Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Grateful for attending daily services

Now that I am semi retired, I have decided to attend daily services in my community synagogue. Recently, that has included evening services as well. While this can be seen as a chore, I find it a reason for gratefulness in the following ways-I have the opportunity to pray as part of a community; there is every possibility that without my presence a full 'minyan'-a quorum of ten adult Jews necessary for the recitation of the Kaddish by those in mourning-a very important human need-could conceivably not be achieved; every now and then, as I peruse a holy book during the service, I encounter a word, phrase or explanation that adds enlightenement to my spiritual life. Last night I was exposed to a wonderful interpretation of the word-Shalom-peace.
In place of the afternoon prayer which this synagogue is unable to conduct, prior  to the evening service a selection of the Psalms is read followed by the Kaddish.The edition of the Psalms that is  used  is one with a new translation and commentary by  Martin Samuel Cohen- Our Heaven and Our Strength. We read Psalm 120
 and on the phrase-אני שלום- "I am personally peace myself "-the author  interpreted shalom as connected to the payment of debt-I confess I never thought of this way of thinking of the word shalom before, derived from the Hebrew "l'shalem," to pay. Rabbi Cohen went on to explain the sense of being at peace as "being quit of outstanding obligations towards God."
It occurred to me  that rather than feeling no longer in debt, the opposite is true regarding shalom-the notion of indebtedness to God- being grateful, is esential to the spiritual relationship with  God and with life. We are perennially in "debt" to God for the loan-rather the gift
of life and we fulfill our obligation, however inadequately, by being
grateful, praising God through prayer, study of Torah  and by way of doing מעשים טובים- sacred and noble deeds-what God wants of us!
To be at peace therefore entails a state of mind that is grateful for
the totality of life and recognizes God as the source of
everything-"מה אשיב ליהוה כל תגמולוהי עלי"-"How can I repay unto the Lord all His bountiful dealings with me?"(Psalms 116:12)