Prayers Unanswered

בָּ֭עֶרֶב יָלִ֥ין בֶּ֗כִי וְלַבֹּ֥קֶר רִנָּֽה

Tears may linger when night falls, but joy arrives with the dawn. (Psalms 30:6)

My list of those in need of healing grows longer as the days get shorter. I wake up in the dark, sometime between 5:15 and 5:30 AM, and wonder at the Psalmist’s conviction. Each day I arrive at the same conclusion: these are the words of a morning person.

Since I’m not a morning person, I’ve developed a spiritual practice that helps me begin the day, if not with joy then, at least, with gratitude. As I savor the first sip of my morning coffee and open the Daf Yomi email from MyJewishLearning, I silently review the names of those on my personal prayer list. I dedicate these quiet moments of study to them and whisper a blessing.

How grateful I am to engage in the study of Torah. How hopeful I am to experience joy today.

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On Sunday mornings I usually log in to the South Philadelphia Shtiebel to study with Rabbanit Dasi Fructher, but this week I had to skip class to get on the road to Greensboro, GA, where I’d been invited to teach Adult Christian Education at The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. It was indeed a joy to facilitate a discussion of The Prayers of Isaac & Rebekah (Genesis 25:19-23). 

We took a deep dive into the language of verses 21 and 22, in which “Isaac pleaded to God for his wife” and Rebekah “went to inquire of God.” We examined the medieval commentaries of Rashi and Ibn Ezra, the modern commentaries of Richard Elliott Friedman and Ellen Frankel; shared our beliefs regarding our own petitionary and intercessionary prayers, discussed whether we are able to discern if they are answered or go unanswered. 

I began the hour with a blessing and a prayer for those I love who are suffering. I ended with words of gratitude to this beautiful and diverse community of faith.

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Every morning after reading the Daily Dose of Talmud, I conclude my ritual by checking the Quote of the Day at DailyGood: News that Inspires. This is how I set my intention to find compassion, gratitude, and joy in living. I view this as a kind of antidote to the barrage of bad news I know I will encounter throughout the day.

Yesterday I was inspired by the daily quote to read the full story of Ross Gay: Inciting Joy:

In his new book, the author writes about his “good fortune…to have had numerous and sustained conversations about joy.” He invites readers to see joy as available to us if we’re open to engaging with all of our entangled emotions and with each other. 

I’m reminded of the depth and breadth of emotion reflected in the poetry of the Psalms. 

I’m ready to fill my day with words of prayer.