I know the words of the service by heart,
but their meaning is frequently lost on me.
Prayer seems beyond my abilities.
I need the minyan
where my voice
is carried by others.
I need those voices
to strengthen my own,
which is plagued
with doubt, disbelief, and despair.
But there is a moment in every service
when the davening and singing cease
and there are no responsive readings
to guide the words of our mouths
and the meditations of our hearts.
Then, it is just me alone with my thoughts.
I ponder the vastness of the universe
and how God does not seem to care
about what happens to one collection
of cells and organs that are destined
to return to dust.
In that eerie silence,
I am gripped with an existential crisis.
I contemplate how T’filah calls out to Jews to find our better selves
even though there are no guarantees
about this world or the next.
T’filah forces us to reckon with hard truths:
We suffer from ailments and frustrations.
We often fail to live up to our best selves.
We are blind to opportunities to pursue justice.
We know that the ink that inscribes us
and our loved ones in the Book of Life
will fade over time.
While moments may seem eternal,
Our lives are all too fleeting
In the quiet before the Torah service,
I struggle to pray to a God
that I cannot understand
in a world that evades my comprehension.
Abraham called out
and God responded: Here I am.
When I call out in the silence,
I cannot hear God’s response.
In the quiet of the silent prayer, I reflect on how
I have been blessed:
I am thankful for the wealth of family and friends.
I am thankful for my body that allows me to feel the sunshine on my face.
I am thankful for this wonderful country that has fed my family and let us live in peace.
Despite my daily complaints,
those peaceful moments provide meaning and clarity
about just how lucky I am.
I also contemplate how so many lack
what I take for granted.
and then I pray for the strength
to join in the work of tikkun olam.
and the wisdom to learn how to
extend these blessings to all who seek them.
Richard Schur is a member of Temple Israel in Springfield, MO.