To stand before G-d
And yet, to weep lonely and lowly
To exist as we are
Such that all people, and of course, us too, are the offering
But not for sacrifice
For to pray is to encounter and embrace the people and place we have been inhabiting this entire time.
(Poem by Devon Spier based on Talmud Bavli, Brachot 26b)
If you struggle to find a thread of relevance, let alone some semblance of meaning anchored in you and your own existence as a Jew or in Jewish community, know you are not only un-alone but that you are also existentially poised to pray.
Truth is, we all enter prayer as Abraham in his father’s idol shop. From the most ecstatic worshipper to the most uncomfortably unengaged, we stare at the vessel of prayer like a relic in our father’s house, unsure of what we should hold onto but desperately seeking to go deeper, to find out if there is something beyond the stone encasing.
Whether we attempt to totally pull the words apart or just hold on until the rote or rite is complete, we are, all of us, looking for something that starts from our own lives and pierces through the vessel to get to the heart and soul of our living-
To experience the power and the beauty of being seen in the midst of our own radical and transformative seeing.
Imagine if we prayed our un-praying precisely because we do not want to pray. Because despite the Jewish world’s best intentions, maybe we just aren’t meant to fit the script but rather to live bravely as we are, Jewish, and in the world.
Resistance is in our ancestry.
For all the stumbling, insecurity and outsiderdom of reluctant prophets and quieted women and fallen kings is not merely the stuff of sermons or some type of communal engagement appartus:
It is life pushing up against pretense, purpose fighting to be heard admist all the posturing and pageantry.
Weaving tradition’s stories of creativity, exhaustion, joy, pause, exploration and recovery, I invite you to experience my work as speaking the unspeakable about religion about religion, self and community:
By ‘un-Praying’ – letting our bodies, minds and souls exist just as they are, we free all the stories we have long buried deep, dropping all pretense to make our entire existence the instrument of greatest hopes and our desires.
And when we move from unearthing what is communally unacknowledged to acting in ways that are spiritually life-giving, just and necessary, the progression of our spirituality will lead to the repair of humankind.
And so, our task is to become human piyyutim (liturgical prayers); to make our lives the liturgy that answers the call of a moral universe. For as much as the Torah reflects our ancestors, the Torah is bittersweetly and substantively, us.