I am certain many have experienced the numbness of routine. We do what we must, day in and day out, then suddenly, a mini epiphany bursts forth that brings us a new awareness of an old pattern.
The morning minyon is a joyous way to begin the day. As the sun rises, we are with friends davening, shukeling, celebrating God. The Ashrei. The Shema. The Amida. All familiar words of worship that we recite daily. And though the intent is for us to experience some degree of rapture in our looking heavenward, we know that we often plod through the siddur the way we do any other repetitive endeavor. But occasionally something moves us, touches us, inspires us despite the familiar pattern and memorized text.
There are two sequential elements of the week day Shacharit that I believe teach a powerful lesson that in our matinal haste we overlook. Tachanun is personal reflection. After the hustle and bustle of public prayer we fall silent, place our head on our forearm, close our eyes and offer up quiet words of reverence, supplication. And from that posture of liturgical humility we immediately rise up, draped in talis, wrapped in tefillin, move from me to thee, as we pass the pushka.
It’s the pattern of every day and yet how many of us look through this sacred juxtaposition, blind to its lesson. There is a prayerful moment where we care for ourselves but we dare not be self-absorbed for too long. From our few minutes of hushed union with the Almighty, He soon says, ‘Enough’, get up, reach into your pockets, think about and do for others. What a remarkable moment, acknowledging holiness within and without. Holy words but then holy deeds. As the tzedakah box passes by in the wake of Tachanun we are gently but firmly reminded that liturgy must be turned into generous action beyond divine intimacy and self. We are to praise the Lord but pass the pushka.