Thank God for Prayer.
This week we start the Book of Vayikra (Leviticus). It is mostly about the sacrificial system. When to bring a sacrifice, how to bring a sacrifice, where to bring a sacrifice, why to bring a sacrifice, and what to bring as a sacrifice. Notice that I used the word "bring" a lot. The reason is that when an Israelite had a reason to "make" a sacrifice to God, he/she did not perform the actual sacrifice. Instead, the person needing to make the sacrifice brought it to the priest, and it was the priest who actually physically "made" the sacrifice.
Query: If I want to communicate with God, whether I am thankful, seeking forgiveness, or expressing hopefulness, why should I need to rely on a priest, or anyone else, to do my communicating for me through a sacrifice?
It's okay to have a middleman when you are buying a house, buying insurance, or looking to have something manufactured in bulk, but why should I (or anyone) need a middleman in my relationship with God?
We should not need a priest to take a ram and sacrifice it in order for any of us to communicate with the Holy One. It is the actual personal and physical act of thankfulness, or contrition, or forgiveness that makes a difference. Our prayer is our divine-self speaking with the Divine.
By now, it should come as no surprise that I think it is a great thing that the sacrificial system has been cast aside in favor of personal prayer. (I am pretty certain that the Rams, goats, bulls, and doves, feel the same way)
Personal prayer is a wonderful way of connecting with God, but it is also a wonderful way for each of us to connect internally. Prayer can help us to reflect. Prayer can help us to take a step back. Prayer can help us to breathe. Prayer does not have to be meditation, but it can be. Prayer does not have to be silent or planned or loud or spontaneous. It can be either or none of these. Prayer is human; prayer is divine.
Do you find yourselves praying a lot lately?
I find myself praying more often than usual. Of course, I pray our fixed prayers 3 times a day. But in addition, I find myself consistently and spontaneously Praying for health, praying that someone does not have coronavirus, praying that a person who has coronavirus recovers, praying for strength, praying for my family, praying for my friends, praying for my JCC family, praying for healthcare professionals, praying for the sick, praying for the healthy, praying for the government, praying for Israel, praying for an end to this need to be separated. I pray that the text that just dinged has good news. I pray that Zoom works every time I sign on.
I pray.......for the ability to pray.
As trite as it may sound, I pray for a nice day so that we can go out, take a walk, and smell spring.
And, I THANK GOD FOR PRAYER.
I want to finish this little message with a thanks to our incredible JCC community. You have accepted this new virtual reality with an incredible energy. You have attended the programming we have provided. You have advised of people who were in need of help. You have helped other people. You have done what Jewish people do. You have taken this broken world and done so much to make it better. Kol Hakavod. Each of you is to be honored for how you have handled this crisis.
God-willing we will soon be at a beach service, seeing the ocean, smelling the salt air, hearing the birds and the waves, feeling the soft LBI sand, and singing Shabbat songs.
This week we have continued virtual services, virtual classes, and virtual visits. Indeed, it seems as if we have most things virtually covered.
Look for emails about continuing virtual programs and send me suggestions for what you would like.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and don't forget to wash, wash, wash your hands.
Praying for a Peaceful Shabbat and week to come - Rabbi Michael S. Jay