Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Erachet just posted a wonderful post on prayer. I started to comment on her blog, but when I saw how much I had to say, I thought it was worth a post of my own.
In her post, Erachet mentioned her confusion and feelings of inferiority when faced with other religious Jews whose prayers seemed so much more heartfelt than hers. I too, struggled with feelings of self-consciousness regarding my inability to establish a "typical" connection to G-d through standardized prayer. I too had the nagging feeling that somehow I was less close to G-d than all the shucklers and swayers around me, but, at some point, I began to think differently. I began to appreciate the connection I did have with G-d due to the various sensitivities and capabilities He instilled in me.
Most people are not sensitized enough to G-D's creations to connect to him through them. Most people don't see a tree or a cloud or a flower and form a prayer out of the intense joy and wonder they feel as a result. Most people don't think to send up a homemade plea to G-d when they have to get to class in five minutes and there are no parking spaces within a mile of school or when they're having a bad day and really need the cafe to have at least one more big chocolate cookie left by the time they get there. Most people don't think to speak to G-d at all if it's not during established times of prayer. Many people do, but most don't.
I feel so lucky that I am one of those people who do have that connection to G-d. I feel it makes life so much more meaningful in various small ways. In no way do I mean to imply that standardized prayer is not important. There is a very good reason why the sages set up the prayers the way they did, and why they contain the words and format that they do, and I firmly believe in constantly working on having greater concentration during those prayers, but it's hard. It's hard for everyone on some level. A true connection to G-d can manifest itself in more than one way, and I don't think those alternate paths should be minimized or discounted in any way. I was brought up to believe that G-D is everywhere and always available to us via a direct line of communication in any form, in any language. Different things work for different people, and G-d knows that. He is the one who created us to be that way.
On a related note, a teacher once told me: If you broadcast your spirituality, you are no longer spiritual. I happen to think it's a brilliant concept and a good one to live by. Very often, those who seem to be ultra connected, or ultra religious on the outside are not nearly as far up on the spiritual ladder as others who don't make an overt display of their religiosity. What's going on inside of me is so much more important than how religious or "zealous" I appear to those around me.
One more thing I find very helpful to keep in mind is something most of us already know, but it always helps to be reminded. We all start at a very different point in terms of spirituality, and we all have a special package of tests and challenges handpicked for us. What might be easy for the man or woman next to me, is excruciatingly difficult for me, and G-D might not expect me to be at that particular point just yet. It doesn't mean I'm less of a person, or less of a Jew. It just means that I'm unique and my spirituality and all it entails has nothing to do with what those around me are doing or feeling.