A very nice Tehillim gathering this evening to pray for Israel. I am horrible at estimating crowds, but there must have been upwards of 600 people present. Things that I especially liked: having a mincha and a maariv surrounding the tehillim; the wide array of the community that attended-black hats to baseball caps; the misheberach for the IDF; saying Aveinu Malkeinu (I had thought you needed an official fast or something to do that? Apparently not).
The one thing that left me a bit cold- and this is typical of all of these sorts of gatherings- is the mode of saying the tehillim themselves. You know what I mean- one person leading it pasuk by pasuk in that very special cadence stretched and cut to fit the words. I mean, maybe it's just me, but I tend to totally lose my concentration (the split infinitive is hereby acknowledged and ignored) in those breaks when I'm listening to the person leading it. Tehillim is so eloquent and so personal that it feels off to stop and space out between sentences, and trying to pay attention and recapture the same sentiment for the same words twice running is like trying to recite Shakespeare with a horrible stutter. I never quite understood the whole idea of that system, as opposed to saying it all together. Is there any halacha/minhag basis?
But the most powerful feature of the gathering was an announcement that they made at the end. They cited the pretty well known statement that in the war with Midyan, each soldier had a corresponding person back home who prayed and learned for him. What was incredible was the application, which they attributed to Rav Kanievsky. They handed around slips of paper with the names of soldiers who were currently fighting or wounded, and each person took one name. Somehow, this personalization feels a lot more powerful than praying/learning/acting good for the general mass of IDF; now I have one name, of one person, one real flesh-and-blood person for whom I am 'responsible'. Telling myself "Learn for the soldiers" is, for me at least, less effective than saying "Learn for Gideon ben Yehudit." I wonder if there's some way that this could be mass-produced somehow on the J-blogosphere? I'm really not quite sure how it would be, but I think that it would an incredible idea for someone more internet-saavy to try to work out.