You can sign up for the My Kavanah Project here.
What is a Kavanah?
A kavanah is often translated as “intention.” It is related to the word kivun, which is “direction.” When it comes to prayer, we think of kavanah as our direction – intention – focus that we bring to a particular prayer, or even one of our own!
We believe that prayer should be a dance – interactive. Engaging. Inspiring. Comforting. English and Hebrew can move us differently. And we love when other folks can help us to bring our prayers to life.
As part of our effort to revitalize our traditions and reaffirm our faith, we invite you to write your kavanah – your intentional prayer – about one of the traditional prayers (Sh’ma, Mi Chamocha, Ahavat Olam, Kaddish… you get it). Share it with Rabbi Greene. Chat about it. Maybe edit it a bit. And consider sharing it in services one Shabbat.
Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a different congregant share a kavanah of their own each time we gather for services?
Here are the details:
For our learners interested in the idea of Kavanah, read more at MyJewishLearning.com.
Sample Kavanot (from a few of our recent Confirmation students over the last few years… yes, they were fifteen years-old when they wrote these kavanot!):
Aleinu by Bella Weksler
The Aleinu is about the obligation we have as Jews to praise God and make change in the world. As Jews, it is our obligation to take action and make a positive impact. Every person has the ability to change the world for the better. Every person has the choice of how they want to make their impact and everyone brings something different to the table. The Aleinu says that it is “on us” to go out in the world and make a difference. I believe that every person’s decisions affect the people around them. Each of us has the capability to make choices that improve the lives of others. You can make conscious decisions in your everyday life that reflect your passions and hopes for a better future. The Jewish people have been persecuted throughout history, always standing up for one another. There have also been great Jewish activists, representing and helping people through hard times. Now I call on you to be an activist. I call on you to find your calling and take action. You have power to make change. As Greta Thunberg, a teen climate activist once said, “There is simply not enough time to wait for us to grow up and become the ones in charge.” You must take the world into your own hands and inspire others to make change.
Sh’ma by Mikayla Frank-Martin
For as long as I can remember, the Shema has been my favorite prayer. It has been a prayer that has connected me with my Judaism. When I chant it I feel more connected to God. When I was a kid, I vividly remember eagerly waiting to hear and chant the Sh'ma. Even as a child, I knew that this prayer put me in a deeper place. As I sing the Sh’ma, I can imagine Jews singing this prayer from all over the world. It is a prayer that Jews have chanted throughout history. It is the first prayer that a Jewish child is taught to say. It is a prayer that many Jews know by heart.
The Sh’ma keeps us together as a Jewish community. The word Shema has many meanings. Some of these meanings include: To hear, to listen, pay attention, heed, to understand, to be willing to obey, and to respond in deed to do what someone else wants. The fact that Shema means all these things suggests that in Torah, there is no concept of blind obedience. When we chant The Sh'ma and declare our allegiance to God, there must be an active thought process involved. The Torah does not conceive of us having only an action-reaction relationship with God. God, who created us in God’s image, gave us the power to think. If God gave us the power to think, then God must want us to understand the commandments that have been given to us.
Hoda’ah by Willow Perlick
Gratitude. What does that mean? How can we understand our gratitude through a Jewish lens? Hoda’ah contains so much more than just recognizing what we have. It is the appreciation for what we receive, and it is also about giving back. What we don’t often think of is that gratitude leads to our sense of obligation. We must consider that gratitude is a feeling and a form of expression. Giving back can be expressed in many different ways. From fundraising for causes we are passionate about and feeding the homeless to small gestures like a smile or holding the door, every action can make a positive impact on another person’s life. By giving back to the community that supports us, and creating the spark of gratitude in others, we allow ourselves to experience life in a different, more impactful way. The idea that gratitude is a cycle in which every action has a reaction gives us the opportunity to make tremendous change in the world.
Yozter Or by Noa Greene
Yotzer means creator. Or means light.
God created this world we live in. However, we are the light that illuminates the world at its darkest times. This past year, I have felt the warmth this community brings when we come together.
Imagine that we -- the Jewish People -- are a candle. What keeps it burning? Love, compassion, acceptance, respect, honesty... the list goes on. Never let this candle burn out. Let our actions reflect the Jewish values that we hold so close to our hearts. God may have created this world, but we are the light that shines hope.