Tag Archives: davening

The Worlds Within Ourselves

??????????????????????????????????That’s when I noticed the rosary beads.

The woman next to me had them on her lap, running them through her fingers. Was she a nun? I didn’t want to violate the Code, so I couldn’t just turn and look. I also didn’t want to distract myself from my davening for too long. (How long is too long? I think it’s similar to the five-second rule for eating food you dropped on the floor – a moment is okay, after that you’re asking for trouble.)

Then I noticed the plastic divider in front of me, which separated us from the driver (affording him protection from spitballs, if nothing else). It was reflective, and I could see my seatmate perfectly well in it without having to turn.

She was middle-aged, dressed conservatively, her nondescript features notable only for the intensity of her expression, her lips moving in fervent prayer. Was she a nun on holiday, and thus out of her habit and habitat, or just a holy roller on her way to work? Was she even now praying for the return of Jerusalem to the Church’s hands? Had she noticed me with my siddur and added in a few prayers for the salvation of my soul? Or maybe its damnation! After all, she’d no doubt been taught that someone in my family had killed her Lord. Even though her Lord was actually someone in my family

-Eric Brand
“Peace on Earth in 30 Min., 45 with Traffic: Rosary beads, a yarmulke, and a lot of overthinking”
Aish.com

Eric Brand will never know how glad I am that he wrote this missive. Lately, I’ve been going through one or two challenges as far as how Jewish people see Christians. I haven’t experienced it as very complementary, to say the least.

On top of that, I’ve been musing about how my wife and children see my Christian faith. I’ve been taking a few conversations and a few cues and clues, and winding myself up quite a bit about what they mean. Maybe I’m right, but then again, like Mr. Brand, maybe I’m overthinking things.

A chance encounter on a public bus in New Jersey results in a Jewish man and a Catholic woman sitting next to each other. Both of them are praying, him with a siddur and her with rosary beads. Their religious orientations are unmistakable. While the “code” of riding public transportation from Jersey to New York forbids each of them from talking with or even looking at each other, what could they have been praying about?

That ticked me off. Was it right to stereotype and scapegoat me? Hadn’t my people suffered enough? Did I have to be subjected to this? I was just a guy on a bus!

I tried to go back to my siddur, but I could see those hands working the rosary beads out of the corner of my eye, and I could sense those lips going a mile a minute, spewing who knows what. Well, okay, lady, I thought, maybe this is a test from God to see if I have the right reaction! How about I throw in some prayers for your soul? How about we have a nice debate and pick apart your faulty theology?

I was mulling this over, thinking about a good opening crack, when I was struck by another thought. If I can see her, she can see me. And she can see me looking at her – and not davening. Better get those lips moving, buddy, you don’t want to give this religious nut a leg up on feeling superior.

I admire Brand’s transparency in describing his thoughts and feelings. I try to show that side of myself as well. What “teachable moment” might we inspire or intersect if we just write down what we think and feel about each other and let those words be accessible via the Internet? More than that, what can the writer learn in the writing?

I was still mouthing some words from the siddur when my brain re-engaged momentarily and focused on what I was reading. “God is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely.”

Oh, while there were two people in that seat, there were actually three “personalities” present. God had something to say to Brand and maybe to his Catholic traveling companion as well (we’ll never know what she was thinking during all this, alas).

“God is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely.”

jewish-christian-intermarriageI know the assumption in the text from the siddur is that “all who call upon Him” means “all Jewish people who call upon Him,” but if God’s House is really to be a house of prayer for all people, then all people aren’t just Jewish people. It’s everyone who “calls upon Him with sincerity.” What if the Catholic woman was calling upon God sincerely? Was God as close to her as He was to Brand? Is God close to all of us when we sincerely call upon Him? Is He as close to me, a Christian, when I pray as He is to a davening Jew?

We religious people make a lot of assumptions about God and we make a lot of assumptions about each other. It would have been a complete breach of public transportation etiquette for Brand to have introduced himself to his seat-mate and struck up a conversation with her about their faiths. But if that could have been accomplished, maybe his fears would have been allayed somewhat (or maybe not). One Catholic person commented on Brand’s column and this might help figure out what the woman on the bus could have been thinking:

As a Catholic, who reads aish.com, I can almost guarantee that very few of us are condemning anyone to hell. We are all G_d’s children.

