Originally published on 3xDaily
Are you there Hashem? It’s me, Gefiltepunker.
Recently I attended a film screening of USHPIZIN. It’s the story of a Hasidic ‘Baal Teshuva’ (returning to Judaism), couple who lives in the Breslov community in Jerusalem. They are questioning and exploring their faith in G-D as they deal with infertility, financial hardship and are tested and pushed to the limits by an unruly, ex- convict, pair of guests from the protagonist’s past, who show up for Sukkot. In the end, G-D has delivered, but prayer is what has inextricably carried them through to their happy ending.
And this is what got me thinking and questioning. How important is prayer in your life? For the couple in this movie prayer was essential in their daily routine, it was a very direct request, reaching out to G-D to explain and show mercy so that they could further their worship of G-D. How do you put your prayer into practice? What do you expect as a result of your prayers? Can we expect miracles/ G-D to always answer our prayers? Or do we pray for G-D just to guide us, but in a way for us to help ourselves?
How we do it, the frequency and effort that we put into it and what we expect in return will vary from Jew to Jew. My friend who attended the screening with me also raised the question, “What’s your daily prayer?” She herself was trying to find a prayer that spoke to her sensibilities, felt warm and inviting and to carry her through her own day. At which point I immediately suggested the Shema, which is my personal go-to prayer. I recalled always reciting the Shema carefully in Hebrew school. I often found myself speed reading through other morning prayers just to get through it and on to the next, but not with Shema. Even though I don’t remember all the words by heart, I think of it and I recite it to myself in my own personal times of need.
My friend had a very different reaction to the prayer. She found it cold, uninviting, just not as meaningful to her as I found it. We had very different pre-existing relationships and attitudes toward this prayer. Any suggestions out there from folks of how to find the prayer that’s right for you?