My Prayer today and Everyday

I just came from Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Interfaith Prayer Breakfast at the official LA Mayor’s residence, Getty House.  It is a beautiful grand home with a beautiful back yard and rose bushes and flowers and native Southern California planting.  But the colorful garb of the attendees today really made the back yard burst with beautiful hues.  Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Jews of all stripes, Episcopalians, Catholics, Presbyterians, Humanists, Religious Science, Kabbalists, Wiccans, Quakers, Buddhists of many different streams, African-Methodists, Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, Mormons, Adventists, Scientologists, Asian church leaders, Assembly of God ministers, Armenian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Maronite Christian, Evangelicals, Native American religion all were together this morning.  All dressed in a variety of robes, and mantels, collars, and kippot.

Los Angeles is truly a remarkable city.  This is the most diverse city in the world with more of the world’s religions and faith traditions represented here than anywhere.  In the over 35 years I have lived in Los Angeles, I have met so many different kind of people; some from every nation and heritage.  Representatives of many different faith groups were together today and prayed together today not only for our Mayor and his family, but our City of Angels, our State, our Nation and the world.

We all had a moment to rise and offer a prayer that began with ” I pray that…. ”

We were inspired by a message of hope and prayer from a African-American Christian pastor, a groundbreaking young Muslim woman leader, and a rabbi.  They each spoke from different traditions but their common message was about the dignity of humanity and how we must see the divine in each human being.  That was Mayor Garcetti’s prayer as well.

If we can spend an hour and a half here in Los Angeles, praying together and linking our hands with our common bonds, imagine what could be done if we exported that same spirit around the world.  That is my prayer for today and everyday.

What prayer will you say at Thanksgiving dinner?

Today is Thanksgiving here in the States.  It is a time for family and friends to gather around a festive holiday meal.  That meal, traditionally of Turkey, cranberries and some kind of potatoes will have hundreds of ethnic variations in addition to Traditional foods so often pictured.  My Vietnamese manicurist told me they prepare wonderful Pho for Thanksgiving in her home.  My Italian neighbors  always have spaghetti and sauce or a lasagna with their meal.  Our Ecuadorian friends serve Pupusas with turkey instead of pork!

At each of these holiday tables words of gratitude and thanks are given for the abundance God has bestowed upon them. It doesn’t matter whether they are persons of means or not.  Whether they are professionals or working class folks, Thanksgiving brings out into our consciousness that opportunity to give thanks for life itself !

So I know at my family’s table we will each take a moment to reflect on what we are grateful for in our lives. But we will also thank God in our ethnic/religious language as we recite the Motzi prayer and bless our children just like we do at the Shabbat table.

Give thanks-for whatever it is you have.  And let me know what prayer you will say at your Thanksgiving dinner.

A New Year Prayer for 5773

May the One who blessed our Ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, bless us as we enter the New Year.  As we gather to come before You, Holy Majesty, help us bring a whole heart to our prayers.  May we bring all that was good forward with us into the New Year and let go of all of that which polluted our souls.  Help us repent for our sins and purify our hearts and minds and hands so that we can walk righteous paths toward You.  Hear our Prayer Majestic Holy One and grant your atonement for all of our wrongdoings.

Bless our families and friends with sweetness, joy, prosperity and health. And remind us as this New Year begins, the celebration of Your creation, to care for our world and one another. As Your Torah teaches us “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself.”

וְסָלַחְתָּ לַעֲו‍ֹנֵנוּ וּלְחַטָּאתֵנוּ וּנְחַלְתָּנוּ

  Pardon our iniquity and our sins and take us for Your inheritance.

Exasperated Parenting

For all the exasperated parents of teenagers-me included here is a Shabbat prayer:

Dear God

Grant me patience, kindness and understanding.

Grant me patience, kindness and understanding.
When I am ready to lose my cool help me remember to count to ten and remember that little bundle I carried in those first few weeks.

Help me see in my teen the good even when they open up a mouth.

Help me to see in my teen our future even when I think they will never get out of high school.
Grant me O God wisdom, patience and strength.

Grant me O God wisdom, patience and strength.

Help me to remember that the solution is not yelling but talking.

Help me God to instill in my teen the values of Jewish life. Let every moment be a lesson. And let every hug convey my love.

Help me to stay awake to greet them when they come home at curfew.

Help me keep the conversation going so that she/he will really talk with me.

Teach me O God to give thanks no matter what.

And help me smile!

I give thanks for my teen-grateful for the opportunity to parent-grateful to guide her/him into the future.

 

A Prayer for Japan

The devastation in Japan is overwhelming.  My heart aches as the scenes of building rocking, flames reaching high into the heavens and the waters crash through fields far from the shoreline.  Please help the people of Japan.  You can donate to the Jewish Federations North American Japan Relief Efforts by clicking here.

Here is the prayer we recited this Shabbat at Kol Ami.

Psalm 114

1 When Israel came out of Egypt,
Jacob from a people of foreign tongue,
2 Judah became God’s sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.

3 The sea looked and fled,
the Jordan turned back;
4 the mountains leaped like rams,
the hills like lambs.

5 Why was it, sea, that you fled?
Why, Jordan, did you turn back?
6 Why, mountains, did you leap like rams,
you hills, like lambs?

7 Tremble, earth, at the presence of Adonai
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
8 who turned the rock into a pool,
the hard rock into springs of water.

