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148http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2013/05/RabbiLyonsBlog-05_24_2013
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 05_24_2013
05/23/2013 07:00 AM Posted by:

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
May 24, 2013

 

                Open up your TaNaCh, your Hebrew Bible, to Numbers 12. It’s one of my favorite portions, because it begins with the familial conflict between Moses, Miriam and Aaron, and ends with the prayer that Moses offers on his sister’s behalf. To me, the prayer that Moses offers is one of the most beautiful in Torah. The conflict begins when Miriam and Aaron speak against their brother, Moses, “because of the Cushite woman he had married.” God punishes Miriam and Aaron. Miriam is “stricken with snow-white scales!” At first, Aaron pleads on her behalf to Moses:

 

“O my lord, account not to us the sin which we committed in our folly. Let her not be as a one dead, who emerges from his mother’s womb with half his flesh eaten away.” (Numbers 12:11-12)

 

Then, in the simplest of words, Moses turns to God and prays for his sister, “O God, pray heal her!” (Numbers 12:13). In Hebrew, the prayer is beautiful and alliterative, “El nah, r’fah nah lah!” The Hebrew is also poetic and simple. It makes its point. The English, while terse, also teaches us that prayer is not always about poetry. Sometimes, it’s about our gut reaction and direst needs. “Please God, heal her,” is the shortest and most demanding prayer in Torah. It’s remarkable in its brevity and its efficacy. Though Miriam is shut out of the camp for seven days to heal from her infirmity, the camp does not move on until Miriam returns to it safely and cleansed.

                The ease with which we can come to prayer is a stunning invitation that comes to us in adulthood. Far from the pews where we recited prayers by rote for our teachers when we were young, prayer is available to us in the pew, at home, in the hospital, and along the way. If we choose to use them, written prayers and services provide structure and focus that can be familiar and helpful. They are welcome because we recall them from memory and understand their purpose. But they are not and cannot be our sole source of prayers. Prayers of the heart or “Tefilat HaLev” are the prayers that grow out of our personal needs and our relationship with God. Sometimes, without knowing where else to turn, we utter what is in our hearts and souls. This is when, as it was for Moses, poetry isn’t required, only sincerity is needed.

                In words we are given in our prayerbooks and in words of our own hearts, God responds in kind to what we can offer. Life is ultimately what we make of it. As Shabbat nears and we wrestle with stubborn challenges that are unresolved, consider your own need to plead, to shout, and to pray to the One who hears prayer. Immediacy and honesty, without poetry, can reveal the struggle and helplessness. Pray for God’s presence to nurture and sustain, and to guide the hands of those who help in physical, emotional and spiritual healing. Pray for understanding and relief; and pray for peace.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

 

Excerpted from “God of Me: Imagining God throughout Your Lifetime” Rabbi David Lyon (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2011).

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