Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Elul 16, 5768

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
have mercy on me, answer me.
In your behalf my heart says:
"Seek my face!"
O Lord, I seek your face."
Psalms 27:7-8.

In Judaism some prayers, such as the Shema, should always be uttered aloud, and other prayer is silent, internal, like the silent Amidah in services. It is not for G-d's ears that prayer is aloud, but our own -- it focuses our own attention on our words, our plea, on our reaching out to touch the source of power, the divine.

One of the traditions of Judaism is that in the beginning G-d created the universe as a material container into which divine light and spirit were poured; but the material container could not contain the G-d's infinite divinity, and ruptured in a great cataclysm, creating the dispersed universe of space and matter that we know. But G-d's light and divinity clung to the shattered shards of the universe. Every molecule, every bit of matter in the Universe (including living beings) carry within the spark of divinity.

Our prayer goes out through that spark of the divine within us, and the answer comes back to us from that spark within. Notice how the Psalm says "In your behalf my heart says..." G-d speaks to us through our own heart, and through the hearts of others that carry that divine spark.

I think that there is no question that G-d hears us and has answers for us. What is questionable is whether or not we can hear that response that vibrates in all of nature, in all the people around us, and in ourselves. We seek G-d's face, yet it is all around us, just waiting to be recognized. Prayer is an opportunity to draw upon the power of the divine that will help us see and recognize G-d's face in all it's manifestations.


Qaro said...

That's so cool: "G-d speaks to us through our own heart, and through the hearts of others that carry that divine spark."

(Why is it not okay to include the o?)

Sue said...

Sorry its taken me solong to get back to you. About the "o". The Hebrew language does not have vowels in it, only consonants and a few "place holders." An example of a place holder is "alph" which is used to indicate the presence of a vowel sound at the beginning of a syllable, but doesn't indicate which vowel sound it is. In modern Hebrew texts the vowel sounds are indicated by little dots and dashes under the consonents. The vowel sound is presumed to follow the consonant (which is why alph is used as sort of a silent consonant to locate a vowel sound at the beginning of a word). In the time of Moses, after the exodus from Egypt, when Judaism became a structured religion, the name of G-d was only ever spoken by the high priest, and only on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and only in the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies. Knowledge of that name, and how it was pronounced was passed down from high priest to his successor. No one outside of that small group ever knew how the name was pronounced. (Like many cultures ancient Jews believed that there was power in knowing the true name of something/someone). When the first five books (the Torah or Law or books of Moses) were finally written down, there were no marks in the manuscript to tell people what the vowels were. In the Torah there are several different titles given to G-d. The most important of God's Names is the four-letter Name represented by the Hebrew letters Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei (YHVH). It is often referred to as the Ineffable Name, the Unutterable Name or the Distinctive Name. This is presumed to be the name uttered by the priest in the Holy of Holies, but no one knows for sure and no one knows what the vowels are that go with that. Other religions (such as Christianity) have made up vowels for that name such as Yahweh.
The site Judaism 101 explains that

"Jews do not casually write any Name of God. This practice does not come from the commandment not to take the Lord's Name in vain, as many suppose. In Jewish thought, that commandment refers solely to oath-taking, and is a prohibition against swearing by God's Name falsely or frivolously (the word normally translated as "in vain" literally means "for falsehood").
Judaism does not prohibit writing the Name of God per se; it prohibits only erasing or defacing a Name of God. However, observant Jews avoid writing any Name of God casually because of the risk that the written Name might later be defaced, obliterated or destroyed accidentally or by one who does not know better."
Probably more than you wanted to know!

Qaro said...

Thank you for the detailed answer! I always learn something from you!