While Brand never talked with the Catholic person next to him on the bus, God managed to get his attention in the pages of his siddur.

I know I’ve wondered if my Jewish wife feels at all threatened about me going to church and what that means about my attitude towards Jews, but I wish she’d believe that we’re all God’s children.

But more than my concerns about my wife’s fears about me, Brand taught me that my own imagination could well be creating a situation that isn’t real.

But I left the bus undaunted – even after Comb-Over stepped on my foot as he rushed to get to the escalator – with a smile on my face. Jewish tradition tells us we should consider the world as though it was created for each of us. Because each of us has a unique touch of godliness that gives the universe purpose.

But there’s another way to look at it. We each create the world for ourselves. Our perceptions, our attitudes, our thoughts produce the world around us every moment of our waking days. We see, hear, experience what we want, what we will. And in doing so, we affect all the other people busily creating their worlds.

That’s a big responsibility. I’m glad I was able to figure this out before the journey ended. Fortunately, there was traffic.

The world is still a big, bad, ugly place in many ways. There’s all kinds of trouble and troublesome people around. But we also create the world we live in. We can choose to be upset, anxious, or angry because we are choosing to imagine what people think and feel about us. We can choose to communicate or choose to be silent. And even if silent, we can choose how we consider the people in our lives, for good or for ill.

I’ve heard it said that an anxiety attack is a person’s response to an emergency that does not exist. It still feels real, but the only danger is the choice we’ve somehow (it’s not volitional) made inside. Perhaps my being a Christian isn’t the danger I’ve imagined it is to my wife and children. And if some Jewish people, including my friends, believe my faith is a problem, please talk to Eric Brand. Maybe my faith isn’t automatically against you. Maybe I love you.

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Who is Righteous?

goodly-tents-of-jacobHow goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places O Israel. As for me, through Your abundant kindness, I will enter Your House. I will prostrate myself toward Your Holy Sanctuary in awe of You. O HASHEM, I love the house where you dwell and the place where your glory resides. I will prostrate myself and bow, I will kneel before HASHEM my Maker. As for me, may my prayer to You HASHEM come at an opportune time; O God, in Your abundant kindness, answer me with the truth of Your salvation.

“Mah Tovu (How Good)”
-from the Siddur

This is the beginning of the Shacharit or morning prayers, said by Jewish people around the world at the beginning of each day.

I have a sad confession to make. I don’t pray in the morning very often. The first hour or so after I get up is dedicated to a cup of coffee, a glass of water, and slowly waking up in front of my computer. Oh sure, I recite the Modeh Ani upon awakening, but that takes only a few seconds and I’m still in bed when I make the blessing.

However, this morning my son wasn’t feeling well and frankly, neither was I, so we decided to skip the 5 a.m. visit to the gym. I could have noodled around on the web or even read a book, but I decided to pray.

I began with extemporaneous prayer and my mind scattered all over the place. I kept trying to focus it back, but that would last only a few seconds. I can certainly see the benefits of hitbodeut since it actually encourages “talking” to God as one talks passionately to a close companion, but for that, I’d need to be completely alone (I don’t want to wake my wife and daughter).

Then I remembered my siddur. I opened it up to the Shacharis/Morning Services section and began to read. And I began to pray.

I know that I previously expressed some hesitation and even trepidation at attending the recent First Fruits of Zion Shavuot Conference. I wondered if I really belonged in a “Jewish” worship context anymore (or if I ever did). I wondered why it didn’t feel like “home” anymore.

But praying, even somewhat briefly, with the siddur this morning did feel like home. I limited my prayers, trying to avoid those that overtly identified the person praying as Jewish, but I feel as if the pattern and rhythm of the siddur is almost calling to me.

After Mah Tovu, I prayed Adon Olam (all this is in English and I’m softly reciting, not singing), skipped the blessings of the Torah, and continued with the liturgy up to the Akeidah portion.

It’s not very long, actually.

But why don’t I do this every morning? I can’t say I don’t have the time, because I can find the time.

Then I was reminded of something else that happened at the conference.

