Tag Archives: Prayer

Pam’s Perspective: 4

21 Sep

As the holiest day of the Jewish year rolls around again, I find that I have a rocky relationship with God.  On Wednesday, Yom Kippur, we will sit in shul and say that today He decides who will live and who will die – but Penitence, Prayer and Charity avert the severe decree.  And I’ve got a problem with that.

The Jewish religion mandates praying 3 times a day; there is an opportunity each time to offer a prayer for someone’s health. So many people are praying for Martin – they ask for his Hebrew name, and the name of his mother, and they “add him to their list” (as some of them tell us) every day.  We are grateful for this; I think it is another facet of Judaism’s brilliance.  You pray for someone 3 times a day and so you think of him, you think of him so you call, or email, or visit.  Visiting the sick is one of the greatest mitzvot a Jew can perform – and it is tremendously supportive to the patient and his family.  So prayer is wonderful, and gives the supplicant a measure of (assumed) control.

But what of God, who receives the prayers?  Is He sitting there on high with a notebook, or an iPad, calculating whether the threshold of prayer has been passed or not, and He will show mercy?  Enough Shema Yisraels and He’ll add on another year?  People come up with strange and incredible manners in which we should appeal to God’s better nature: a friend’s son, studying in Yeshiva, told Martin to go into a small room and tell God, out loud, what he has done for God’s country.  Hmmm.  Does God not know? Has He forgotten?  Do I want to believe in a God like this?


Some of the more … ummm … ‘provocative’ Rabbis have their own take on tragedy.  When, many many years ago, a train ploughed into a bus full of schoolchildren on their way home from a class trip, killing over 20 kids, a Rabbi proclaimed it was because they didn’t keep Shabbat.  The same statement, from a different Rabbi, followed the disastrous crash of 2 air force helicopters, on their way to Lebanon.  When a bus load of Haredi children was blown up after that, resulting in the death of many innocent religious kids who did keep the Sabbath, the Rabbis said it was God’s will.

So it’s a win-win situation for God, I see: things go well, it’s because He’s answered your prayers, things go badly – well, it’s God’s will.  So many, many well-intentioned people are now telling me to trust in God – it’s all in His hands, it’s all from Above – I should be comforted in that.  Here’s the thing: it’s the opposite of comforting for me – I don’t want to believe that such a fickle God exists, and certainly not that I’m in His hands.  A line from King Lear leaps up each time I hear about praying to God: “As flies to wanton boys so are we to the Gods, / They kill us for their sport.” 

Oh dear.

But, you know what, I am desperate.  This year, as always, I’ll go to shul and beat my breast in penitence for the sins of eating and drinking (not waiting long enough for my Cadbury’s chocolate after my chicken), and for my foolish speech and wanton glance (though, for the life of me I can’t remember being wanton … but it’s best to be on the safe side); and we will give charity as we always do, and we will pray, oh how we will pray, for a better year for all.

And God, if you prove me wrong and show me that You are listening after all – well, I’ll even go into a small room and tell You, out loud, how much I love You.


Chatima tova[1] for to us all – to the House of Israel and all the other houses on God’s earth.



[1] May we be inscribed in the Book of Life