Saturday, August 3, 2013

Praying in English

For years, when I attended services, I followed along using the little Hebrew I knew.  Most of my praying in Hebrew was from memory, singing an old song I held in the depths of my brain.  Lately, I have been feeling like an imposter.  I don't know Hebrew and I try to manage both my frustration and sadness because I cannot understand what is happening when everyone is saying when they are praying.

Over the past year, I deepened my connection through meditation and by reading many of the stories of the Torah in English.  It was the only way that I  could learn what the weekly portion was about so that I can participate in our study sessions.  Following my morning Shabbat meditation, I found myself more  often walking into services to hear the Rabbi's sermon.

I needed to manage my discomfort while sitting in synagogue.  One day, I decided, even if I could read the Hebrew, I still didn't understand what I was singing, praying and reading.  It was that moment I decided while I was listening to the community sing and pray (which I love), I would follow along and pray and read in English.  I woke up that day to the beautiful translations of the Hebrew prayers.  For instance, the translation of the Amidah connects me to my ancestors by sharing G-d's love and commitment.

"Praised are You Adonai, our G-d and G-d of our ancestors, G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, great, mighty, awesome, exalted G-d who bestows lovingkindness, Creator of all.  Your remember the pious deeds of our ancestors and will send a redeemer to their children's children because of Your loving nature."

And later on,

"Your love sustains the living, Your great mercies give life to the dead.  Your support the falling, heal the ailing, free the fettered.  You keep Your faith with those who sleep in dust.  Whose power can compare with Yours? You are Master of life and death and deliverance."

As we come to the New Year, my commitment for this next year is to learn these prayers in English in order to understand the power of my own prayer.  I have always felt a deep and spiritual connection to G-d through Judaism.  Rather than feeling like the one who doesn't know or can't, I will embrace the prayers through the language I do know.  This experience has already made my Shabbat mornings richer and more meaningful.

Perhaps over time, I will continue to study Hebrew, but for now as my daughter told me a few weeks ago, "Mommy, you know the right amount."   I enter the synagogue with greater comfort and confidence.  I feel a part of the community and blessed to pray and learn with them.

1 comment:

  1. I'm right there with you. Despite reading and especially singing prayers, the English translation does add some needed perspective....ESPECIALLY in the weekly Torah portions where "Modern" Hebrew may not even succinctly capture the meaning of the Parsha.