What I love about Judaism is that you are encouraged to learn for learning’s sake.
You are encouraged to discuss and debate.
You are encouraged to challenge.
The best Rabbis are the ones who say: I want you to have questions, I want you to be uncomfortable, I want you to feel confused and unsure (Thank you, Shlomo!)… because it means that you are exploring things with all of your being, with all of your thoughts and heart and soul… and you are not just blindly accepting and following.
You are seeking out and searching for YOUR truth.
I came back from Israel inspired. I felt holy, calm, spiritual.
It lasted for a few weeks, and then life came to kick me in the backside… and shove me back into reality.
I miss it every day, that holiness and peace… and the actual, physical place… Israel. I long to return. Not even six months back and I want to return to her. That’s love and romance.
After a while being back, I was able to get a set of Tefillin from Chabad of the Conejo Valley, and Rabbi Bryski. Thank you again… so very much!
I have wrapped every day since, and have gone from simply doing the Shema and a meditation of my own, to doing the Modeh Ani, the hand washing, and many more morning blessings, including multiple Shemoneh Esreis (Amidahs) throughout the day. I make a point to do Mincha whenever I can and the Bedtime Shema is a must, no matter how tired I am.
There are days when the praying is easy… inspired… I feel emotion and connection and that I’m really doing something good… meaningful.
There are days when I will literally feel a chill or something unexplainable in my body… And days when I tear up and cry. It’s remarkable… powerful.
And yet, there are other days when it’s a struggle. When it feels tedious and rote. When I seem to be doing it just for the sake of doing it. Rushing through it. I ask why. I feel lost. I question. And I don’t think anything is changing for me.
It reminds me of that wonderful scene from Field of Dreams, where Ray questions all of his efforts…
Shoeless Joe Jackson: But you’re not invited.
Ray Kinsella: Not invited? What do you mean, I’m not invited? That’s my corn out there. You guys are guests in my corn.
Terence Mann: Ray…
Ray Kinsella: No, wait. I have done everything I’ve been asked to do. I didn’t understand it but I’ve done it, and I haven’t once asked what’s in it for me.
Shoeless Joe Jackson: What are you saying, Ray?
Ray Kinsella: I’m saying… what’s in it for me?
And then of course, the recurring quote and theme and pay off of “If you build it, he will come.”
When father and son start tossing that baseball I do not think there is a man who does not lose it and start bawling… unless you have no soul! THAT is the moment… amazing… fulfilling… his path comes full circle and everything is clear.
Ah, but only if life was that way.
There are most definitely those days when I am praying and I stop and I DO want to know… What’s in it for me?
When will I get that Rabbi Oprah, Ah Ha moment… the sky opening… the path so clearly illuminated… the clarity that I am so desperately in need of…
So what did I do on that day that I did not want to pray?
I fought through it… fought through the doubt and frustration… I strapped myself in, wrapped myself in… and rapped… with Hashem… with G-d.
The Rabbis would say that Hashem was challenging me to see what I would do. At that moment, I did not think of it that way. I just prayed. But it makes sense. Praying is work… You have to dig in deep and really put everything into it… There is an actual prep, a mindset that you are supposed to have BEFORE you pray. It is very logical. You are preparing to engage with Hashem… so clear your mind and focus and be open. There are many books and articles on Jewish meditation, which are equally fascinating and worthwhile.
It is no coincidence that the Shema says “with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might” (or “resources”, depending on the version)…
Some days it will click… some days it won’t… but the key is to keep going… Baby steps if that is what it takes. To pray, to learn, to grow and hopefully somewhere down the line and soon at that, to feel elevated and holy all over again… To see and know the path will be clear…