I thought to write this article after reading Etti Krinsky’s beautiful “I used to resent prayer; now I embrace it”. Her words made a lot of sense to me, and I began to think of my own experiences with Jewish prayer. Etti’s article can be found on Chabad.org, here;
My favourite time of week is Saturday morning, at about 10:30 AM. Why? Because that’s when we pick up our siddurim, read the words, and begin to pray. I can hear men chanting their prayers from the other side of the mechitza. I can hear the other women’s voices; sometimes imploring, sometimes joyful. I can hear the Rabbi’s melodic voice as he leads us in prayer. Sometimes, the beautiful, magical Hebrew words are interspersed by songs. These songs are a form of prayer, too. Even though I don’t sing along, I begin to feel closer to G-d as soon as the singing starts. It’s an awe-inspiring experience, and it all takes place in the wonderful little Chabad House I attend.
Prayer is central to my life, and close to my heart. It makes me feel like I’m sitting- or standing- just a few metres away from G-d. Maybe I am. I pray with meaning, and with passion. When I say the Shema Yisrael- the only part of the prayer service I say aloud- my voice sometimes breaks out of raw emotion. The feeling of sitting in Shul, surrounded by other Jews, and hearing the words “Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Ehad…” brings me to new spiritual heights. Every week.
Of course, I don’t only pray on Shabbes. The Shabbes morning experience is particularly special to me, but I turn to G-d and pray at other times, too. When I give Tzedekah, I listen to the coins dropping into the box, savouring the feeling of the metal beneath my fingers, tracing them over the ornate patterns on the box, before falling silent and praying. I don’t ask G-d for the things I want, often, but rather I’ll thank Him, and I’ll ponder over the events of the past week, the trials and tribulations of everyday life, and the small miracles He has cast upon me.
Miracles are another occasion which bring me to pray. Sometimes I witness something so amazing that I turn to G-d and cry out; impassioned, I praise Him for his great deeds. Other times, I weep in anguish, and still my voice will turn to Him, to plead. And sometimes, it’s just nice to speak to Him. When I’m alone, my thoughts might turn to Him; to a beautiful moment, or a miracle, or just a time I saw His presence; and I’ll raise my voice in prayer. When I feel isolated, I know He is listening to my voice, and I don’t feel quite so alone after pouring out my heart. Sometimes, when I pray, I shockel, and sway like a flame. It helps me to concentrate. I’ll focus only on Him, and turn my mind towards the Heavens…
Prayer is a rollercoaster of emotions, as well as a rock in hard times, and the most beautiful part of my day or week. This is why prayer is so important to me…
With thanks to Etti Krinsky, for inspiring this article!
(Note: on June 22, 2016, Etti Krinsky commented on this article; “Wow, this is so beautiful. I am so touched that this was inspired by my article on Chabad.org. Keep writing, you seem to have so much wisdom to share!“)