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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Who deserves the Credit for the Good we get?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 2, 2007


I get a lot of thinking and inspiration from the guys and gals over at De-Conversion – they have the most spiritual and human discussions I have come across in a very long time – somehow they strike me as very Jewish in their approach (sorry Guys, but you do…:-) ).

 

From De-Conversion:“Next time you have the opportunity to pray over a meal, thank those who deserve to be thanked. In fact, next time you have an opportunity, volunteer to pray.”

Funny, I did this very thing before eating supper earlier this evening. I sometimes get a little overwhelmed with gratitude when I consider my marraige. My wife has been a marvel of patience and understanding to me, especially during this sometimes very stressful time of leaving my Christian faith. She really is the best.

I sometimes get the overwhelming urge to show gratitude, to thank someone or something for my good blessings! As a Christian, I always thanked God for those many blessings, because i really have been most fortunate. This evening, I felt this vestigial urge, even as a non-Christian, to say a prayer of gratitude.

Instead of thanking God for the food, I turned to my wife and thanked her. I feel just as blessed as ever.

I think we can learn a lot from the discussions on de-conversion – because these people are right – why exclude the entire process involved in all we get in our lives? Most of us thank G-d by route, without really thinking that for things to be available to us, human hands have to be involved.

 

The surgeon competently completing a complicated operation is doing that based on skills, talents, inclinations, and hard work – from my point of view ultimately G-d is responsible for all of that – but it took the listening to his/her personality (G-d’s Voice?) to step up and get the education that made him/her the competent surgeon, and for this he/she deserves credit.

 

Torah Teaches us that G-d is the Ultimate Source of everything, so in the end it really doesn’t matter who we thank for our good – G-d or the people involved in the process of that good. But as the Blogger above that I quoted, HeIsSailing, says – some times gratitude can be overwhelming, and we need to express it – so let’s do that, which ever way we feel is appropriate. From where I am standing it gets to the right place in either case.

 

The Talmudic Sages teach that a Frum Jew should say at least 100 Blessings a day – perhaps they were trying to convey the spiritual (not religious) truth that gratitude begets gratitude:

 

“Rabbi Meir said, ‘A person is obligated to bless 100 blessing every day, as the Torah says: ‘Now Israel, what does God ask from you, but only to fear Hashem your God, to go in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Hashem your God, with all of your heart and with all of your soul. To guard the commands of Hashem and His statutes which I command you today, for your good.” (Deut. 10:12,13)

“Baruch ata adonai eloheinu, melech ha-olam hamotzi lechem haaretz… (Blessed are you, L-rd Our G-d, Who bring bread from the Earth.)” – the Jewish Blessing over Bread – can basically be used for any meal as long as there is bread (or any other grain product) present.

 

Funnily enough, the idea that it’s a process and that PEOPLE are involved – from the farmer to the baker and the cook – is implicit in Jewish Thought.

 

Acknowledging the efforts of a Woman in the Home is also a matter that is self-evident in Judaism. On Friday Night (Erev Shabbat) before the Shabbat Dinner a Jewish Husband is obligated to read Proverbs 31:10-31:

 

“A woman of valor, who can find? Far beyond pearls is her value.
Her husband’s heart trusts in her and he shall lack no fortune.
She repays his good, but never his harm, all the days of her life.
She seeks out wool and linen, and her hands work willingly,
She is like a merchant’s ships; from afar she brings her sustenance.
She rises while it is still nighttime, and gives food to her household and a ration to her maids.
She considers a field and buys it; from the fruit of her handiwork she plants a vineyard.
She girds her loins with might and strengthens her arms.
She senses that her enterprise is good, so her lamp is not extinguished at night.
She puts her hand to the distaff, and her palms support the spindle.
She spreads out her palm to the poor and extends her hands to the destitute.
She fears not snow for her household, for her entire household is clothed with scarlet wool.
Bedspreads she makes herself; linen and purple wool are her clothing.
Well-known at the gates is her husband as he sits with the elders of the land.
Garments she makes and sells, and she delivers a belt to the peddler.
Strength and splendor are her clothing, and smilingly she awaits her last day.
She opens her mouth with Wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She anticipates the needs of her household, and the bread of idleness, she does not eat.
Her children rise and celebrate her; and her husband, he praises her:
“Many daughters have attained valor, but you have surpassed them all.”
False is grace, and vain is beauty; a God-fearing woman, she should be praised.
Give her the fruit of her hands, and she will be praised at the gates by her very own deeds.”

Although it’s an obligation to give this thanks to one’s Wife on Shabbat Evening – no-one says one cannot say it every day, or when one wants to tell one’s Wife that what she does is appreciated.

 

So, thanking people doesn’t take away from either Gratitude or G-d. Perhaps it even deepens our understanding of the complicated processes that are behind of what we eat, what we wear, where we live etc?

