Alternative Tefilot: thinking about the soul of prayer

This blog post was written by Josh Kulp, Rosh Yeshiva, Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem and our Rosh Bet Midrash for Camp Ramah New England:

Three years ago Rabbi Arielle Rosen, certainly a Ramah Hall of Fame Rosh Edah, stood in front of the staff during shavua hachanah (staff week) and taught that all tefillah boils down to expressing three types of feelings–wow, please and thanks. We are amazed and in awe of the world we live in–the wonders of creation. We recognize that our lives are not perfect and that we are needy creatures. And we appreciate the gifts that we have been given. That’s it. Three simple ideas.

But of course, it’s not always that simple. We fall into a routine, recite the words and forget what it is that we are really doing. So we have to remind ourselves from time to time that tefillot is about something big, something very human, something that tells us who we are in this world. Alternative tefillot are that “from time to time” opportunity, and even a necessity. They do not replace our traditional tefillot. They wake us up to what our teffilot are all about.
Today, I ran tefillot with quotes and inspiration from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of histories great prophets and poets. It was wonderful to share Rabbi Heschel’s words with chanichim as we sat in the tree house.