As the saying goes “There are no atheists in foxholes.” When trapped and facing destruction, we ask for survival with all our hearts. We pray.
My mother was more of an atheist than a believer, but throughout the day she often prayed. Her prayers? “God willing.” “God knows.” God protect the young or foolish.”
These were often uttered when life or people were frustrating her beyond her normal ability to cope. She was speaking from her heart.
The introduction to the Jewish prayer book points out that prayer is the “service of the heart.” Aizal, a respected Jewish commentator, notes that when a Jew “pours out his heart like water” he becomes unified with God.
For observant Jews the three daily prayers served to keep alive and take the place of Temple services. Moses started them because he foresaw the destruction of the holy temple.
So when you pour out your heart to the universe you are praying no matter what your faith or lack of faith.
When three Jewish boys were recently kidnapped, Jews of all persuasions poured out their hearts praying for the safe return of these sons. Before the first prayer was uttered these sons of the Jewish people were already dead.
I am studying Jewish prayer at the Aish Denver Synagogue with about twelve others on Shabbat mornings. The class is lead by Rabbi Levi Levowitz. He emails us notes following class. Here are his notes from last week.
Before I begin with the recap I must say that I was truly moved by our class this past Shabbos. We discussed the difficult events that have occurred recently and we all wanted to take action for Hashem and the Jewish People. It was simply amazing to see! Thank you.
The following is the recap of the class:
The story of the three young boys who were abducted and killed has brought the entire nation to mourning. For 18 days we were united in prayer, hoping that Hashem would bring them back to us, but sadly it was not meant to be. Although Hashem’s plans are far beyond our comprehension, we can try to hear the message(s) behind the story in order to grow in our Judaism. One lesson I took out of the tragedy was as follows: The reports are that the boys were “killed almost immediately. That means, the entire Jewish People were unified in prayer for 18 days not knowing that what they were praying for wasn’t relevant anymore! Hashem, by allowing this to happen, was teaching us a tremendous lesson about Davening: its not about getting what we want, but about connecting to Hashem.
In order to connect, we must believe that He’s really listening. Nachmonides writes that this is one the fundamentals of prayer, namely, that we believe Hashem listens to our prayers. Why is this so central to the Davening experience? Davening is about developing a relationship with Hashem. When we truly sense that He is attentive to our prayers we will want to deepen our relationship with Him because we realize that we are important to Him. (On a side note: Our challenge in believing that Hashem is listening is that we don’t see Him with our eyes. The irony is that another human being whom we know we are speaking to very often isn’t really listening to us, but Hashem whom “we don’t know if He is there or not” is always listening to us with the utmost focus and intent!)
In the merit of Gilad, Naftali and Eyal, let us work on picturing ourselves in the presence the One who is listening and sincerely interested in our prayers when we say the Shemona Esrei. Let’s commit to do this 2 times over the week.
Thank you Rabbi Levowitz and thank you Hashem for blessing my life.
EMotional fitness thoughts and tips
As those of you who read me regularly know, I write here mainly for the secular world. Those with a faith in God, as long as that God is a God of love, have less need for my ramblings or so I tend to think.
My atheist friends see no need for a “higher power” or religious groupings, but I do. Why? For any number of reasons. Here are a few:.
- No matter where I go I can find a community of caring people. This has been underlined for me since moving from the East Coast to the Colorado. Despite being nearer my grandchildren, my life here would be much bleaker without the Aish Denver Synagogue.
- My efforts to avoid wrong and practice kindness are strengthened.
- My hope that somewhere justice prevails is strengthened.
- I am better able to acknowledge that I am not the center of all that happens, nor do I control all that happens. Trying to control others is a major source of worldly angst. At least for me.
- I am better able to tolerate the bad in life and practice forgiveness.
- I am less alone both in the everyday world when I go to worship, but also in the existential loneliness that is this life.
- I face death a bit easier.
I have two requests of my blog friends. The first request is for the faith-based. No matter what your faith, fight any doctrine that is divisive. Divisiveness means a religion damns those who are not believers.
The second request is for my atheist friends. Fight bad doctrine but honor what is good in all religions.
I hope you find my posts of value. If you do, practice internet kindness by liking, rating, commenting, or sharing.
Thank you for all you do and as always work to stay strong, while not easy, more possible than you might think.
This post relates to this Word Press Daily Prompt: You just inherited a dilapidated, crumbling-down grand mansion in the countryside. Assuming money is no issue, what do you do with it?
Some say religion is old hat so if money was of no interest, I would mount an intensive campaign to rid all religions of the out-dated divisive beliefs that lead to evil acts and then support the good all religions offer.
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