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. 

6 comments:

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

    --Anatidae

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  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?

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

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  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.

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  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.

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