I’m not sure what spurred it, but this morning, during my davening (prayers), my mind wandered.
Maybe it was because I was in the midst of teaching a five-part series on “Chana and Prayer”. Or maybe it was simply the hope of stretching out the davening due to the list of tasks and chores that I knew awaited me once I concluded.
Whatever the case, my contemplation led me to some serious questioning about prayer. My mind wondered: Do my prayers have any significance or meaning? How could they? If You are truly the Master and Creator of all, as I had just mouthed from the siddur, why would You care for or need my humble expressions of my feelings toward You? How could the stream of words exiting my mouth, some with deliberation, some just stumbling carelessly out amidst thoughts of deadlines at work, an appointment I need to arrange, or the button that I need to sew on my daughter’s blouse, possibly be of worth to You?
With these thoughts, I concluded and began my work day. Soon I was working busily at my computer preparing a report that was due by the day’s end.
Though computers are an integral part of my life, I admit that I am not their fan. As much as computers help me, they never fail to frustrate me. And today was no exception.
I tried my best, but for some reason the internet connection was down. If I got lucky, I was able to get connected only to lose the connection moments later as the whole system crashed. I soon realized that with my lack of computer savvy, I was simply incapable of solving the problem on my own.
As frustration set in, I recalled once again my morning dilemma. To me, this was yet another proof substantiating my point. If getting connected to just another computer over a phone line required such expertise; if even the smallest problem such as a virus or a Java code that needed updating or a small glitch on the system could ruin the connection, all the more so a connection with You, Who is so infinitely apart and distant from me!
Maybe a “prayer expert” could create a connection without any interference problems, but what could I possibly accomplish?
Late that evening, I wearily dragged myself off to bed after a full day. My early morning question returned as I was about to recite the Shema. That was when I noticed something small on my pillow.
Lying haphazardly on my pillow was a small crumpled white sheet of paper with colorful markings. In the center was a huge, misshapen orange-crayoned heart. Inside the heart, in my seven year old daughter’s inimitable, partially legible handwriting were purple letters forming this message: DEAR MOM, I LUV U. THANKS FOR BENG MY MOM.
As I read those ten crayoned words, the question that gnawed at me all day dissolved.
Did I need this card? Of course not. Why, I had bought the paper and crayons myself and given them to my daughter. After several days, when my daughter wouldn’t notice, I would unobtrusively discard this card, just like I had with so many of her and her siblings’ cards from the past. I try to keep some of their cards in a small treasure chest on my dresser, but eventually they reach their final resting place in the trash because no one has room for so much clutter.
But at that moment, this card was more beautiful than the most precious painting. It didn’t bother me that the words were misshapen and spelled incorrectly. I didn’t care that the purple and orange color co-ordination was a clashing eyesore. Nor did I consider how much thought or care she put into it, or whether her behavior tomorrow would be in accordance with her fond message of love. Because, to me, none of those things mattered.
It meant the world to me that a little girl who loves to draw took out a minute of her day to scribble some tender words on a paper. Gazing at the little scrap of paper lying on my pillow filled me with a warmth that was beyond explanation. My daughter’s small note forged a bond of connection, appreciation and love that was stronger than any glitches and interference could possibly disrupt – despite her lack of expertise, foresight and artistry.
The next time I daven, I’ll picture my words forming an offering of beautifully crayoned words and pictures on a piece of crumpled white paper expressing deep love and longing to be connected with You. I’ll picture, as well, the large treasure chest that I am sure You must keep
overflowing with all our prayers – even our most simple verbal scribbles. I’ll imagine You taking the time to tenderly read through our cards formed from our tears, our innermost thoughts, hopes, wishes and gratitude.
I have no doubt that You keep and treasure each of our tiniest verbal offerings. After all, I’m sure You aren’t worried about clutter.
Chana Weisberg is the author of The Crown of Creation and The Feminine Soul. She is the dean of the Institute of Jewish Studies in Toronto and is a scholar in residence for www.askmoses.com. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s Weekly Magazine. Chana Weisberg lectures regularly on issues relating to women, relationships and mysticism and welcomes your comments or inquiries at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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