When I was a younger man, so much younger than today I never needed anybody’s help in any way because I could speak to G-d. I knew that I could because that is what I had been told. All I had to do was just think or say it and G-d would hear my words.
How simple, how easy, how I wish that sometimes that it had stayed that way. I don’t know when things changed for me but I think that it was just before or just after my Bar-Mitzvah. Maybe it was part of the awkward feelings associated with puberty and that time of life or maybe something else, I am not sure.
What I am sure of is that at some point davening became a task, a chore and something that my friends and I laughed about. Or should I add the few friends I had that were as involved in Judaism as I was. Many of them did the Bar-Mitzvah two step at their receptions and didn’t set foot in shul again or at least not more than two or three days a year. I’ll let you figure out which days those were.
So the few, the proud, the committed would go to minyan Saturday mornings and just as soon as possible sneak out so that we could talk. At one of our covert meetings on the shul playground someone found a ball and some cans and we began our own parody of the show Bowling for Dollars, only we called it Davening for Dollars.
This went on and off for weeks upon weeks, or maybe just a couple. The truth is that I cannot remember specific details other than feeling guilty about it and wondering where I could find kavanah, where could I find something to believe in.
The shammas at shul was a man named Gershon Gruen. He was a short man that we thought of as being cranky. Every time I read Torah he would stand just behind me and mutter the words along with me, or should I say that he was always one word slower than I was, so I had to really concentrate on the words to make sure that I didn’t make a mistake.
I later found out that this man had been forced during the war to walk through minefields as a sort of living minesweeper I mention it now because I some things about him make more sense.
In any case at some point following the Davening for dollars I lost all belief in G-d and prayer. It no longer made any sense at all and I was convinced that it was all a big sham. In a separate post I may spend some time discussing this, I haven’t decided yet.
What I can share with you now is that eventually I rediscovered my belief. It happened during my time in Jerusalem during the Summer of 1985, or maybe it was in Tzfat, or Eilat or when we escaped a forest fire prior to departing for Israel. If you asked me then I don’t think that I could have told you exactly when it returned, just that it did.
Davening is still a challenge for me. I still have trouble focusing, clearing my mind and getting into a place where I can concentrate on nothing else. I think that in part is why I like to daven outdoors in places that I find to be beautiful. It is easier to find that connection to return to that child like status where I think that G-d hears everything I say and that perhaps he/she even answers.
(Cross posted on The Jewish Connection)