I saw her at the morning minyan ,dressed in black, almost invisible. Her morning greeting was close to inaudible. It was the week of mourning, the shiva period, and she attended services to recite kaddish, the mourner's special expression of praise amidst sorrow.
I noticed how her lips moved carefully but quietly, like Hannah of the Bible, immersed in her devotion to the careful recitation of each word, without the latitude taken by others of slurring over or omitting words in their haste to complete their prayers quickly.
She lagged behind the others whose timetables trounced the poetry of prayer, changing the prayer from words of elevation to wheels of acceleration.
I had the distinct impression that would God reveal Herself at that moment declaring -" I do not exist!"-she would pay Him no heed but continue uttering the holy words as if each one contained the entire universe within its tiny scope.
I stopped my prayer for a moment, and as I gazed upon this image of simple devotion I was overcome by a subtle yet forceful feeling of envy-such faith, such simplicity, such devotion.
There was no trace of cynicism, doubt, anger, or philosophical misgivings. She prayed with utter conviction,each word a magnet that drew in her heart and soul.
I, by contrast, prayed beset by compromise-questions, doubts, feelings of God's elusive presence if not total concealment. Words of the prayer book were meant to analyze, to interpret, to free associate with; before me sat a woman stooped over her prayer book , a giant of humble and simple faith. In spite of my envy, I was grateful for the momentary awareness of such authentic faith. At least it served as a reminder that such faith was deeply recessed in all of us; our challenge would be to invite it back to our souls.