I won’t go into too many details, but one person giving a presentation referenced another individual present and called him a tzadik. This was because the person being referenced is scrupulous in all the prayers, rituals, and traditions of observant Judaism. He refrains from all inappropriate forms of work on the Shabbat and festivals, observes each time of prayer, davening in Hebrew, and otherwise is diligently mindful of his duty to Hashem…

…even though he’s not Jewish.

That last part’s important because it brings up the question of whether or not observing Jewish religious practices makes a non-Jew more holy, more righteous, more “tzadik-like.” Particularly as a non-Jewish person involved in the Messianic Jewish movement, however tangentially, do the Jews and Gentiles in that movement consider me a failure for not following Jewish religious observances?

After a wave of guilt passed over me, I realized that some of the most righteous men I know are Christians who probably don’t pray one word in Hebrew. I’ve come to develop a great admiration particularly for a few of the men at the church I attend. I’ve learned some things about one specific individual that he’d never tell me himself, but that are completely consistent with how I experience him.

israel_prayingIf he were Jewish, I’d probably call him a tzadik. But what makes him such isn’t his “Jewish” observance, because as far as I know, he has none. What makes him such is that he is devoted to God in all of his ways, not only in prayer and worship, but in everything that he does.

How a life of righteousness looks, at least superficially, may be different depending on whether or not you’re a Christian or a Jew, but at the core, living a life that is pleasing to God should be the same regardless of who you are.

Jews pray and Christians pray. I remember my Pastor said that there were times in Israel when he was traveling with Jewish men. They would daven shacharit in a minyan and he would sit off to one side and silently pray, not intruding on them, but observing the holy time nonetheless. They all honored God and each other with their prayers and their devotion.

Jews give to charity and Christians give to charity. Jews visit the sick and Christians visit the sick. Jews feed the hungry and Christians feed the hungry. Jews gather together regularly to worship God and Christians gather together regularly to worship God.

Do you see what I’m getting at?

A “tzadik” isn’t just a Jewish righteous person, it’s any righteous person. Granted, the term itself is Jewish, but the concept behind it can be applied to any individual who seeks the will of God and then does the will of God.

I guess a Christian would use the word “saint” but I’m not quite sure it is an equivalent term exactly.

But the words used matter less than the life that’s lived. While in the example I cited above from the conference, one person acknowledged that another was a tzadik, but the recognition matters less than the life that’s lived, even if it is lived in obscurity so that no one knows.

But God knows.

God knows everything about the righteous and the unrighteous.

…as it is written:

“There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God.”

Romans 3:10-11 (NRSV)

There is no one who is righteous just because of who he is or what he does. Paul goes on in the same chapter to say that we are only righteous by faith. It is by faith that we seek God at all. It is by faith that we pray.

Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski writes an online “column” for Aish.com called Growing Each Day in which he begins with a quote from the Bible, Talmud, the Siddur, or some similar text. He then writes a brief commentary and finishes by applying the principle to his own life (and by inference, his readers are invited to apply it to their lives in order to “grow each day.”

Adapting his model to today’s “extra meditation:”

Today I shall…

…seek God each morning by turning to Him in prayer, so that my life will begin to conform to His will.

Good Shabbos.

110 days.

Experiencing Prayer

Rabbi DovBer, the Maggid of Mezeritch, used to pray at great length. Sometimes his prayers would take hours. Near Mezeritch there lived a learned man who, like the Maggid, also used to pray according to the kavanot (mystical intentions) taught by the holy Ari (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria) of Safed, but whose prayers did not take so long. When he heard about how much time the Maggid spent, he was perplexed, and wanted to know the reason. He decided to ask the Maggid himself.

Once a year this learned man, who also happened to be quite wealthy, would travel to the great fair in Leipzig. There he would invest some of his capital in merchandise, which he would then sell in his hometown upon his return at a good profit. He was able to live off the proceeds from these transactions for the rest of the year, while he devoted his time to Torah study and prayer. On his next such business trip, he made a point to pass through Mezeritch and stop there.

Witnessing for himself the Maggid’s lengthy prayers, he was amazed. At his first opportunity to speak privately to the Maggid, the wealthy scholar said, “I also pray according to the special mystical intentions taught by the holy Ari, yet I don’t find the necessity to extend my prayers for so long.”