 

“Oh and if you’re interested in taking up the tradition of reciting 100 Blessings a day, here’s a nifty little Reform resource to help get you started.”

Thank you TikkunGer.com for providing that little tool – I will use it as soon as my printer has ink in it…

Posted in 100 Blessings, Blessings, Informed Choice, Jewish Prayer, Jewish Spirituality, Judaism, Leaflet, Living Jewishly, On G-D, Prayer, Reform, Reform Resource | 4 Comments »

“G-d – Imaginary Friend for Grown-Ups?”

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 1, 2007


I was looking through my Favorite Blogs on Technocrati, and came across dC – de-conversion where Roopster blogged on G-d being an Imaginary Friend for Grown-Ups. I was so impressed and inspired by his (her?) Blog Entry, that I just had to Blog on his (her?) Blog…you know the way Bloggers usually do. This lead me to two other Blog Entries, both on the matter of Prayer. I have to hand it to you guys on De-Conversion – you are honest, diligent and extremely spiritual – if religious people took their relationship with G-d (or lack thereof) as seriously as you do, we would have a far better world than we have.

From God: An imaginary friend for grown-ups?

Have you ever had a conversation with God? Have you ever heard his voice? There was a time when I would have absolutely answered these questions in the affirmative. After all, modern day Christianity is all about having a “personal relationship” with God. As with all good relationships, this relationship includes regular communication.

In reflecting on my past relationship with God, I have to ask- How is this any different than my daughter’s relationship with her imaginary friend? I recall listening to long conversations between her and “Digget.” Well, the most obvious difference is I am an intelligent adult who can use logic and reason- and she was three. Needless to say, now as a teenager, she no longer talks to Digget.

From What’s the Point with Prayer?

Why pray to an omniscient god? After all, it by definition knows whatever you’re about to say already. There is absolutely nothing you can tell an omniscient god. There is no point in communicating your desires to it, because it knows already, even before you yourself are aware of them.

From Prayer: Communion with yourself

However, as my life moved on and as I learned more about the philosophical problems posed by such a transcendent Deity and by the differing “Gods” offered us by scriptures and by theologians, I began to doubt not only the efficacy of prayer but even the very concept of “prayer.”

My devotion time changed from simply receiving pre-chewed information from Christian sources into a rich time of personal thought, journaling, and a more careful selection of reading material, ones from a vast variety of sources, not just from Christian ones. Once I abandoned those preconceived notions about how we are supposed to pray, I began to trust myself again and realized that I had never really taken it too seriously from the beginning. In fact, I don’t claim to ever have communed with “God,” but I got to know myself pretty well! I think THAT alone is what scares Christian leaders the most.

Ever since I joined a 12 step Program back in the 90’s, the idea of “G-d as we understood Him…” has been one of my lead themes. I still remember when I was having trouble with my image of G-d – having spent most of my adolescence in a charismatic branch of Xtianism, I was badly damaged, as you can imagine – and my image of G-d, or “A Higher Power” was dark and vengeful. Anyway I sat in a meeting and was just meditating on the Topic, when I had this cartoony like (I often see life in cartoons before my inner eye) image of a Big Burly Leatherman (Tom of Finland style) on a Harley coming at me – crashing through a thick brick-wall. On his leather cap the word “Bear” stood out in white. At closer analysis of this image, I realized that the image fit very well with my Inner Kids’ need for a Big Brother they could take with them everywhere. Someone that would definitely be able to defend them if they were in trouble.

For several years I called my Higher Power “Bear”. I still do at times, and I still see that Burly Guy on a Harley when I am really scared. Talk about Imaginary Friend for Grown-Ups…:-)

So what is the purpose of Prayer – if G-d (or Bear) already knows everything I am going to say? For starters – G-d is not Co-Dependent. He isn’t mind-reading us (that would be extremely unethical). One of the things we humans seem to have big trouble with is asking for help, admitting that there are actually things we cannot or do not know how to handle – practicing this skill on G-d (who won’t be offended) is a good way to start…

Then there is the matter of “Do we know what we need?” – sometimes prayer is actually discussing with ourselves to sort and crystallize things, so they become clearer to US, not to G-d (Bear). So that we know how to proceed in giving ourselves the best we can.

The last Blog entry quoted here illustrates this very well – Pagans call it “Grounding and Centering“, and that is essentially what Prayer is – whether it is directed at G-d (Bear) or just focused on “devotion time”, because we enjoy spending time with ourselves and our favorite books, music, journal.

“Prayer” is a tool for focusing, for centering ourselves, for unloading what troubles us or for simply being – the recipient is of less relevance.

I Pray Therefore I am

Posted in concept of prayer., devotion time, G-d, Imaginary Friend, Prayer, Religion | Leave a Comment »

 
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