Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Prayer Doubts


Many years ago, when I was looking for my way into a religious life, I used to go crazy about certain ideas. I had forgotten about one particular episode but I suddenly remembered when I read some commentaries on the month of Elul this morning.

Especially some prayer content used to bother me in the past because I felt that I couldn't say certain sentences within some prayers. For instance the famous sentence in the morning prayer "Shacharit" when we thank G - d for having us created. Men usually say that they are grateful for not being created as a woman whereas women say that they are grateful of being created in the image of G - d.
Of course, it is upsetting and confusing when you look at the sentence men say. "Not being created as a woman" sounds like having a disease. I asked a few Rabbis and we females were told that a man is simply grateful not to be created as a woman because as a male he is able to do more Torah Mitzvot such as Tefillin or any Mitzvah not limited by time.

It is not strictly forbidden for a woman to put on Tefillin but today's custom is not to do so. However, a woman is time limited and thus free from many Mitzvot. At least those women with a family and children. There are "Mitzvot she Hazman Grama" and when a woman has to take care of her children, she cannot sit down and start praying all parts of the morning prayer. She cannot appear at the Synagogue due to feeding a baby, etc. This would be meant when a man is thanking G - d for not having him created as a woman.

I used to have many questions and was constantly searching for clarification. The problem was finding a, for me, sufficient answer.

It says that in the present month of Elul we Jews have to do "Cheshbon Nefesh". Go into ourselves, get aware of your sins and regret. In connection with the intention of trying to do everything better in the future. Nevertheless, "Cheshbon Nefesh" is not only reserved for the month of Elul but we have to be aware of our sins throughout the whole year.

It says in the Chabad book "Shaarei HaMoadim" that we cannot concentrate on all our sins every day because this may bother us to advance in finding a closer relationship to G - d. We cannot just think and regret but have to look forward and study Torah and actually do positive acts. The book refers to the "Kriat Shema - Bedtime Shema" we say every night before we go to sleep.
I remember the days when I was convinced that I would never ever say the first paragraph of the Bedtime Shema because I wasn't able to. When you pray something you should have in mind to keep it but who is able to forgive any person who has offended you during the day ? Many times I don't forgive such a person in the evening and I will not do so for a long time. Why then should I say so every day in the Bedtime Shema ? What I finally decided on my own was to leaving out the first paragraph.

Today, when I am forgetting the Bedtime Shema or fall asleep before, I do say the paragraph but still have my doubts because what I am saying is not always true.

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