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Slowly I open one eye to check the digital clock. It still says 6:29 a.m., just like it did 30 seconds ago. The clock and I are in a power struggle. It wants me to stay in bed as long as I can since a good night’s sleep often evades me. Technically, I have no schedule to keep. But another part of me wants to greet the day and connect with G-d, so I open the other eye to make sure I can successfully make my way to my place of prayer; I arrive without incident.
* * *
Prior to my bout with breast cancer, I made time to pray for several months early in the morning in the kitchen. It is a large room, and although my prayers were my conduit to G-d, the tile floors and bright lights were not engaging. Once I had to go through cancer treatment, I was exhausted and didn’t feel invited back into the kitchen. At least that was my excuse, and my prayer practice went on hold.
But a couple of months ago, I felt the call to reengage and wanted to meet G-d in a different way. I wanted to continue to practice the Amidah, also known as the Shemoneh Esrei (originally a collection of 18 silent prayers). So I found a corner of my office, which was intimate and dark, except for a lamp poised in the corner. As I walked to the corner and turned on the light, I felt invited to step into that comforting space and begin to pray.
* * *
Over time I have learned to recite the prayers in Hebrew and am almost fully capable of understanding their meaning, parsing unfamiliar words in context. (In impatient moments I look at the English on the opposite page.) There are several prayers that move me deeply or speak to me on a personal level, based on life in its unfolding: speaking of G-d’s strength and might is especially comforting at times when life seems dark and chaotic; praying about G-d’s holiness especially touches me, since I know that He shares the opportunity to experience holiness with Him, and gives me the strength to aspire to goodness; being reminded that G-d heals is so reassuring, as I still struggle with efforts to achieve wellness, both physically and mentally; G-d’s battling heretics on my behalf means fighting against those who not only betray the faith of my practice, but the faith in my country; I’m reminded that no matter how dire circumstances seem, G-d is fighting the battle with all of us; expressing thanks for the myriad miracles, large and small, that bless my life every day, even when I’m at a loss for next steps–that understanding motivates me. And calling on G-d to give me the power to fight against the evil that I see all around me inspires me.
Finally, I pray for the rebuilding of the Temple, where I might one day serve Him with reverence, as Jews of old have practiced.
* * *
My practice as a Jew is like a moth-eaten blanket, barely recognizable, fragile but dearly loved. My prayers are out of context, prayed alone, probably mispronounced at least some of the time. But I have to hope with all my heart that G-d has a sense of quirkiness as He amusedly witnesses my prayer, and knows better than anyone for a multitude of reasons that I am sincere and engaged. My prayers may be a mishmash, not fitting into any accepted prayer process, but I truly believe that He hears me and hope that He appreciates my efforts. I will pray for His Presence and comfort for the years and months ahead.
For all of us.Published in