Our view of the Galile

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Jerusalem Morning- Chayei Sarah- 2010

Insights and Inspiration
 from the
 Holy Land

From Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
 “Your friend in Karmiel”
October 29th 2010 -Volume I, Issue 5– 14th of Cheshvan 5771

Parshat Vayeira

A Jerusalem Morning

It was a long day. It was meeting after meeting, running around Jerusalem by bus, cab and foot and then continuing my phone calls and meetings to the States until late into the night. I sunk in to my bed finally at about 2:00 AM. I closed my eyes and dozed off at my grandparent’s apartment in the heart of the Katamon section of Jerusalem….zzzzzzzz…
COCKADOODLE DOO SQUACK SQUACK COCKADOODLE DOO!!!  Huh? Where am I? Why is there a rooster crowing in my ear? Welcome to Jerusalem home of the greatest technology and innovations (which do include alarm clocks) and also the home of those who raise chickens in their backyard and are still living in a shtetl in Europe. Or those who still feel this entire country should be a kibbutz and one should never pay for eggs that chickens in your backyard can produce for free. I look out the window and I see the crack of dawn reflecting off the Jerusalem stone apartments around me. I look at my watch and it is Five-Oh –something- that is way too close to when I shut my eyes. But my friend out there on my ledge is not letting up. So I get on my clothes, pack up my stuff and start to head off to find a cab to take me to the Kotel, so I could pray my morning prayers at the holiest place on earth. While doing so I smile at my newest appreciation of that first morning blessing I recite each day but never recited in the literal sense.

Blessed are you Hashem….Who gives wisdom to the rooster to discern between night and day”
“Wise” rooster wasn’t necessarily the first adjective that came to my mind that morning. But as the morning went on and as I continued to pray I appreciated the beauty of my early morning prayer.

So there I am trying to hail a cab. I have begun to recite my prayers under my breath so I would be somewhat caught up when I got there. And sure enough a cab pulls right up. I interrupt my prayers and ask him to take me to the Western Wall. I notice though that he is mumbling something under his breath as well. Now in the States if your taxi driver is mumbling something you get out of the cab, thank him very much and leave quickly. But here in Israel you never know. As I listened I heard him reciting some morning prayers as well. And then the cool part. He pulled out a Kippa turned on the radio and the radio station started the recitation of the Shema, which my driver repeated word for word together with the early morning Drive time DJ. As he recited the verse
 “And these words shall be upon your heart… and you shall recite them when you dwell in your home and when you travel on the road.”

I wondered how many other taxi drivers were reciting the same thing. How many the rooster kicked out of bed.

I arrived at the Kotel, with the sun just rising over the mountain top I put on my Tallit and Teffilin closed my eyes and began to pray. There is no place better on earth to daven and there is no time better than when the entire world around you is being born anew. The rooster was right. It was time to get up. More than I needed my sleep, I needed to have my time alone communicating with my Creator; the truly only meeting that had the power to make all the other ones worthwhile.

This weeks Torah portion introduces some of the most poignant aspects of prayer. It begins with the story of Avraham’s wife Sarah passing away and his purchase of the cave of Machpela in Chevron, which until today is one of the most significant Jewish prayer hubs that we have. Our Patriarchs and Matriarchs (besides Rachel) are buried there. Although the Jews have access to the cave and most of the grave sites. Yitzchak’s grave is usually shared and for the most part inaccessible to the Jews except on the special occasions. I had the privilege to be there Sukkot when it was opened and it was a very moving moment. There was a quote on a curtain by the grave of Yitzchak that quotes this weeks Torah portion.

Vayeitzei Yitzchak Lasuach Basedeh- And Yitzchak went out  Lasuach in the field.

The various translations and commentaries have different explanations to what the word lasuach, which can mean converse, to stroll or meditate in the field refers to. The most common explanation quoted by Rashi from the Medrash and Talmud was that he was praying there. In fact the Talmud suggests that the afternoon prayer we have today of Mincha was established at that moment.  Yet it is interesting to note that the word Sicha, which is used, is one that seems to refer to a casual personal conversation, not necessarily the formal institutionalized prayer that many of us are accustomed to praying. Rabbi Avraham Schorr suggests that it was that new type of prayer that Yitzchak injected into the psyche of the world; the Prayer of the field.

Avraham who had established the Morning Prayer-Shacharit injected into the world a connection to Hashem as the God and Creator of the entire world. His prayer was in the morning when one stands in awe of the creation. Yitzchaks Prayer though, is in the afternoon. Generally it is at a time when one is busy at work or at home. It is in the middle of the field. It can be when one is driving a taxi. It is at that moment as well that one can and should relate to Hashem; To converse with Him. “Here’s how my day is going.” “Here’s what I still hope and long for.” “Here’s what I appreciate.” “There….is where I’d rather be... in Jerusalem with you redeemed.” Our prayers should be personal, those are the ones that are most special to Him.

The Klei Yakar a 16th century commentator points out that Yitzchak being a 40 year old unmarried man was certainly praying to find his bashert- his soulmate. And here, right after he started to pray, his prayers were immediately answered. This is to teach you that the prayers done in that special Yitzchak way are the ones that will be answered the quickest. They are the ones that Hashem waits and looks out for. They don’t even have to take a long time. As it seems that Yitzchaks didn’t. They just have to be heartfelt a feeling of you and Hashem alone. It’s a feeling that truly comes easiest here in Eretz Yisrael.

Finally it is interesting that the word chosen for the afternoon Prayer has the same letters as the word Menuchah –Restfulness.. How strange it is the busiest time of day. Yet its prayer alludes to one last secret of Jewish prayer. We need not stress. We have who to rely on. We work tirelessly because it is what we are meant to do but our rest break for Mincha tells us it will all be all right. It’s not all up to us. Hashem is there and part of the meeting as well. We just have to listen to the rooster, wake up from our sleep, or turn on the right spiritual radio station that will tap us in. And leave the rest up to him. He’s on the line right now.

Have a blessed Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
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