Monday, 27 August 2012

Brachot. (Blessings)

As some of you may know, there are many blessings that are required to be said throughout the day, and there are extra blessings in addition.

There are blessings for almost everything. There are blessings for smelling something nice (Not required), to the daily Shema (Required), and everything in between. Some blessings are different for specific people, like women, men, Kohanim (Cohens or priests) or Levi'im.

Almost all of the necessary brachot (blessings) are found in a siddur (Prayer book). You can find this in any jewish book store. They are also available in english. For more depth in this subject, I suggest that those interested purchase an english-hebrew siddur. Also, a copy of "Understanding the Siddur" by Shirley Stern would be very helpful.

Warning: You do NOT have to say EVERYTHING in the siddur, every day.
Hopefully, soon I will be able, (God willing) to explain all of the blessings in depth with instruction.

But for now, a little story you may enjoy:

The young boy sat beside his parents in the synagogue. All around sat the members of the congregation- his friends, his parent's friends, and many others whom he did not know. All held their prayer books before their eyes and prayed the words of service.
But the young boy did not pray. He did not know the prayers. He had just begun to study at hebrew school. All he had learned so far were the letters of the hebrew alphabet- the alefbet.
The young boy longed to pray with the others. There was so much for which to thank God. There were joys and fears he wanted to share. There was love and gratitude he wanted to express. He knew that all these feelings were discussed in the prayers. If only he could pray with the others.
At last, the young boy could contain himself no longer. He began to pray silently to himself-not in the words of the prayer book, but in his own words.
"Oh, God," He prayed, "I would like to thank you for the beauty of this world I live in. I would like to tell you of my fears and joys. I would like to share my hopes and dreams. But I do not know the prayers. I only know the alefbet. But you know the prayers. God, please listen as I recite the alphabet, and please, won't you put the letters together into the proper words and prayers?"
And the boy began to recite silently, "Alef, Bet, Gimmel, Daled, Hay, Vav..."

This story explains a lot about Davening (Praying).
But first, let me explain. For someone who is just now, tuning into their relationship with God, I would not say that full prayer, everyday, is absolutely mandatory. Neither would most, if not all, Rabbis.
However, if you are religious, in a religious community, and you pray every day, 3 times a day (For a man) then I would say, you must pray.
This is a harsh statement to make. Why would I demand that this religious person prays? It's none of my business! And I agree, however, if someone were to ask me, I would say to pray.
A religious person who prays every day, why would he stop his daily prayers?
Possibly because of 2 different reasons. One, he is very upset at God for hardships in his life. Or two, he doesn't feel like it, he's lazy, he wants to sleep in.
Both are unacceptable.
When you have troubles in your life, why do you want to wallow around and feel miserable for yourself? There are people with worse out there! Not only should you be grateful for what good you have in your life, but for the bad also. Say "Thank you God for having my car towed!  I now don't have to pay for gas."

If you have troubles in your life, the worst thing to do is to stop praying, either from the siddur or from your own words (which are acceptable.)
I heard personally from Miriam Peretz, an amazing woman, who lost 2 sons during thier army service in Israel on separate occasions. She told us, that even through all the hardships, never stop praying to God. You can be as angry and upset at him as you want. But never stop praying.
I'll take this one step further. Tell God that he's a jerk. Tell him he's a bad friend. Tell him that he doesn't understand what you're going through and its so obvious that he doesn't care. While all of these are untrue, tell him this. He can take it. He'll understand and it will make you feel better. But never stop praying, because once you do, there's no hope.

Another important fact, you don't need to pray from the Siddur to have it considered as praying. Just talk as if you are two old friends. Remember, he knows everything about you. He loves you anyway.

In the movie Eat Pray Love, she prays to God for the first time and she says...
"So I decided to pray. To you know, God. And it was such a foreign concept to me, I swear, I almost started with, I'm a big fan of your work."

It's okay to feel uncomfortable in the beginning. It will be easier over time.

I will end this post with a bracha (A blessing) for everyone reading this.

May Hashem (God) grant you the Wisdom, Insight and Kavannah (With heartfelt intentions) to make the most of all your teffilot (Prayers).

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