Prayer Reflection

October 7, 20142 Comments

151d18aI stood at the lectern facing the ark, right under the skylight with the sun shining down on me. The congregation sat behind me.

I had not come here expecting to sing aloud. I was at the beginning of a leave of absence from my pulpit, grateful for my courage in taking that healing time to recharge, and my foresight to save the funds to facilitate it. This was my first time praying in a congregation since my leave began. It was Shavuot (Pentecost) and I relished the thought of not having to lead, of wrapping myself in my prayer shawl and creating my own personal space just for me to connect deeply with the Divine, the One who is always there for me and whose presence I have always felt no matter what. I came to pray in this particular congregation because it was the very first congregation I interned in seventeen years ago on my journey to the Cantorate, and I wanted to return to that sacred space.

The Rabbi spotted me there alone and came to ask if I would accept the honor of leading the congregation in the musaf (additional) service. Their Cantor was on a year-long sabbatical of her own. I hesitated. I really wanted to go deeply inside and touch the rawness of my exhaustion with my own personal prayer. My little voice said, “It’s only musaf, go ahead, say yes.” And so I did.

Musaf began. Standing under the skylight, I felt my feet rooted firmly on the ground, and I looked up, smiling as the sun shone down on me. Breathing deeply into the holy place in my chest, I felt my lungs fill with air and energy, and my spirit rise through my voice as it has so often on the pulpit, in the hospital rooms, and wherever else it has been needed. My voice rang out in perfect pitch to the Holy Blessing One. All my supplication, questioning, gratitude and joy came forth as I led the congregation in prayer, connecting my soul and theirs with the Divine, using the ancient melodies of my tribe.

Despite my exhaustion, my not knowing my next steps, and my having entered the sanctuary alone, yet seeking – now I was standing in the presence of grace, both seen and unseen. Sensing the journey that had started long before I first stood at this lectern, yet had become its first step, I knew that I was receiving an answer to the next steps in my journey. It was as if I were traveling along a continuum, coming closer and closer to my work and purpose in the world.

All is well. I can be at ease. I can trust that as long as I have the avenue of prayer to connect, it matters not where I stand in place and time. What truly counts is the secure knowledge that time is within me, and my prayer from deep within the recesses of my holy sacred space will speak and sing for me. Even when my prayer and its answer is silence.

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  1. Linda Chazan says:

    Exquisitely vulnerable in your reflection. Looking forward to reading your long awaited book.
    With love, Linda

  2. Charlotte says:

    Beautiful story of reflection.

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