Thursday, April 29, 2010

Morning Queries

היום שלשים יום שהם ארבעה שבועות ושני ימים בעמר
Today is the thirtieth day, making four weeks and two days of the omer
גבורה שבהוד

A day of strength in a week of humility

My favorite section of prayer in the Shacharit - morning - service is at the beginning. Starting with the morning blessings, I then check in with my relationship with myself, with others, with God. There's a Shema, the opportunity to study a little Talmud, and a chance to pay homage to the teachers in my life. Then there's a psalm of thanks, and the section ends with mourner's kaddish, taking me from my personal prayers into support for those around me. I've been saying these prayers for ten years, yet I still feel the power of their words, as strong as the first time of realization.

In my first one-on-one meeting with Rabbi Lew at the start of my first Makor Or practice period in 2001, he asked me if I had any questions. I had none. He then asked if I had any answers. No to that as well. He told me that my questions were out there, that they would find me. I felt a bit lost, not knowing how that would happen. But like the thoughts that come up in meditation, I let it go while still keeping it in my memory. And my meditation into minyan practice continued.

By that time, I had been going to minyan for about three months and was used to going with the flow of the service, even if it was too fast for me to concentrate on the meaning of the prayers. But there were those moments when certain words and phrases would catch my mind, bringing my davening momentum to a stop as I contemplate their meaning. Soon after that meeting with Rabbi Lew, I had one of those moments. Saying the prayers right after the litany of morning blessings, these words leapt out to me, seemingly for the first time:
What are we? What are our lives? What is our loving-kindness? What is our righteousness? What is our salvation? What is our strength? What is our might? What shall we say before You . . . ?
I had found my questions--or, I should say, they found me. And they find me each morning, helping me start each day with mindfulness.

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