The synagogue’s primary function is what happens in its sanctuary, the space in which the congregation prays together. But there is a basic contradiction between sincere, personal prayer and the communal, synagogue setting. In prayer, we strive to connect to our most personal feelings of longing, hope, regret and gratitude. For some, this is a transcendent conversation with a divine God, while others may use prayer as a tool for personal introspection and reflection.
But communal prayer seems to suggest a different experience, one of choreographed ritual, a shared text and the camaraderie of a sing-a-long. Could one have a meaningful prayer experience in a public setting? How could I access those fragile moments of spiritual intimacy within the synagogue environment?
Esther Sperber, “The Paradox of Communal Prayer”, The Jewish Week (25 September 2015), 23.