Thursday, February 16, 2012

How Does Tefillah Relate Us to God? - Thursday Kavvanah, 2/16/2012

Our Adult Bat/Bar Mitzvah class is reading Rabbi Harold Kushner's To Life!, which is a solid, readable introduction to Judaism and Jewish life.  (Rabbi Kushner was the assistant rabbi at Temple Israel in the 1960s, my predecessor by half a century.)

In his chapter on tefillah / prayer, Rabbi Kushner discusses our relationship to the "service of the heart" by pointing out that Jews pray in an ancient language that is largely unintelligible and whizzes by far too quickly for most of us to grasp.  However, we identify with and relate to tefillah not necessarily through its literal meaning, its themes and structures and inter-textual connections, but rather as follows:

Jewish prayer is not a matter of informing God as to what we believe and what we need, but of seeking His presence and being transformed by it.  We don't ask God to change the world to make it easier for us.  We ask Him only to assure us that He will be with us as we try to do something hard. (p. 210)

This approach struck me as especially appealing.  Tefillah resonates as a deeply personal statement of faith, of a desire to access the Divine.  Does God need our blessing, praise, or to hear our wishes and desires?  No.  But God does need to know that we need a partner in changing the world.

Rabbi Seth Adelson

No comments:

Post a Comment