Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Best Way to Pray

This summer has been incredible! I could talk about many different aspects; from the weather to the activities, from the misadventures to memories. However, you might get bored reading such a detailed account. Instead, I want to reflect on my summer as it relates to tefilah, prayer.

 We started the summer at Sephardic Adventure Camp [SAC]. Our camp has the wonderful components of many summer camps, like boating, sports, and art. But it is the tefilah at SAC which makes camp truly unique. The campers learn the words and tunes of our heritage, with remarkable decorum and dedication. The highlight of this experience was when Hazzan Ike Azose came for Shabbat and beautifully strengthen the joy and understanding of the melodies of our Seattle Sephardic community. This communal celebration of youth in prayer seems like the best form of tefilah.

Days after leaving camp, I stood in front of the Kotel, the
Western Wall. Around me were people of all backgrounds, from all different corners of the earth, standing together in separate prayer. Although we stood together, each person uttered their prayers at their individualized pace, choosing what words to say. We stood together in the same place, with the same purpose, but each pursuing it in their own way. Maybe this is the ideal for tefilah.  

The next day, Tova, my youngest, sustained an injury which initially appeared severe. While clutching her to me, I called
out to God in frantic distress. My words were hurried, with all of my emotions pouring out. Thankfully, the injury was relatively minor. Maybe impromptu, heartfelt tefilah is what He most appreciates.

As I approached the end of my time in Israel, I began feeling very anxious. Not simply because I was leaving, but the prospect of the journey to Seattle with four children and no husband was VERY daunting. People had many recommendations: hire a flight companion, drug my children with sedatives, buy lots of new toys. None of these seemed like viable solutions. Instead I prayed. Usually when I pray for something specific it is the recovery for someone ill. In comparison, I felt petty praying for something as minor as the behavior of my children on an airplane trip. But I spoke to God like a friend, telling Him my problems and asking for His help. I am proud to say that my girls were as good as four small people can be on a 20+ hour journey. They slept a lot. They played nicely. They were well-behaved.  

Now my girls are settled back in Seattle, attending day camp at Yavneh. During the morning tefilah, my girls get very frustrated. “But they are praying wrong because they are Ashkenazi!” they complain. I repeatedly explain that there is no wrong form of prayer. Reflecting on my summer of prayer, I don’t think there is a most right form either. The value of our Sephardic communal prayer at SAC or SBH, the differential communal prayer of the Kotel, the sudden heartfelt cry of distress, and the personal requests are all invaluable.

As summer winds down, the season of prayer does not. The next Hebrew month is Elul, the time leading up to Rosh Hashana. During this time we entreat God, in preparation for the coming year. Think about how speaking to Him best suits you. There is no wrong way to pray.

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