Sunday, November 30, 2008

להגיד בבקר חסדך ואמונתך בלילות

"A siddur that's falling apart probably belongs to someone who isn't."

My brother realized on the way to shul on yom tov (this post has been a long time coming) that he had forgotten his machzor at home. To which my father responded, jokingly: "Your brother doesn't need a machzor. He just lets the words flow." (Which was funny because my brother is 12 and not, um, particularly spiritual.) 

I have a hard time with a structured tefilah that tells us how we should build our relationships with Hashem, but I think I would have a harder time without it. 

Within the realm of Shemonei Esrei, I can have kavanah; without it, I don't think I would even know how to try. I prefer davening in shul, but I have a hard time motivating myself to go. I had an insanely long but beautiful and inspirational Yom Kippur davening, and I loved it, but it was ... exhausting. 

I have a hard time making time for tefilah and a hard time doing a good job of davening when I've made the time, but when I do it right I know. I find my tefilah to be a statement about me and where I stand religiously. It is about finding myself in a way, getting in touch with where I am at and where I am headed. I just heard that the verb "mitpallel" is reflexive because tefilah is fundamentally about self-judgment and self-discovery. 

A friend who is going through a hard time recently told me she has become skeptical of the power of tefilah to change things. She said that asking Hashem for things only begs the question, "Why didn't Hashem listen to me when He could have prevented this?"

And yes, of course, the point of tefilah is not to ask for things but to build a relationship with Hashem, but what does that mean really? 

I ask for things in my tefilah because I believe Hashem can make them happen. I heard at a shiur that tefilah is a direct expression of emunah. It is a recognition that after all is said and done, we are ultimately in the hands of Hashem. The question, I guess, is how much power our tefilah has to make things happen. 

Another friend said that the approach she has always heard is that through tefilah, you can transform yourself into someone who is deservant of whatever it is you are asking for. Which I like conceptually, but is hard on a practical level. Do we truly change ourselves that much through tefilah? Self-discovery yes, but change?

This post has been in a draft for quite some time because while I have been thinking about tefilah, I have not been sure--am still not sure--what I want to say about it. I know that tefilah is important and I find it meaningful, but I am not sure how it is meaningful and how to work on it and how to reconcile all that with my dislike of and discomfort with all things fluffy. 


At 12/2/08, 5:50 PM, Blogger Scraps said...

I know what you mean, about your tefillah being a reflection of where you're holding, and knowing when you really, truly got it right. I also have a hard time with tefillah, though I keep up a running one-sided conversation with G-d, so I guess that's better than nothing. I don't think of it as fluffy, just what comes naturally to me.

Hatzlacha rabba figuring it all takes a lifetime...


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