Instead of answering directly, the Maggid expressed interest in how his guest made a living. The man explained how it was enough for him to travel once a year to Leipzig to invest in merchandise, which he then sold for a good profit in the area where he lived.

“But how do you know that you have made a profit?” inquired the Maggid.

“Simple. I enter all my capital expenditures and traveling expenses in my ledger, and subtract their sum from the total amount of income from sales. The remainder is my profit,” replied the merchant, wondering why the rebbe was so interested in the details of his business.

“But why,” the Maggid asked innocently, “do you waste all that time and money traveling to Leipzig and back? Why don’t you just write all the credit and debit figures down in your ledger and calculate your profits that way, without fuss?”

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed the merchant. “Is it possible to think that from writing numbers can come a profit without bothering to do anything else? Ha, ha, ha. Of course, you have to travel and buy and sell before the profit can be real, not just theoretical.”

“Well,” said the Maggid, “the kavanot are like merchandise: if they are not fully possessed in your mind and heart as if you were ‘there,’ it is like writing profit figures on a piece of paper without doing the business work. On the other hand, if you are firmly attached ‘there,’ you can then acquire some excellent ‘merchandise’ and make a handsome profit with the kavanot.

“But that,” concluded the Maggid to his astonished visitor, “requires extended time and investment in prayer.”

Translated/retold from Reshimas Devarim, vol. 4.
“The Prayer Business”
-Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles
Chabad.org

Man should ponder thoughtfully how great are the kindnesses of the Creator: Such a puny insignificant being, Man, can bring great delight to the “Greatest of all great”‘ of Whom it is written, “There is no delving into His greatness.” (Psalm 145:1) Man ought therefore always be inspired, and perform his avoda with an eager heart and spirit.

“Today’s Day”
Sunday, Kislev 8, 5704
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

I’m not really a “mystic” sort of guy. I enjoy reading (I don’t seriously study mysticism) mystic commentaries and texts because I find they work wonderfully as metaphors of moral and spiritual concepts and ideas. Mysticism is a very good way to tell stories about people and God, which is why I’m fond of the writings of the Chassidim and Chabad.

So try not to take the commentary about prayer I quoted above as if I think this is a literal truth, although for some, I imagine it is. I latched onto it mainly because it makes me think about prayer and what it’s supposed to mean. Hopefully, it’ll make you think more about prayer, too.

DaveningIn yesterday’s morning meditation, I spoke a bit about my use of the Modeh Ani and Bedtime Shema blessings in my own life. Prayer is difficult for me, at least lengthy prayer, because I find that so many random thoughts and emotions creep in when I’m trying to talk (and listen) to God. Since the Modeh Ani is fairly short and I recite it from memory, there isn’t time for anything else to interfere, and since I recite the ending portion of the Bedtime Shema from my siddur, the fact that I’m reading from text helps focus my thoughts and my intention.

I actually have been thinking more about prayer since I read a friend’s commentary on his own experiences recently:

Early this morning before my flight had left the gate, I was quietly (and discreetly) praying Birchot Hashachar (morning blessings) from my pocket siddur when suddenly the woman sitting next to me asked me, “What language is that?” “Hebrew,” I replied. “Oh, I thought it was Greek,” she said.

“Well, I actually know that, too,” I said, which then led into an extensive conversation that unfortunately I was too tired to engage in and, B”H, managed to escape shortly after takeoff by falling asleep for the duration of the flight. (A window seat and foam earplugs are always my best friends on a flight.) Then after landing, I went to the airport chapel to pray Shacharit. I must have prayed Shacharit there countless times while travelling, and I usually have the chapel all to myself. Sometimes other people enter the chapel for some quiet moments while I’m there and they see me wearing my tallit and tefillin, which I can only imagine how that might look to them if they’re unfamiliar with Judaism. Usually they only stay for 30 seconds—one minute at most—and then they promptly leave. (I can always sense their feelings of uncomfortability and awkwardness.)

