Thursday, March 5, 2009

And Moving Forward...

It seems that the comments in my previous blog were made prematurely. With what has gone on over this past week, now I can really say, "Its always something".

First of all, the toilet in our apartment had been leaking a little, and finally workmen were sent to deal with it. Instead of fixing the small crack, the workmen gave us a new toilet. Apparently, toilets in Israel do not come with seats, as we do not have one. Not only this, but when they gave us the new toilet, they didn't hook up the back correctly, and each time you flushed, a HUGE geyser shot out of the back toward the wall. Well, they came back to fix this today, and in the course of giving us a new tank, flooded the old tank out onto the floor, and under my roommate's bed.

Right now, I am sitting watch in my apartment because of the second thing that happened. At 2:15 am on the morning of my birthday, my apartment was woken up by someone banging and kicking our door, which eventually warped and came off of the hinges. Now, since the door doesn't lock when you want it to, and only locks when you close it (with no way to unlock it), I am sitting here to make sure that no one wanders in here and steals things. Both this event, and the previous toilet escapade, took place under a blanket of darkness, as our breaker box seems to enjoy tripping.

Today, seemingly unknown by many, another terrorist on a bulldozer attempted to crush a police car and a bus on a street which forms the edge of the park across from me. Because the park is large, it didn't happen near enough to impact things by me, but it happened none the less.

At times like this, when it seems like you can't make a turn without something going wrong, taking time to pull yourself out of everything and just relax and reflect is nice. This is something amazing about Judaism. Three times a day, once a week, and any time we strike a tune in our heads, we can escape the "physicality", remind ourselves that there's more to the story than we all see, and bring ourselves back to our center.

Each day, we are commanded to pray three times at specific times, and the sages gave us specific formats and words to use for these prayers. The times (early morning, afternoon, and night) operate to reinforce our strength and remind us of the greatness of Hakadosh Baruch Hu (the morning prayer serving to energize us and instruct us before we start our day, the afternoon prayer giving us a stopping point to reflect smack in the middle of the day, and the prayer at night allowing us to cleanse ourselves of the regular grabage we collect through living in Olam HaSheker).

The notion of tefillah (often translated as "prayer") in Judaism is completely devoted to "centering" the person who participates in the prayer. The verb form of the word generally used for prayer is reflexive, meaning that it has to do with the pray-er, not so much the pray-ee. The word itself does not connote the non-Jewish ideas of asking for things, pleading on behalf of this or that, and generally expressing personal desires. There is room for that in Judaism, but it is not the main purpose of the fixed "prayer". The word, instead, has to do with turning into ourselves, seeing what's going on, seeing where we are lacking, and reminding ourselves what the world is truly all about. We can see this time and again in the siddur (prayer book), which is made up of ordered verses from the Torah and teachings from the Mishna, as well as the Amidah, which is a central personal prayer composed by sages.

Each day, or more correctly, each time we pray, when we reach read these verses, we can see where we are holding in our own spirituality, and where we need work. "What did that just say? Do I really agree with that? What does it really mean? If I don't agree, what's lacking in me today that this statement doesn't click? If I do agree, what strides have I made to get to this point?" Reflecting before, during, and after praying, which was done extensively by the tzadikim in previous generations, really can increase our sense of self, and add to the meditation of tefillah so that we can better reach our goal.

Aside from tefillah, Shabbos offers a huge, 25-hour opportunity to step back from the stress and shallowness of everyday life and devote everything to reflection. When Shabbos begins, we immediately abandon the average in favor of the holy. Shabbos allows us to get back in touch with the Source and re-energize our souls. Forbidden from participating in countless weekday activities, we are free to truly get in touch with ourselves. With the wealth of Jewish songs, meditations, Tehillim (Psalms), and intensity in performing mitzvos, it is easy to carry this over into any moment where one needs to be centered. Simply humming a tune can move us from Brooklyn 2008 to Galicia 1850, and remind us that everything we do is connected forward and backward, showing us our place in whole of creation.

Many of us may not be at this point right now, but Judaism is all about growth. If we simply open a tiny part of ourselves to growth, it will spread across every area of our lives. Moving forward is what all of this is about; never believing the world when it screams how amazing you are, as the Gemara says. In an interesting quote which has shychus to a previous post, I read a great explanation as to what a Chusid is, and it is closely related to "moving forward". In a book by Rabbi Avraham Twersky, he records a small discussion between two Chasidim:

One Chusid turns to the other, "Who is a Chusid?"
"A Chusid," the other replied, "is someone who wants to be a Chusid."
"But who wouldn't want to be a Chusid?" asked the first.
The second Chusid replied, "Someone who already thinks he is a Chusid."

1 comment:

  1. I so enjoyed this entry humor and words of thought at the same time. The everyday events and the way we handle those events has alot to say about who we are. We can take them in stride learn and grow and move on. They are only material events, but the most important thing is the growth we get from the everyday events.Thanks for the words of thought. Be safe and Peace MOM