15 March 2009

A Little World

I started praying at home with a new siddur, one I bought in Jerusalem this summer. It's blue, with gold lettering on the outside (Know Before Whom You Stand--in Hebrew) and fits neatly in one hand.

It freed me up physically, and I found myself today gesticulating as I uttered certain phrases, something I don't ordinarily, and certainly not when leading services publicly, as the expectations of civility and decorum generally are called for--especially in Reform synagogues.

I found the experience to be, well, athletic. As opposed to say "mystical," or "petitionary," my motions had the sensation I can best liken to pounding a ball into a baseball glove or taking a few deliberate dribbles of a basketball before setting my feet to shoot a free throw.

I liked it.

The siddur also has no English, a deliberate decision I made in order to privilege the language of Hebrew prayer, in order to force myself to actively translate when coming across a word I don't know, as well as untether myself from translation, so that the experience of prayer as mantra or mediation can lead the way.

This is in distinction from what happens on a Friday or Saturday, when, as a public-rabbi-service leader, my role is teacher, facilitator, enabler of others. That's part of the job and I understand that. But as a person who really enjoys my spiritual practice, the home-based davenning, generally occurs in a totemic corner of our living room, becoming a spiritual home within my home.

On the Eastern wall are the following items:

A Mizrach (meaning "East," as in Jerusalem); a 19th century silver gelatin print of the Milwaukee waterfront; a Pilgrimage Certificate given to my grandparents in 1964 when they climbed Mt. Zion on their first and only trip to Israel: and, a kind of classic piece of Judaica--an elderly "religious" Jew praying at the Western Wall, bought by my grandmother-in-law when she first traveled to Israel in 1970.

It's my own private force-field past. Sometimes I lean against it for support. Other times I pound my fist into it, wanting to break through into the future (if not the present.)

And now with a lighter book in hand, unburdened by the English language, there is a singular focus.

Like a pitcher who sees only the catcher's glove. No hecklers, no cheers. Just the ball, a little world, being tossed back and forth.

1 comment:

M. said...

This inspires me. Thank you very much.