- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On November 10, 2017
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection in preparation for Shabbat.
According to the Talmud, the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, instituted the idea of praying three times a day. (Berachot 26b)
In this week’s portion, we learn how Isaac initiated the idea of praying in the afternoon. This section of the Torah revolves around finding a wife for Isaac. Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, traveled back to the land of Abraham’s birth. He found Rebekah by a well. Through a series of interactions with her family and with her, she agreed to accompany Eliezer as the future bride of Isaac.
And then we learn, Isaac had settled in the Negev. And Isaac went out walking —lasu-ah– in the field toward evening and, looking up, he saw camels approaching. (Genesis 24:63)
Though the translation used the word, walking, the rabbis of the Talmud understood it to mean to converse. In Hebrew, si-ah means to engage in a conversation. The same word appears elsewhere in Psalms as a reference for prayer. In true Talmudic style, they connect the meaning as a way of saying he was praying. After all, isn’t praying a way we converse with the Divine?
The ancient rabbis understood the value of prayer. They knew it allowed sacred interaction and fostered relationship with a power beyond oneself. But, they did not see praying as beneficial if it becomes rote. To the contrary, they saw it as an act of consciousness and awareness, as a complement to our actions of kindness, of justice, of humility, and of proactive work to ensure tikkun olam. The combination is what makes it sacred. The prophets drove the message home by rejecting prayer if it did not lead to ethical behavior. In our time, Abraham Joshua Heschel combined the actions with his famous realization that “he felt as if his feet were praying” when he marched for racial justice.
Using prayer alone as a means of consolation dilutes its very essence. In recent days, it has become disheartening to hear what has now become profane in the phrase, “our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas.” As many people have noted, these victims were in church. Prayer surrounded them but could not protect them from the gun violence inflicted upon them. We need to be realistic about what prayer can do and what each of us must do to prevent the carnage caused by guns.
Abraham Joshua Heschel also wrote these words, which are part of our prayer book:
Prayer invites God’s Presence to suffuse our spirits, God’s will to prevail in our lives. Prayer may not bring water to parched fields, nor mend a broken bridge, nor rebuild a ruined city. But prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart, rebuild a weakened will.
Let us pray in order to act. Let us act in order to inspire. Let us inspire by leading the way toward peace, justice, and love.
Join together tonight for Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. Live stream HERE. Tot Rock for children 5 and under begins at 5:00 p.m. We pray and study tomorrow morning at Torah study at 9:00 a.m.
I’m grateful for your comments and reflections. Connect directly and confidentially with me HERE.