We live in a time when too many people have forgotten how to speak to God, how to open their hearts, how to shed a tear, how to ask forgiveness, how to beg for
Religious people, those of heart and soul, search for various ways to thank God for life, health, happiness and success. My oldest friend, now deceased, son of one of the pioneers of Rishon Lezion, when asked how he was feeling he was fond of replying “Shevach l’Borai HaOlam”, praised be the Creator of the Universe.
Most Jews reply in the traditional way, “Baruch HaShem”, blessed be the Name of God.
In order to be different, unique, or just standing outside the group of fellow worshippers, my favorite is “Shevach l’Melech haKavod”, all praise to the King of Glory. Too many people fail to realize the biblical testimony that His mercy endureth forever.
There are, of course, the traditionally accepted ways of giving thanks. The very first thing that a Jew recites immediately upon awakening from a night’s sleep is the famous Modeh Ani prayer. “I give thanks unto Thee, O Living God, who has in mercy restored my soul unto my body”. Every small Jewish child is taught to recite that simple prayer of thanks as soon as he/she is old enough to understand.
Thanking God need never be restricted only to the formal prayers found in prayerbooks or holy writing. When I pass by a tree with blossoms or fragrant and colorful flowers, I simply say “thank you God for creating such beauty”.
When I sit on a park bench alone with my newspaper and watching small children running, playing, giggling, I recite in a whisper “thank you dear God for bringing happiness into the lives of these, Thy children”.
When I cuddle and caress my six year old female Israeli Canaan dog, I pray aloud that God may bless her with good health and increased years of life for bringing so much devotion and steadfast love into the heart of a very lonely old man. It cannot be forbidden to pray for an animal, a companion and faithful friend, for she too is a creation of the divine. She too, in God’s planning, preceded the creation of Adam and of his wife Eve, alone in the garden of Eden.
It is not because I am devoutly religious. I am not. It is, rather, because I am an observer of life, of seasons, of cold and of heat, of health and of lack of health. I find the words within my own heart and transfer them to my own lips. And my first prayer is that God will hear my prayers and will accept them, that they may find favor in His eyes.
I am a simple man. A simple Jew. A simple creation of the great Creator whose Glory must never be forgotten nor taken for granted. It costs nothing to praise God’s holy Name but the reward in return magnifies the life of he/she who speaks and the joy of He who hears and hopefully responds.
My friend Alba is a Christian woman born and educated in Cuba. Devoutly religious she attends worship services on a regular basis. Candle-makers would be left bankrupt without her lighting their candles in her silent prayer to God. A sip of Cuban rum may give her the additional strength to approach Him with her love. And she returns home rejoicing in the knowledge that God has heard her prayers and blesses her for the sanctity of her devotion. She is truly a child of God.
People find various ways of thanking God for His manifest blessings of restored life, good health, family devotion, inner peace and success in the work of their hands.
Jews are required to pray three times every day. Muslims are required to pray five times every day. Christians are obligated to attend a church service at least once a week.
And although worship is sacred, Jews are permitted to enter a mosque but are not permitted to enter a Trinitarian Christian church during a religious service.
The reason for the differentiation is found in the Hebrew bible which condemns idol worship or statues, crucifixes and crosses which are so visibly prominent in the Catholic and Orthodox churches, much less so, if at all, in the Protestant non-trinitarian churches.
Judaism and Islam are devoted to monotheistic worship without statues or images or pictures in their holy places of divine prayer.
Yet in spite of the theological differences which separate us, we are all joined by a common love for God the Creator.
Recently I was looking through the pages of an 1890 photo album of religious and holy places in Jerusalem and vicinity. I was not surprised to find a few photos which I had seen years before. They were photos of Jewish men and women, standing or sitting in front of the Kotel, the remains of the Western Wall of King Herod’s rebuilt Temple, praying together, worshipping together, weeping and wailing together (thus the original name of the Wailing Wall).
No separation between them. Only humble Jewish men and women who came to give thanks to God and to bless His holy Name.
What a tremendous difference now. Women and men are required to worship in segregated areas. Women must not be visible to men during worship. Their voices in chanting or praising must be kept low and should not be heard on the other side of the segregated area.
Woe be it to women who violate that tradition. They are met by rocks and plastic chairs being hurled at them by male worshippers on the other side.
The shame and disgrace of Israeli orthodox Judaism is a blemish upon the religion and upon those who hallow God’s Name. Where, in God’s Torah, is it written that Jewish men and women cannot pray together, cannot offer common thanks for common blessings?
The Israeli rabbinate does not reflect the ideas, ideals and beliefs of more than 90% of world Jewry. Israeli Jewry is ghetto Jewry and the walls of the ghetto have yet to be torn down. Something Israeli political leaders are afraid to do, fearing loss of votes from the orthodox and ultra-orthodox zealots.
King Solomon and the Shunamite woman would look upon it today in horror.
Giving thanks to God is a religious commandment and each one of us is obliged to find the way to direct our prayers and petitions to the Holy One “b’kol ha lev u’b’kol ha nefesh”… with all the heart and with all the soul.
Thanking God is a communication from us to Him. “Baruch Borai ha-olam”… blessed be the Creator of the Universe.
Or in my own personal and humble words “Shevach l’Melech haKavod”.. Praised be the King of Glory. I close my eyes, I dry my tears and I await with hope that He has found my petitions to be acceptable before Him.