Entering the Capitol

AIPAC is a bi-partisan American lobby on behalf of the State of Israel. In 2017, I had the privilege of chaperoning a busload of Cleveland teenagers to the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, DC. It is a convention of thousands of people, both Jewish and Non-Jewish, with the mission of sustaining and lobbying for the only democracy in the Middle East. Almost every major political figure from the United States and Israel attends or speaks at the conference. We attended speeches from Mike Pence, then Vice President of the United States, Bibi Netanyahu, then Prime Minister of Israel, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, and Nikki Haley, then United States ambassador to the United Nations, and many more world leaders. Being in the audience of such powerful political people was a privilege, but the climax of the three days in Washington was the true highlight.

On our final day in DC, we went to Capitol Hill and lobbied our governing officials. Sitting in the office of Congresswoman Marcia Fudge brought out a certain patriotism and it really felt like we were part of a democracy, where our voices were being heard. Ms. Fudge’s foreign affairs advisor sat down with us and listened to mere teenagers present their ideas about some important financial aid for which we were lobbying on behalf of Israel. To think that a seventeen-year-old girl from Shaker Heights, Ohio, could have an impact on millions of people in Israel is remarkable.

Entering the Capitol building and being permitted to sit with elected officials is a privilege. Walking through the over-two-hundred-year-old building gives an impression of glory and reverence. Our group entered dressed for the occasion; we walked with respect through the halls; and we prepared in advance the talking points that we would discuss.

Like our experience in the Capitol building, we need to enter davening in proper attire and act with appropriate reverence. We also need to enter with a mindset of where tefillah can take us. Imagine being in the Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple) and walking through that holy space. Pause to contemplate that in this space you are granted a private encounter with Hashem. This will give you a boost to your tefillah experience. Take two extra seconds to allow yourself a more inspired tefillah. We walk from one room to the next, and at the climax of davening enter a private space, alone with the Almighty.

Two extra seconds could change your entire prayer experience. Pause and close your eyes before opening your mouth, imagine entering the Kodesh Hakodashim (Holy of Holies). Ignore any sound that may be around you and sense the holiness of the space. Picture a room or rather a space completely dedicated to investing in your relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Excerpted with permission from Rabbi Tenenbaum's new book, Three Steps Forward, from Mosaica Press.