Perhaps it is a bit naïve, but I always understood that you pray and pray for something, and then in short time and short order it happens… it comes true. Then again, I also only thought of praying as being on bended knee at the foot or side of your bed… hands clasped, fingers interlocked… eyes closed and an occasional head looking up to Heaven.Those are the images I had as a kid, probably from TV and the movies. And yes, I was also taught that G-d was an old, white haired man with flowing hair and a flowing gown. Maybe it was DaVinci’s image painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or in other books, but that’s how many of us learned. I don’t know that the Rabbis ever said that to me outright… but those were the pictoral representations.
Now I know that G-d is everywhere and everything… hidden and revealed… An energy and One. Eternal and immediate. My understanding has expanded and grown, but that doesn’t mean I am that close to understanding G-d. Maybe that happens as we are about to shuffle off this mortal coil? Or if you are a true Tzadik. I’m not. I try to learn and grow, but I have a long way to go.
But as an adult, I find a whole new dimension to prayers… and that is when they seemingly go UNANSWERED. Am I praying wrong? Not enough? Asking for the wrong things?
There are several things that comfort me in this process. The first is the preparation for prayer I learned from Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld and Rabbi Shalom Denbo.
Know before whom you stand. This is really important. I/we need to take a moment and realize we are talking to G-d… to Hashem. Breathe… Push out the morning and the stress. Be present. Be in the here and now. He is everywhere, but now you are connecting with G-d in a much more focused way.
The I go through the Seven Steps To Trusting Hashem that Denbo taught me…
1) Hashem loves me
2) Hashem is totally aware of me and knows everything I want
3) Hashem has the power to give me anything and everything I want
4) I do not have the power
5) Hashem has given me so much already
6) I do not have to deserve it
7) Hashem knows what is best
From there I think about everything I am grateful for, and then boom. I wrap, and I pray, and I wait… and I wait… and I wait…
I’ve been asking for a while… praying for a while… I’ve been given little bits and tastes, but the big ask… the big dream doesn’t seem to be there yet. I take solace and comfort in the lesson that Shlomo teaches a lot…
There Are Three Answers To Every Prayer:
2. Not yet.
3. I have something BETTER in mind.
Boy, the first answer would be so nice right about now… The second one… okay, but I am impatient… and the third one is ALL about trust and faith… and I am really okay with that. I do trust Hashem… But when? WHEN?! I have been asking for the same things for quite a while now.
So I take stock and realize I can and should be doing more. And while I am on the path and moving forward, I know what I need to be focusing on. I KNOW that a lot of this needs to come from me… at least the work and the effort. I keep going back to #6 on the first list. I do not have to deserve it… I do not have to deserve it.
But I do also believe that I am a good person, and I am trying hard and do deserve certain things… Breathe… Trust… Have faith… Keep going… Keep praying… Keep talking to G-d. When you’re driving or walking. Yes, He hears your thoughts, but say them out loud. Send them out into the world.
So far it’s not “Yes.” So we’re on either “Not yet” or “I have something better in mind.” And maybe, just maybe the wait needs to happen in order to get to the right time and place because Hashem knows much more than I do. Hashem know what’s best. Okay, not maybe… for sure… for certain.
But when doubt creeps in, it seems that the prayers are simply unanswered, and not in between #2 or 3. It’s a battle and a fight… and Shlomo speaks of that a lot… that sometimes prayer IS a battle. If it’s easy, it’s easy… if it’s a battle, then when you do it and stick with it, the victory is that much sweeter.
So the prayers continue… the battle continues… Come on lucky #1… or 2 or 3… but soon, please. Soon. I’m praying for it.
This post resonated with me on so many levels. Thank you. I’m especially grateful that you included a picture of the sanctuary of the Eldridge Street Schul- I’ve been thinking of that sacred space for weeks and weeks. Have you ever been there?
The rose window of stars is a gorgeous modern addition, but so much of the schul is original: the blue vault and gold stars painted on the ceilings, the smooth wood furniture, the bimah.
Of the whole synagogue, the most moving aspect, to me anyway, were the spaces on the wooden floor where the mens’ feet fell as they were seated on the benches (women were up in the balconies). Why?
There were deep grooves worn into the floor where the shoes of the daaveners stood. Spaces carved by the natural motion of mourners and celebrants, petitioners and singers, reciting the Standing prayer over several hundred years at Eldridge Street. Deep divots making liquid waves in the hardness of the floor.
This article transported me back to that sanctuary, this time with new concepts of the nature of prayer to mull over and consider.
Many thanks and
May your tefillot be answered
Openly and affirmatively
Wow. Thank you so much for this! I have not been, but will make a point of getting there on my next trip! The visual just speaks to me on many levels, and clearly on a whole other level for you. Your note back is powerful and affirmative, so thank you for that and I am glad that the piece resonated with you.