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Holy Choreography

August 21, 2016

By Shawn Fields-Meyer, Ayeka Educator

One of the most powerful moments of prayer comes not through words, or song, but rather in a moment of quiet. 

Our tradition guides us in holy choreography: just before the Amidah — before we enter into an intensive stream of dialogue with God — we do a little dance. Three steps backward; three steps forward; one big bow. Scholars tell us that the steps intensify both our humility (step back before you enter the court of the King of Kings!) and our relationship to God (step forward and draw near to the King). The bow accompanies the Amidah’s opening words — expressing humble, respectful gratitude to God.

But perhaps the holy choreography does something a little bit different. The steps backward focus on emet/truth and authenticity. For a few moments, the davener asks herself: who am I right now? Where am I at? What am I wrestling with, embracing, being?  The steps forward turn the focus toward kavanna/intention: what do I seek? What do I wish to move toward, to become, grow into? And the bow is kesher/connection: after acknowledging what is, then naming what might be, we dive into it, to bring our whole selves into a space of true, active prayer.

Ayeka embodies that holy choreography — but it does so in a different holy place: the classroom. When we learn a Jewish text — any text at all — the Ayeka way, we move from the head to the heart — and beyond. Ayeka’s soulful learning is comparable to three steps backward in Emet (how does the text spark personal exploration? What does it look like in my life? What challenges does it stir?); and three steps forward in Kavanna (what might I do with this learning to refine parts of my life?); and a movement toward engagement in Kesher: after an Ayeka conversation, each of us has a greater possibility of engaging in real ways with our neshama, with ourselves, and with God. 

Ayeka is not a teaching tool. It’s not a methodology. It’s not a strategy. Like each moment of prayer, Ayeka is a way of being, and like genuine prayer, its potential impact is up to each of us.