Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the great Jewish thinkers and writers of the twentieth century, helps us understand our connection with prayer through the concepts of keva and kavanah.
What Are Keva and Kavanah?
Keva is the fixed nature of our prayer. It represents the words on the page, and the order of the worship. Keva provides a framework for our prayer and guides our way through the service.
Kavanah, on the other hand, is the intent that we bring to our worship. As a prayer starts, kavanah is the deep breath we take, and the sweet, warm memory we recall.
Kavanah is the way we dip and bow during prayer, and the meaning we take as we realize that this prayer, this praise of God or appreciation of the world that was written thousands of years ago, has deep and salient meaning to our life today. Keva is the framework, and kavanah is the intent. Our prayer, the keva, becomes stronger, more powerful, and has more impact when we bring to it real and meaningful kavanah.
These concepts of keva and kavanah apply to other areas of our lives, as well. As a parent, my keva is the fact that I need to feed my kids and keep them warm and safe; my kavanah is that I love my kids, laugh with my kids, and teach them the beauty of art and literature. As a traveler, my keva is to get safely from point A to point B; my kavanah is to enjoy new food and savor sights and experiences along the way.
The Tent, the communication and collaboration platform for leaders throughout the Reform Movement, is best utilized and appreciated through its own application of the concepts of keva and kavanah.
The Keva of The Tent
The keva of The Tent is Yammer, the technology upon which The Tent is built. Yammer is an enterprise social network. To make the most our experience in The Tent, we must first learn its keva. How does Yammer work? Where should we post? How do we adjust our email notifications? There are instructions available in The Tent at #TentHowTo, but just like in prayer, expertise comes through repetition.
Through that repetition, we may post in the wrong place or we tag the wrong people, but, as with prayer, mistakes are welcome. Mistakes won’t ruin the experience or break the platform. We learn through repetition and mistakes. The more familiar we are with the keva of The Tent, the more we can appreciate the kavanah of The Tent.
The Kavanah of The Tent
The kavanah of The Tent comes in the realization of the way this platform can help the sacred communities of our congregations. After we have learned the keva of The Tent, we can enjoy the kavanah by connecting with other leaders in the Movement who have similar congregational roles and share similar concerns.
If I’m the development chair at my congregation, I may well be lying awake at night wondering how I can raise the next dollar, and how I can help to sustain my congregation to serve generations of Jews that come after me. I promise you other development chairs are awake, too. Connect with them in The Tent. Share information and experience. Strengthen your congregation.
We can enjoy the kavanah of The Tent by sharing and finding resources that can help our congregations. Don’t just be proud of the new membership form your congregation is using, share it in The Tent so that others can realize its benefits. Want to give your flyers a fresh, bold new look? Search in the Tent file libraries, and see the visual language other congregations are using. Inspiration is just a few clicks away. Concerned that your dues adjustment form is requesting either too much, or too little information? Find examples of what works at other congregations. Attract more members and be more effective in the work that you do.
Taking the Kavanah a Step Further
We can enjoy a deeper appreciation of the kavanah of The Tent through the lessons of the book of Ecclesiastes, which teaches, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) Starting an early childhood center at your temple? Look in The Tent for ideas, success stories, and strategies. Raising funds to write a new Torah? Hear from others who’ve been through the experience. Increasing temple dues? Connect with others who’ve made mistakes you’ll want to avoid. Whatever you’re doing, it has been done before.
The Tent is your framework; it is your keva. Use the technology and its best practices as your guide. You will receive the greatest benefit from The Tent, however when you bring real and meaningful kavanah – your curiosity, your creativity and your passion.
Join us in The Tent. The kavanah is waiting.