Ever since I was a kid, I was indoctrinated into praying three times every day. I never challenged or asked questions about what I was saying, nor did I understand it either. I did not particularly enjoy prayer or find meaning in it. I found it monotonous, uninspiring, and boring. It wasn't until I was in Israel for my gap year that I went to my first Carlebach minyan on a Friday night. According to Wikipedia, a Carlebach Minyan is a Jewish prayer service that follows the style of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and uses the melodies he composed for many prayers. These minyanim are distinctive for their emphasis on singing the liturgy, often using Carlebach's original nigunim. According to Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, Carlebach "changed the expectations of the prayer experience from decorous and somber to uplifting and ecstatic as he captivated generations with elemental melodies and stories of miraculous human saintliness, modesty and unselfishness. "
This experience opened my eyes to the idea that music and melodies can be used to not only enhance one's involvement in their tefillah but to give people a new understating as to the reason we pray. Music stirs the soul and helps individuals reach places within themselves that they never thought possible. That evening, I found myself being enveloped by the music and the words naturally flowing from my lips; similar to hearing a favorite song of mine to which I begin to automatically sing to.