However, this morning while I was donning my tefillin, a clean cut, black gentleman dressed in a suit and tie entered the chapel and sat down a few seats behind me. I politely said “Good morning” to him, then began quietly praying Pesukei d’Zimra and continued with my usual morning prayer routine as quietly and discreetly as possible. Amazingly, however, he actually stayed. A few minutes later, when I was between the Shma and Amidah, he began walking toward the exit, but then quickly turned around, boldly approached me, and asked me forthright, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?” I was a bit taken aback by his question and it took me a few seconds to process it. “Yes, I do,” I responded, although somewhat apprehensively. “Oh, praise the L-RD,” he said, and reached out to shake my hand. “Something in my heart told me to ask you that. I’ve heard of you guys. Yeshua Ha-ma-shee-ah?” “Yeshua Hamashiach,” I affirmed. And then he suddenly walked out with this big smile on his face while I was left there wondering what that was all about.

Depending on who you are and how and where you pray, you aren’t always praying alone and your prayer life may have some sort of impact on others. Of course, even when I prayed with a siddur, I rarely prayed in public (unless it was at a worship service where everyone was using a siddur), so I never had these sorts of encounters. But in reading the comments of my friend about his own experiences, I was reminded of the beauty of the Jewish prayers and how the early Jewish believers gathered daily to recite the prayers at Solomon’s colonnade at the Temple in Jerusalem.

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but last spring, when I was attending the First Fruits of Zion Shavuot Conference at Beth Immanuel Shabbath Fellowship in Hudson, Wisconsin, I had a wonderful experience. One morning, I arrived at the congregation early and was sitting in the main sanctuary waiting for services to begin. In the distance, I heard men davening Shacharit in Hebrew. I followed the sound into the library and discovered the men were praying together in an upper room. Not wishing to disturb them (and my Hebrew is more than abysmal), I chose to stand underneath the room and just listen.

If you’ve ever heard men praying the Hebrew prayers before, you know it is a beautiful sound and even without understanding all of the words (I’ve been around the prayers enough to be able to generally follow them), I felt myself transported in a sense, lifted up into the spirit of the prayer, and found myself drawing closer to God.

I don’t think you have to pray in Hebrew to draw closer to God, but there’s something about a minyan davening (not that I can qualify to pray with a minyan) that brings me into communion with God in a way I’ve never found when praying or singing hymns in a church.

Be that as it may, we are each responsible for our own prayer life and thus our relationship with God. And yet for me, prayer is one of the most difficult parts of my relationship with God. I receive great joy in reading the Bible and various commentaries and studies, but spending time alone with God is so difficult, again because my brain keeps getting in the way. I think that’s why I like praying with a siddur because it helps me focus my intention upon God and praising His Name. Praying “alone,” that is, without a siddur, allows the noise and static of my own thoughts to completely take over, and I find myself drowning in the sound that my brain generates rather than rising above my own existence and approaching the Creator.

When I go to church, we pray, but it somehow isn’t the same. When I go to Sunday school, we pray, but it’s not like we’re praying together. This too I think is one of the “weaknesses” of Protestantism.

I don’t really have an answer to my conundrum, but I think Rabbi DovBer has an answer that works, at least for some Jewish people (or people of faith), in that you have to invest in your prayers rather than just use praying as a “remote control” method of communication. Prayer requires time, discipline, and an investment of purpose. I haven’t attempted such a thing for a very long time. For me, Modeh Ani and the Bedtime Shema are a beginning, but unlike my friend, I haven’t extended myself to pray at set times, and particularly wouldn’t do so if I was in a public place such as an airport (and I didn’t even know airports had chapels).

Is my experience common or am I an oddball in his area of faith as well? What are your experiences like? Is anyone willing to share?

Grounded Prayers

The Chozeh of Lublin, zt”l, writes that prayer—even when it is thoughtless or lackluster—always has value. “In Arachin 23 we find that according to Beis Shammai— which is the way that things will be in the ultimate future—if something is declared hekdesh mistakenly, it is nevertheless consecrated. This alludes to the person who prays without any kavanah, whose mouth intones certain words but whose thoughts have boarded a very different train of thought. While prayer is compared to a sacrifice, this can be considered like sanctifying a sacrifice accidentally. In the future world, hekdesh declared erroneously is still holy. Despite its lack of perfection, it will still be precious when it is finally elevated on high.”

Nevertheless, prayers that are intoned without proper focus can sometimes take a very long time to ascend. The Baal Shem Tov, zt”l, once entered a shul with his disciples and immediately left. When asked why he refused to pray there, he gave a very strange explanation. “That shul is full of prayers.”

