Never Caught is the biography of Ona Judge, Martha Washington’s personal slave, who successfully ran away and made her way to freedom. She says of her former mistress, “Mrs. Washington used to read prayers but I do not call that praying!”
As a Rabbi and Shaliakh Tzibbur for nearly half a century, this is a painful reminder of how true this is for so many of us! Properly trained, professional Shlikhei Tzibbur, who can sing and interpret Prayers, remind us all of how we might strive to reach G-d, and, in so doing, regain and reclaim a lost part of ourselves!
L’Hitpalel, To Pray (in Hebrew), is a reflexive verb. The Supreme Being may not need our Prayers, but (S)He needs us to Pray to raise our own self awareness!
I can barely stand going to Synagogue Services anymore! No matter which Branch of Judaism I attend, I almost exclusively encounter Rabbis or lay(wo)men leading Prayers—utterly devoid of any understanding or emotional commitment. I cannot blame them for this—they simply don’t know how! But I do hold all of us accountable for not saying, “This must STOP!”
When did it become acceptable for our collective public Tephillot to be said without any intention, direction, purpose, beauty or sense of wonder?
Have we totally forgotten the Words from Our Prophets:
“Ki Beiti, Beit Tephillah!”—“Therefore My House IS a House of Prayer!”