Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Establishing a Relationship with G-d

In the course of preparing the kids for school, I went to Borders for a pocket dictionary and thesaurus.  I was drawn to a table of sale books marked “50% off of marked price.”  One entire stack was comprised of a book called “Life After G-d.”  The blurb said it was about what people believe in when they have given up on the “idea” of G-d.  Where do they find meaning in life?  Who do they turn to with a heavy heart?

I immediately thought of something I had seen almost two decades ago, when I spent a year in Israel, studying and learning.  At the burial place of Maimonides in Tiberias, a wizened Sephardic Grandmother washed down the stone, then rubbed the water from the stone on her hands and face, all the while praying loudly and emotionally.  Her relationship with G-d and His messengers was unabashed and palpable. 

For years I was jealous of her deep kavanah - concentration – how did one get to that real, uninhibited connection with Hakadosh Baruch Hu?  What I didn’t understand at nineteen is that praying is like learning a musical instrument: it’s not just reading the notes, it’s infusing the soul into the notes. 

What the Sephardic Grandmother had was deep "kavanah" – not necessarily the mystical and kabalistic nuances, but she had deeply integrated the understanding of G-d’s Omnipresence.  He was there, and listening to her.  She understood that a relationship with G-d is a real living thing, that in the space of our relationship with G-d there’s what He puts in, and then there’s what we put in – and both are important. 

In the book HaYom Yom we meet the Sephardic Grandmother again:  “When a Jew studies Torah he feels like a student before G-d, his Teacher, whose wisdom he is studying.  When he prays, he feels like a child before his father.” 

Rabbi Yeshayah Horowitz, “The Holy Shalo”h," and Rabbi Nachman of Breslev advise us to speak to G-d every day in our native tongue.  This reminds us that prayer is not just reciting words – it’s speaking to G-d, when we share everything that’s in our hearts. 


  1. I love the story about the waves. :)


  2. If, "When he prays, he feels like a child before his father," then I think it helps to have had a good relationship with one's father. What do you do if you don't have that model in your life?

  3. Happy to hear it. I'll let Jew in the City know.

  4. Yes, It's harder to know how to speak to G-d if you haven't had a father to talk to. Sometimes, one is able to find someone else to serve as a father figure. Sometimes, we learn by observation of other people who have strong relationships with a father--or with G-d. Sometimes, we are fortunate enough to have a spiritual mentor to teach us how to speak to G-d, and how to pray
    And sometimes, we learn just by trial and error . . . with our own halting efforts, repeated day by day.

  5. Author P.D. James said, "What a child doesn't receive he can seldom later give."
    Yes, it can be hard. But I personally know at least two people who had difficult paternal relationships, but grew themselves into strongly nurturing parents. It's not easy, but an awareness of a lack can impel us to actively search for its fulfillment.

  6. Resources like the one you mentioned here will be very useful to me! I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that very useful.