When he noticed that those with him were very confused by this reply he explained. “A shul should not be filled with Torah and tefilah, since these should ascend on high. It is only if the prayers were said in a very inferior manner that they remain below waiting for someone to elevate them.

On another occasion the Baal Shem Tov said, “Today I elevated prayers that have waited below for eighty years!”

The Tiferes Shlomo, zt”l, uses this story to explain another statement on today’s daf. “This is the deeper meaning of the statement of our sages that one who elevates his property is allowed to keep his tefillin. The word for tefillin…can also refer to prayers. The tefillos of one who sanctifies his property— meaning, one who nullifies himself and stops thinking about business during prayer—are elevated. This person who works to nullify himself as well as he can will be elevated.”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Accidental Hekdesh”
Arachin 23

I’ve talked about kavanah before. I’ve talked about what we bring to prayer and our struggles in prayer before. Yet this is something that I think is a common problem for many Christians and Jews. It’s difficult to disengage from our daily lives and to focus on being alone with God. Often, during prayer, I find that my thoughts have wandered and I am not so much praying to God as conducting an inventory the recent events in my life. I wonder if this is why the Master instructed his disciples to pray such a short prayer (Matthew 6:5-15). I can’t imagine there’d be much time in “the Lord’s prayer” to lose oneself in thought. But that’s just my opinion, of course.

However, we see from the Daf of Arachin 23 that perhaps even those prayers that are rooted in the mundane still have value and worth to God. I know this probably won’t make much sense to the Christians reading this “morning meditation” since Christianity doesn’t have such an elaborate set of thoughts and ideas woven around the concept of praying to God. For most people in the church, you pray in the name of Jesus, your prayer is heard by God, and that is that. In Judaism, the individual has a much more active and responsible role in prayer as part of the intricate and sometimes delicate relationship between a Jew and his Creator. I think that’s what attracts me to Jewish worship and study; the requirement that a person must be fully engaged and that what you do in worship and even in prayer matters. You’re not allowed to go on “automatic pilot” and expect that it doesn’t make a difference.

Are prayers grounded on earth when the proper kavanah is not attached and did men such as the Baal Shem Tov have the ability to release those prayers to Heaven after their lengthy “waiting period” in our realm? My tendency is to say “no”, but since the experience is subjective and completely mystical, there’s no way for me to know for sure. And yet, I find I don’t have to take a Hasidic Tale at face value and consider it a literal event in order to find value in its telling. Perhaps this story of the Baal Shem Tov and of synagogues already filled with “unascended” prayers can tell us something about our own prayers.

PleadI believe that God is aware of us in a very detailed and exquisite manner. I believe He is with us all of the time, not just with the human race as a whole and not even just with Christians or Jews as people groups and religious congregations as a whole, but with each and every one of us as individuals. How that works, I cannot say, but I believe it is true. God attended individually to such people as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Peter (and of course to Jesus, but that goes without saying). Why can’t He attend to you and me? That’s why we pray, isn’t it…so that God will hear us…you and me…as individuals?

We see in the Daf that while any prayer has value, the prayer that is directed with kavanah has greater value and it ascends to God. What this tale teaches me is that prayer is not only a mitzvah but a discipline. It isn’t just sitting around with a cup of coffee at the kitchen table “talking” to God, although that has value too, but it is a personal struggle with God as (and I’ve said this before) Jacob struggled with the angel (Genesis 32:22-32). If you enter a wrestling match or any “martial” encounter with another person and you are not completely focused on the “fight”, you will end up with your opponent handing your head to you. You will be battered and knocked to the mat with nothing but your bruises to show for the effort. While it is true that Jacob also came away from such an encounter with an injury, he also received a blessing. But he had to be fulling involved with the angel as we must be fully involved with God in prayer.

Prayer is a comfort and a mitzvah but it is also a discipline. Prayer can come in many forms including liturgical, spontaneous, and even hitbodeut. Prayer can even be a violent encounter with God but that encounter can show us so much, and in our encounter, our prayers can soar to the heights of Heaven. Or, if we let it, prayer can be passive and rote and leave a puddle of thoughts and feelings on the ground like the remains of yesterday’s rain. If we want our “rain” to ascend, we must provide the kavanah and give our prayer wings.