This week's portion: the meaning of the kiss
Hopes for peace

The challenges of telepresence

I'm starting to get accustomed to beginning my Tuesdays with our phone-based morning minyan, though I still can't help smiling involuntarily as I hear each friend's voice come across the line for the first time.

This morning we made it without incident through the first part of the service, the opening blessings, a taste of Torah, a heartfelt prayer that those who are meeting in Annapolis this week might be able to take steps toward peace. We entered into psukei d'zimrah, the collection of poems and psalms of praise that precedes the shift into the part of the service containing the shema and her blessings.

And then my friend who was leading prayer began to give over a teaching from Reb Temimah as a preface to chanting Psalm 150 (the final psalm in psukei d'zimrah) together...and shazzam! There was a cacophony of noises, beeps and whirrs and whistles, and all of our lines went mute.

A few of us managed to un-mute ourselves, including the shaliach tzibbur ("representative of the community" -- e.g. the prayer leader), so his sweet baritone led us through the rest of the davenen. But the rest of us davened cocooned in our own household silences, unable to make ourselves heard by the group.

It was surreal, and funny. We decided over email afterwards that clearly this is a teaching that's meant to be offered in person; it can't be transmitted over the phone, it blows out all the circuits. Some experiences have to be embodied ones, I guess. They demand not telepresence but the real thing. Good thing it's not that long now until Ohalah...

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