Congratulations, the winner of the Dainty Jewell’s Givaway is Golda Huthchinson! Golda, check your inbox for an email from me. :-)
This week I had a thought about prayer.
On Tueday afternoon, I was sitting by the pool talking to an old friend. She was asking about my son’s camp. I told her that we can email him, or send snail mail, but we’re not allowed to call him, and he’s only allowed to call twice during the month of camp. Wow, she said. “Can he email you back?” “Oh, no, they just print out the emails and give them to him, but he can’t respond,” I answered.
“Why do you email him, if he can’t email you back?” her grandson asked. And it got me thinking…”Why do we email him?”
Starting from the first Erev Shabbat that my son was away (he left on a Wednesday) I have taken a few minutes each day to drop him a short email telling him that I hope he’s having a nice time, and mostly telling him what’s going on with us. His younger sisters also send him a short email almost daily in which they tell him about their camp and what they’re up to.
But, again, “Why!?”
When I email my child I know he can’t answer back via a email. However, I feel totally connected to him, although he is miles away, and I can’t physically see him or feel his presence. And I know that when he reads my email he will feel connected to me. Yes, I know that he will read that email. Moreover, I also know that he will answer.
I realized how similar this is to our communication with G-d via prayer.
See, that Tuesday before leaving to the pool, I had received a handwritten letter from my son. He must have mailed it on Friday, Erev Shabbat.
After I read it, I noticed that amazingly in that short letter, which he wrote prior to receiving most of my emails, he pretty much addressed most everything I had mentioned throughout my emails.
Most of us are not privy to hear the voice of H”. Nevertheless, we talk to Him. We pray. We do it because we feel connected to Him through our prayers. Additionally, we know that although He may not answer in the same exact way that we addressed Him, He will answer.
But there’s something else that happens when I sit down to email my son. Since I know that he cannot email me back, I first think about what and how I am going to write. Instead of writing “Are you having a great time?” I’ll say, “I hope you’re having a great time.” Or instead of saying, “Do you like the food?” I’ll say, “I hope you like the food”, or “I saw hotdogs, fries, and pickles in the pictures. I bet you were so happy with that food.” I also watch how I express myself. Even if I miss him dearly, I will not say anything that makes him feel like his family can’t manage without him. Yes, he should know he is missed, but he should feel that in spite of that, we believe that he should be there, and that we trust he’s gaining a tremendous amount from this experience. More importantly, that we are excited, and happy for him.
Similarly, the word l’hitpalel (to pray) comes from the shoresh (root word) pll, which means to judge. Therefore, our Sages tell us that l’hitpalel could also be translated as “to judge oneself.” Ideally, when we pray, we make a self judgement. We should be cognizant of whether what we’re requesting from H” is the right thing and for the right reasons. This is how the act of prayer ultimately refines us as human beings.
My son will somehow answer all my short emails. Answers may come in different bits and pieces and different media. Some in the form of a letter, some via a short phone call, some in a late night chat over snack when he comes back, or the few days after he’s settled back at home. Not via email, but answers nonetheless.
Sometimes we get answers from G-d that are not in the affirmative; not what we wanted. (For more on this, read this post.) Similarly, there’s also the possibility that at some point my son’s answer to my emails is not what I had hoped for (i.e.”Mami, I want to go back home.”).
I email and I won’t hear back from him via email. Nonetheless, our relationship has grown from unidirectional communication, and hopefully, through it I have also become a better parent.
How do you feel about the act of prayer?
I wish you all a Shabbat Shalom!