to us too.