Although I don’t recommend it to others, I usually daven solo. Mooting my increasing distractibility, I’m also able to go at my own pace and focus on words and sections that grab me. Given the sheer volume of tefillot, selichot and piyutim for Yom Kippur, in past years it all used to flash by too quickly to really let anything make an impression.
Utilizing a “technology” long lost to us, based on their thorough understanding the word-, phrase- and letter-levels of meaning and energy, our sages and tzadikim designed both each individual prayer as well as the overall flow within each service. They constructed an experience and an avodah (service) where we unleash tremendous healing forces both within our individual souls and into the universe-at-large. But, between the avalanche of words and the externally-determined (usually too-fast) pace, it’s often very hard to engage our awareness .
I strongly doubt if anyone is expected or capable to be 100% engaged and effective with 100% of the prayers. Since I find that each year I’m affected by a different mix of them, I assume that others are too. Probably the idea is that across Klal Yisrael, the entirety of the Jewish People, each of these tefillot, selichot and piyutim activates and is activated by those most in need of those particular words, effectively “employing” them all.
This year, my cyclical recital of Ramchal’s תקת״ו (Taktu), 515 Tefillot, with the synchronicity I’ve come to expect , has, specifically during this period of time, brought me a number of insights into the Avoda, divine service, the Kohain Gadol (High Priest) performed in the Bet HaMikdash (subject of a future series). Reading the Avoda section of the Musaf Amida yesterday filled me with tears as I thought about the loss we all suffer this and every year since the Churban, destruction of the Temple, when that holy service is but a memory.
This section is followed by the martyrology, the story of the ten great sages of our Mishnaic era who were cruelly tortured and slaughtered by the Romans for the “horrible sin” of teaching Torah to the Jewish people. Fortunate to regularly meet these eternal rabbis through my Talmudic and other studies, the exquisite beauty of their Torah, rewarded in Olam HaZeh, this material world, with their tragic suffering, brought more tears.
Tears on Yom Kippur are part of truly experiencing the לב נשבר (lev nishbar) broken heart, we’re asked to bring to our prayers. Most of us, myself included, would usually be too embarrassed to let ourselves be that vulnerable in public. Aware of all that I did miss from a Kehilla, community, experience, I still know I would not have left a table filled with wet tissues had I sat in any shul I’m familiar with.
It’s a trade-off, as it is for everyone in every situation. Part of the great message of Yom Kippur is that each of us has a unique role to play, which we must do in our own unique way, to bring Am Yisrael, The Jewish People, and the entire world, to our ultimate Geula, fulfillment.