Pray­ers you can say when times get tough

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Ro­main, ed­i­tor of a new col­lec­tion of pray­ers for everyday prob­lems, in­tro­duces some ex­am­ples by his col­leagues

The Jewish Chronicle - - Judaism -

THE PROB­LEM with Jewish prayer books is that they are full of the statu­tory pray­ers, such as the Ami­dah and Alenu. To be fair, that is their job. But most Jews come to syn­a­gogue with other mat­ters weigh­ing on t heir minds, whether busi­ness, fam­ily or health is­sues. It is to fill this vacuum that a book of spe­cially-writ­ten pray­ers has been pro­duced by the As­sem­bly of Re­form Rab­bis UK to cover spe­cific everyday sit­u­a­tions from mis­car­riage to bank­ruptcy, in­som­nia to re­tire­ment, sui­cide at­tempt to drug ad­dic­tion. They of­fer words to say when you don’t know what to say, or pray.


One of the most dif­fi­cult tasks we all face is to ad­mit that one is in the wrong and to look into the eyes of the yet­zer hara (evil in­cli­na­tion). To re­solve a quar­rel of­ten re­quires just that. We are taught that the great­est mitz­vah is mak­ing peace be­tween one per­son and an­other and do­ing teshu­vah. The words of the prayer that I com­posed be­low came to me at a time of great per­sonal strug­gle; they helped me to stay with God and not sur­ren­der to my anger. The words speak for any­one who has ever felt wounded and wanted to re­tal­i­ate. “I pray to You, O God, from this most con­fused place and I en­treat Your help in th­ese ter­ri­ble mo­ments. I feel hurt and an­gry and con­fused. I have felt at­tacked and have at­tacked back. Hurt­ful things have been said to me and I have said hurt­ful things back. I have needed to be right and I have let my anger run away with me.

“Some­times I have not lis­tened to what was said to me. I have wanted to hurt and I have wanted to pun­ish. I have needed to be right more than I have thought about the per­son with whom I quar­relled, and I have not al­ways been com­pletely true. It is very hard to speak to You be­cause I still feel th­ese ter­ri­ble feel­ings in my heart, but I strug­gle to pray now be­cause You are my sup­port.

“Help me to see through all this con­fu­sion and lis­ten to my­self and lis­ten to the one with whom I have quar­relled. Let that which can be healed, be healed and give us both the strength to be wrong. You know me, O God, for there is not a word on my tongue that You do not know.” RABBI DAVID FREE­MAN


PRAYER, LIKE PO­ETRY, can of­fer us a fresh per­spec­tive on life, a new an­gle of vi­sion. And there are cer­tain times in our life, par­tic­u­larly when fac­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, when we might need help in see­ing our cir­cum­stances in a dif­fer­ent, more op­ti­mistic, light. So, for ex­am­ple, dur­ing a pe­riod of un­em­ploy­ment — which can hap­pen to any of us, and is an im­me­di­ate and press­ing con­cern for so many — what are the words of en­cour­age­ment and sup­port that might lift our spir­its?

Firstly, we need to have an ac­knowl­edge­ment of the re­al­ity of our sit­u­a­tion: “ Now that I am without work I re­alise how much mean­ing it gave to my life. And how bereft I feel without its rou­tines and rit­u­als...”

In ad­di­tion, it felt im­por­tant to con­vey the idea that in Jewish thought, “work” has a larger mean­ing, a broader hori­zon, than for­mal em­ploy­ment alone. It refers too to our “work” here in the world as hu­man be­ings: “ No en­counter in our lives lacks hid­den sig­nif­i­cance: what­ever the frus­tra­tions we face, there are op­por­tu­ni­ties for do­ing Your work at ev­ery mo­ment of our lives. Our daily acts of kind­ness, of gen­eros­ity and care, bring You into the world. This too is work, avo­dah, the ser­vice of God.”

This prayer of­fers tra­di­tional be­liev­ers and mod­ern doubters alike a form of words that opens out the no­tion that, from a re­li­gious per­spec­tive, we can live lives filled with mean­ing, dig­nity and a sense of per­sonal value, in­de­pen­dent of how we earn a liv­ing. So the lines above con­clude with the thought: “The work of re­demp­tion is never com­plete. It is our task amidst the vi­cis­si­tudes of life, wo­ven into our days, while our search for em­ploy­ment goes on.” I hope the prayer can of­fer re­newed hope when times are tough. RABBI HOWARD COOPER


IT IS THE day for the chemo­ther­apy. You are re­lieved that some­thing, any­thing, can be done to fight the can­cer. But you are afraid of the chemo, afraid of the life-giv­ing, and life-de­stroy­ing, na­ture of the drug. You have to sit for some time watch­ing the medicine flow into your body. Both the ill­ness and the cure are now part of your body. You want com­fort, pro­tec­tion and hope. You want to fight, to sur­vive, to ask for help, to pray. The prayer be­low in­cor­po­rates sev­eral sources: friends who de­scribed their chemo ex­pe­ri­ences, tra­di­tional Jewish pray­ers for heal­ing, and pas­toral ex­pe­ri­ences of my­self and oth­ers. It in­cludes the pro­tec­tive im­agery of angels, who are fre­quent mes­sen­gers in the To­rah and are part of Kab­bal­as­tic mythol­ogy as well. They are sup­posed to sur­round us with strength and be a light guid­ing our way. I hope that this prayer will bring those who need it a feel­ing of be­ing sur­rounded by a cir­cle of God’s love and well-be­ing. “I sit here and I wait, while the medicine drips into my body. I am afraid, and I am hope­ful. May the medicine that has the power to heal or de­stroy be gen­tle within me. Give me strength over the next few days, weeks and months to en­dure the ef­fects of the drugs and ill­ness. While this dis­ease is part of my body, help me to feel pow­er­ful and in con­trol of how I live my life.

“Give me com­pas­sion for my doc­tors, nurses, car­ers and most of all for my own body. May I know that I am en­cir­cled by Your love. May the an­cient spirit of the angels Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael bring me a sense of Your pres­ence, strength, a light at the end of the tun­nel, heal­ing and hope.” RABBI MAR­CIA PLUMB

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