Tuesday, July 28, 2009


In Judaism, we have a set liturgy; if it's a Sunday (or Tuesday or Wednesday) morning, we say the same thing no matter where we are. If it's the start of a new month, same deal. And within each service there is The Prayer. In all of our text, if the word "ha-tefilla" (literally "the prayer") is used, it refers to this central prayer. It is the same three times a day, Sunday through Friday. And I love it. I love the first blessing where we praise the G-d of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, where I think about how G-d welcomes each of us regardless of our observance level or our commitment to G-d. I love the sixth blessing where we acknowledge our flaws and ask for forgiveness. I love the seventh (? I don't have the text in front of me to count) blessing where we ask G-d to bless the year--more meaningful in light of an explanation I learned once that "blessing" equals "multiply" in the sense of be fruitful and ___: give us this year and many more.

But while I relish the ability to interpret the fixed liturgy in ways that are meaningful to me, I sometimes feel the lack of a more free-form type of prayer.

My grandfather passed away a few weeks ago, and since no one else in my family is observant, I have taken it upon myself to say kaddish. (I hope Grandpa wouldn't mind.) So I have been going to services in the morning and gotten back in the habit of davening (praying) at least one time a day, and I have begun using the time after I am done reciting my own Prayer to add personal hopes and wishes. The very first day I did this, I included a prayer for one of my friends who had been unemployed for nine months, and the next day she got a job offer! (Just a fantastic coincidence; that's not actually how I think G-d works.)

This week I began adding a request that G-d direct/enable/assist me to be in touch with my sister. There's no reason why we're not in touch more, just that neither one of us is terribly good at phone calls, and we didn't have a very good model of good familial relationships growing up. So, unlike the guy who prays to win the lottery but never buys a ticket, I called my sister today. I got to talk to my nephew (who is almost 6! where does the time go?) and then chatted with my sister about her state's teacher licensing exam that she has to take in a few weeks. (I guess there isn't reciprocity with the state where she used to live. I knew that her state doesn't like to admit lawyers to practice based on bar admission elsewhere, but teachers? Strange.) She has to study because what special ed teacher of 3-6 year olds knows about the causes of the drought in the Dakotas in the 1930s? (I think that's what the question was that she told me about. And no, she's not in either of the Dakotas.)

Anyway, I seem to be having pretty good luck with my prayers (still praying for Once Lost to find Clay) so if you have anything that you need...

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