By Rabbi Patrick
For many years, I have struggled to find a siddur that reflects the poetry of my life. I have trouble finding a book that speaks with honesty about human life, about Jewish life, and at the same time understands that humanity is not a species that lives in the literal, but lives in the metaphorical.
While I love vintage clothes and furniture, vintage faith is not where I am in life. I cannot pray Kaddish knowing full well that the growth of the Kaddish into the Mourner’s Kaddish may have been a response to the Catholic Church’s teaching of plenary indulgences. I cannot thank God in Asher Yatzar for making my body perfectly, only to shoot interferon beta 1-a in my stomach so that my immune system will stop eating my spine like the unlimited soup, salad and bread sticks at Olive Garden. I find myself wondering if false prayer is Lashon Hara to God, and if in the Amidah the phrase, “may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you” is more like an admission of guilt (dear God, I know I am faking my way through this Artscroll nusach Sephardim, so please bear with my insincerity) instead of a testimonial to the Sacred about a desire for holiness.
Unfortunately, going in the opposite direction does not work either. I have tried picking up progressive siddurim and using them, only to find that they are the same old texts of before, warped into an agenda that reads more like a political treatise than a response to the everlasting God. The tortured metaphors of progressive siddurim are at once an attempt to make everyone happy by reinterpreting the Godhead to the point of neutering, and yet, trying desperately to leave the flavor of the “old time religion” in a half-hearted attempt to console the traditionalist (or at least, what the progressive thinks the traditionalist is). Prayer in the progressive sense becomes more like a negotiation between the author and the reader, than a rapture between I and Thou.
It’s a no win situation. Really.
When I was in business school, I was taught something that has forever impacted the way I view the world:
The message is in the medium.
In my own experience, the greatest thing that happened to the Internet was video. And it’s in video that I find my siddur.Below are a few videos I have found that touch on my sense of spirituality. They are not all Jewish. In fact, most of them are not spiritual at all. But what they do is inspire me toward my sense of Judaism. Like a farmer harvesting wheat from the field, I’m able to glean the spiritual teachings from these videos, and they bring me back to the Judaism I have been searching for. They remind me of the good things I have read, to the point that I want to sit down and thumb through my vast collection of Jewish literature in order to rediscover them. Take a look for yourself. See what you discover. And comment below on what you learn.