A prayer for Japan and Libya

We pray on this Shabbat for the people of Japan. We pray for peace and safety and shelter. We pray that loved ones are found and lives are rebuilt.  Help the world unite in caring and faith and hope to reach across the Pacific to help this nation rebuild.

As the People of Libya rebel against oppression grant them the courage of their convictions-to seek a freedom that flows from You.

And teach us here in this place to have our wellsprings of compassion renewed and refilled by this Sabbath day. We beseech you Holy One to send your sheltering presence to the World.

 

A prayer for Rosh Chodesh and the Women of the Wall

Rosh Chodesh-the New Month- is this weekend.  It begins tonight and continues through Monday -the first of Kislev..

The Women of The Wall gather monthly on Rosh Chodesh to welcome the New Moon.  This is traditionally a day associated with women.  Tradition teaches it was a reward for resisting Aaron’s command to part with jewelry to make the Golden Calf.  The women resisted sin.

How sadly ironic that the Women of the Wall in efforts to pray and welcome a holy time associated with women resisting the greatest sin of the Jewish people, men, specifically the Chief Rabbinate and the Rabbi of the Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz  continue the sin of exclusion and misogyny.

Below is a prayer for Rosh Chodesh and a prayer for the Women of the Wall at this Rosh Chodesh Kislev.

Remember the month of Kislev is the month of Chanukah; A time of light, miracles, rededication of the Temple.  It is a month of Maccabean strength.  As you pray keep these intentions in your mind and heart.

Prayer for Women of the Wall

May it be your will, our God and God of our mothers and fathers, to bless this prayer group and all who pray within it: them, their families, and all that is theirs, together with all women’s prayer groups and all the women and girls of Your people Israel. Strengthen us and turn our hearts to serve You in truth, reverence, and love.

May our prayer be as desirable and acceptable before You as the prayers of our holy foremothers Sarah, Rivkah, Rahel, and Leah.

May our song ascend to Your Glorious Throne in holiness and purity, like the song of Miriam the Prophet and Devorah the Judge, and may it be as a pleasant savor and sweet incense before You.

And for our sisters, all the women and girls of Your people Israel: let us merit to see their joy and hear their voices raised before You in song and praise. May no woman or girl of Your people Israel or anywhere else in the world be silenced ever again. God of Justice, let us merit justice and salvation soon, for the sanctity of Your name and the restoration of Your world, as it is written: Zion will hear and be joyful, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, over Your judgments, O God. And as it is written: For Zion’s sake I will not be still and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be silent, until her righteousness comes forth like great light and her salvation like a torch aflame.

For Torah shall go forth from Zion and the word of God from Jerusalem. Amen, selah.

Prayer by Rahel Jaskow is from Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism’s Holy Site, copyright 2003 by Phyllis Chesler and Rivka Haut. Permission granted by Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock VT, www.jewishlights.com.

Toledot-the power of prayer

Parshat Toledot
Genesis 25:19-28:9
Rabbi Denise L. Eger

This week’s Torah portion, Parshat Toledot focuses on the second patriarch Isaac and his family life with Rebekkah and the birth of their two sons, Esau and Jacob.

In the adventures of Isaac we hear echoes of his father Abraham’s life. Abraham’s wife, Sarah is unable to conceive and yet later their prayers are answered by the angels who visit their tent. This is like Isaac and Rebekkah who “inquired of God” and God answers.
In Abraham’s life story there are two sons who struggle with each other; Isaac and his older brother Ishmael. In Isaac’s story, his twin sons struggle as early as in his wife’s womb-Esau and Jacob. There is a famine which causes Isaac to head toward Egypt and an encounter with the king there just as his father, Abraham and his mother Sarah went down to Egypt to escape a famine and had a strange encounter with the king there. In both stories parents are playing favorites with children as well as the younger son inheriting the blessing and birthright even if it is by some extraordinary means. So in Abraham’s story Isaac inherits the mantle of the family tribe and in Isaac’s story the younger son, Jacob inherits the family covenantal blessing.

In other words Isaac’s life story harkens back to that of his own father’s and his own story is played out through the life of his two sons.

In truth we are products of our own families. Their stories shape ours. Their beliefs and values go into forming our personalities and our character. We learn from example both what to do and what not to do! And sometimes it is only through years of therapy that we can break through certain repetitive cycles of harm.

But this week’s portion also offers us another powerful tool. That of is the tool of prayer. As I mentioned above, Isaac and Rebekkah pray to God for children. Both Isaac and Rebekkah use prayer as a vehicle to bring their sadness, anguish, disappointment and hopes to the foreground.

When we use prayer as a tool it can give us the strength and fortitude and courage we need to change our lives. Prayer and meditation can help us re-imagine the our own lives and help us reframe our stories. In Isaac and Rebekkah’s case their prayers were answered by God. And they became parents.

Many of us don’t know how to pray or what to pray. We get caught up in the Hebrew or “getting it right”. But look at Isaac’s prayer and Rebekkah’s they use the words of their own hearts. This is always acceptable . As it says in Talmud, Ta’anit. “Prayer is the service of the heart.”

Prayer and meditation can help us be in the right frame of mind and heart to help us make real change and give us the courage to face difficult times and struggles. Then perhaps we can assess when it is good to follow the stories of our families and when we ought to break free of them. Prayer is our hope that we can.