Monday, September 29, 2008

To Speak With God

When I was little, there was a beautiful song we were taught in kindergarten about the shepherd boy who desired to pray but did not know the words. I can remember snatches of the tune (which was very sad and haunting), but not the name of the song. Here, however, is the story:
    The Baal Shem Tov was praying together with his students in a small Polish village. Through his spiritual vision, the Baal Shem Tov had detected that harsh heavenly judgments had been decreed against the Jewish people, and he and his students were trying with all the sincerity they could muster to cry out to G-d and implore Him to rescind these decrees and grant the Jews a year of blessing.

    This deep feeling took hold of all the inhabitants of the village and everyone opened his heart in deepfelt prayer.

    Among the inhabitants of the village was a simple shepherd boy. He did not know how to read; indeed, he could barely say the letters of the alef-beis, the Hebrew alphabet. As the intensity of feeling in the synagogue began to mount, he decided that he also wanted to pray. But he did not know how. He could not read the words of the prayer book or mimic the prayers of the other congregants. He opened the prayer book to the first page and began to recite the letters alef, beis, veis - reading the entire alphabet. He then called out to G-d: "This is all I can do. G-d, You know how the prayers should be pronounced. Please, arrange the letters in the proper way."

    This simple, genuine prayer resounded powerfully within the Heavenly court. G-d rescinded all the harsh decrees and granted the Jews blessing and good fortune.

    ~From here
When I go to talk to God, especially on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur or the other truly holy days of the year, I keep this story in my heart. God knows exactly what is in my heart and what I intend; He knows which sins I repent of and which ones I do not repent.

I learned that it is always best to be honest with God, honest in everything that you say to Him. He knows anyway, so I may as well be honest.

So God- if I do not repent properly, or cannot, then please help me to feel more of your Presence and Awe in the world- and your Fear, in place of your love and mercy- so that I would be urged to do so. And God, you are very compassionate and merciful in not treating me as a hypocrite if I repent of one sin and not the other, because you know that I try, and it is better to repent of one even if I cannot yet of the other.

I do not know the prayers, said the shepherd boy; I only have the alef beis. Please, will you arrange the letters to form the prayers, God?

I know the prayers, God, but I lack the heart to mean them and to feel your Fear upon me. Please, will you place your awe and dread upon me, so I will learn to serve you as I ought?

With honesty shall I approach you, and with honesty may I be forgiven, and if it is good in Your eyes, may I have a much happier year than the one that has just passed. And if it is not good in Your eyes to grant me that, may I have a very meaningful year from which I continue to learn, as You have blessed all my other years.

8 comments:

Uri said...

"You shall be happy!"-the Lord will state and accept your sincere prayers.

Shana tovah!

Aaron said...

Amen to all your wishes!

Have a sweet year!

AK said...

Shanah tovah. May you have a productive and a sweet year!

Anonymous said...

IIRC- "Hashem, Hashem, please help me now, I want to daven but I don't know how alef, bet, gimmel, daled and heh , please help me hashem, please show me the way."

KT
Joel Rich

Stern student said...

Chana,shanah tovah!
May it be an extra special one for you!
Thank you for your kindness,listening and all the help you gave me when I needed it the most.

a said...

Chana,may you have a happy New Year! May at least some of your important dreams come true! Hope your Rosh Hashanah is meaningful.
Take good care of yourself,unforgettable one.

ssecunda said...

Shana Tova, Chana! Another (probably better) version of the story is that the shepherd boy blows his whistle. You told the "toned down" litvishized version!

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Thank you for sharing that sweet tefillah with us.

Now I know what I've been meaning to say.