Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ancient and Not-So-Ancient Connections - Thursday Kavvanah, 12/8/11

At the very beginning of the Shaharit / morning service, every day of the year, there is a passage that we generally buzz through quickly without giving it much thought.  But it really should be in BOLD CAPS (if there were capital letters in Hebrew), because it nicely prefaces the act of tefillah / prayer.

The passage (found on page 7 of Siddur Sim Shalom for Weekdays), mentions that we are partners with God in the berit, the covenant established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and cites some of the key berit-making events that are taking place in the current run of Torah readings.  And then comes the following:

לְפִיכָךְ אֲנַחְנוּ חַיָּבִים לְהודות לְךָ וּלְשַׁבֵּחֲךָ וּלְפָאֶרְךָ וּלְבָרֵךְ וּלְקַדֵּשׁ וְלָתֵת שֶׁבַח וְהודָיָה לִשְׁמֶךָ
Therefore it is our duty to thank You and praise You, to glorify and sanctify your name.

One source of our obligation to recite words of prayer daily is the connection to the founding ancestors of our tradition.  Tefillah / prayer becomes an act of historical resonance, building a sort of pipeline to the patriarchs and matriarchs and allowing us to receive the benevolence bestowed upon them.

But the motivation that connects us even more powerfully today is, I think, not that of ancient times but of the more recent past.  When I daven, I sometimes like to picture my grandparents, great-grandparents and so on, peeking in through the windows.  We are all the inheritors of a long chain of tradition, unbroken for centuries; it is up to us to claim that tradition.

Rabbi Seth Adelson

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