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The Gift Of Prayer

02/03/2017 12:36:04 PM


It has been said that the greatest gift you can give your child is a sibling. To which I like to add, that an even greater gift is to give them a few siblings!

Yet there is another great gift you can give your child, and it is the gift of Prayer.

Yesterday I attended a Siddur party at the Scheck Hillel Community School. A Siddur party is a celebration when a child receives their first Siddur and begins learning how to pray from it. The performance was delightful, as the six-year-old children sang, danced, and recited their lines proudly.

The children spoke about big ideas, such as 'talking to G-d', and 'arousing G-d's kindness and compassion'. Even though their lines were rehearsed, it was evident that they genuinely appreciated what they were saying, and that their eyes were lit up by the content of their script.

Prayer is more than just showing up to Shul, joining a minyan service, and getting through the pages of the liturgy. Prayer is also about taking a pause, reflecting on our lives, evaluating who we are and where we are headed, affirming that G-d is in charge, and learning how to allow our faith to guide and inspire our lives.

It's like a reality check, as we try to redefine our perception of what is real, important and true. That's what makes Prayer such an essential ingredient in life, because without Prayer we almost certainly will just go on living plainly, without direction or purpose. Prayer allows us to discover our deeper selves and to live to our fullest potential.

Nowadays, one of the biggest challenges facing many of us is the feeling of loneliness, and the lack of self-worth and purpose. Many of us ask ourselves silently, who am I among the 7 billion others in the universe? What’s the point of my life, and would it be so different if I never existed?

Once a week I have a study session with a dear friend. He is someone who works on himself, always trying to learn more and live better. He is also a connected with another mentor who teaches him how to meditate. A few weeks ago, I helped him resolve to put on Tefillin each day and to pray. The other day he shared with me a story. He was talking with his mentor, and he confessed to him that he wasn't adequately practicing the meditation exercises that the mentor had designed for him. He explained that his schedule was very tight, and that had also recently begun to lay tefillin and to pray each day. Not knowing that the mentor was Jewish, he was stunned by the mentor's response. "Well then you have indeed been meditating, because that's what tefillin and prayer are all about!"

Monday next week is the 10th of Shevat in the Jewish calendar. It marks the yahrtzeit of the Frierdike Rebbe, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, who passed in 1950, and the anniversary of the new leadership of his son in law, the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. During the 1980's, President Reagan proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow for a moment of silence in public schools, which could be used for prayer, reflection, and acknowledgement of G-d. The Rebbe was very vocal about the necessity of this initiative. Political opponents argued that it oversteps the Constitutional separation between Church & State. But the Rebbe addressed this concern, explaining that whilst the constitution bans endorsing any particular religion, it doesn’t ban facilitating the awareness of G-d. In fact, to the contrary, as Reagan pointed out, the founding fathers came to America to escape religious persecution, and they composed the constitution to safeguard the religious foundation of their new country. They certainly never intended that these clauses would themselves be interpreted to prevent religious expression. We are, as recorded in our Pledge of Allegiance, one Nation under G-d. The ability to have the freedom, know-how and ability, to spend silent moments in reflection about G-d and the purpose of our lives, is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. It is guaranteed to provide them with confidence, hope, self-esteem, happiness, purpose, humility, friendliness, and everything else we wished our children possessed.

One of the best ways to inculcate this gift within our children is to practice it ourselves. If we aren’t yet practicing prayer, we ought to consider beginning to do so. If we are already engaging in prayer, we ought to reevaluate the quality of our prayer, and if we treat it is the meditational, reflective, and spiritual experience it is designed to be.

Last week I was away with my family. Each morning I spent time with my children talking about and practicing prayer. I conducted a meditation session with them (it didn’t quite work for the toddler J). We closed our eyes, and I gave them things to think about, and questions to consider. Ultimately, I wanted to help them achieve inner silence, so they can hear themselves think and breath. When it was done, their reaction was priceless. They were calm, focused and thoughtful, and they seemed so happy and relieved that they were able feel this way.  

We owe it to ourselves, and to our children, to invest the time and energy to help us all live life the best we can, and in accordance with what we were created for.

Fri, December 3 2021 29 Kislev 5782