תפילה - Prayer

The Kotel in Jerusalem is where Jews from all around the world talk to God, ask for forgiveness, pray for healing and give thanks. We don't come to the Kotel to pray because the wall is holy - the wall is holy because we all come to pray at it. You know what that means - any place where Jews gather to pray can be just as sacred and just as special as the Kotel.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, a really cool teacher from not too long ago, taught us that prayer happens when the soul and the word meet. Wherever you are and whenever it might be - when your soul is moved by an amazing sight, an inspiring experience or just life itself - and you give words to that feeling - that is prayer (Heschel calls that kind of prayer a prayer of expression). Sometimes though, we're too busy texting, gaming, studying, playing, working and all the other "ing's" that fill our lives to notice those sights and experiences that may move our souls. Sometimes we need a little help being aware of God all around us. That's where the siddur (prayerbook) comes in handy.

Remember what Heschel said - prayer is when the word and the soul meet. In prayers of expression the soul came first (you felt something powerful) and then you attached words to that experience ("Whoa - look at that rainbow!" or "This is so amazing - thank you God!") The idea behind the siddur is that when our souls don't come first - the words can. So when we open our siddur and say "Sh'ma Yisrael" or "Mi Chamocha" or "Ashrei" - those words might wake up our souls. That's when the magic happens: We say the words - our souls wake up connect with the words - bam! You've got prayer.

 

So now it’s your turn.  
Go to your synagogue on Shabbat, holidays and just during the week throughout this year. When you sit down in your seat or lead from the bimah - think about the two ingredients to prayer - the words of the siddur and your soul. Let yourself get into it. Let yourself connect with the words so your soul "wakes up."