osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

My davening heresy, or How my bitter resentment of tefillah brings me closer to God

One may look at this as a heresy or as an application of making the yetzer harah (evil inclination) serve the yetzer hatov (positive inclination). Along the way, I shall muse a bit about my own feelings on spirtuality and what I see as so wrong with modern spirtuality.

I've davened, prayed that is, the three traditional prayers since I've been old enough to do so. I generally enjoy the opportunity and try to make the most of it. I really, really hate when people talk to me during davening (or even talk loudly in davening). I have always regarded davening as an opportunity to check back with God and review Jewish philosophy in an nutshell. Having had the benefit of Rabbi Wolgemuth's Beiur Hatifillah (explanation of prayer) class in high school, I have taken the opportunity of prayer to appreciate the subtlties of expression and overall philosophy of our people. (Or, as Fatlefty observed in one conversation "you know, for a people who have suffered as much as the Jews, you have an amazingly upbeat liturgy.")

But recently, I have been very very pressed for time. Especially in the morning, when I am late just about every day to pick up Julian for car pool. And that has been (until recently) because I couldn't actually start davening until 7 a.m. or so, which is the time I need to get Aaron up and get him moving (which gets harder all the time).

In the past few months, with the exception of Shabbos, I've come to bitterly resent the need to take time and daven. Even the few minutes for mincha in the afternoon is a burden. Never mind that half the time the phone rings or someone walks into my office. Maariv at the end of the day likewise. I finally get home, get dinner ready, get Aaron in bed, and before collapsing in a heap I need to spend five minutes telling God how wonderful he is? (Even Shabbos, with my need to supervise Aaron in shul and my exhaustion from the week, is not what it should be.)

This creates a dilemma for me personally. Resenting God is simply not an option. Which brings up one of my chief problems with much modern me-centered spirtuality. The whole notion that I get to judge God and His Commandments by my personal and limited perception is laughable to me. Aaron thinks I'm cruel when I don't give him ice cream for dessert, even when he asks nicely. And Aaron is a heck of a lot closer to my level of understanding of the universe and its consequences than I am to God.

Also, if I accept that God exists (which I will freely grant is not provable), I see no reason why the metaphysical laws He created are any less compelling than the physical. In that case, complaining about how what God has commanded leaves me unfullfilled has as much use as complaining that I love chocolate so much it is unfairn it makes me fat. Eating chocolate bars in unconstrained amounts will make me fat, no matter how much more happy and fulfilled I will feel as a consequence. Similarly, deciding to eliminate certain practices like prayer or resenting them because the "don't work for me right now" strikes me as about as useful for my spirtual development and movement in the metaphysical laws of the universe as my decision that I should be able to eat chocolate because it's yummy and not eating chocolate makes me unhappy.

Also, I concieve Judaism as having a different attitude toward God than either Christianity or Islam. It is summed up neatly in the High Holiday servise: "Behold, we stand before you like children and like slaves. If as children, show us mercy asa father to his children. If as slaves, then show mercy upon us as a master to his slaves."

Islam is all about obedience to allah. The entire purpose and goal is to be abd'Allah, the slave of Allah. To live under the shari'a is to live in accordance with the will of the Supreme Master of the Universe, done because it is the duty owed to the Master of the Universe from whom all good flows and who created (and creates) the Universe. The very idea that we should approach Allah, the Merciful, the Compasionate, as children do a father is an unbelievable arrogance (and no doubt part of what is wrong with Jews and Christians in the first place that caused them to fail in the Divine Mission relied by the prophets Musa and Jesus respectively).

Christians, OTOH, are all about the father-son thing. Even the most helfire and brimstone "Sinners in the Hands of an angry God" emphasize that it is God the father and his erring children. Yes, Christians should be soldiers (according to some sects) for Christ and seek to spread the word to all mankind, but that is because it is the allegiance and loyalty and devotion a child owes to a Father. God is love, in the Christian faith. The idea of Christians as slaves performing a loyalty owed to the Master of the Universe because it is his due rather than as an expression of love and duty owed a parent is at best weak, and generally absent.

We Jews are funny. We do both.

Which brings me back to me and davening. Not davening until I find a way to do it without resentment is out of the question. Resenting it is also out of the question. doing it mechnically in the hope of eventually getting it worked out is out of the question.

So I've decided to make the resentment work for me. I observe to myself that the ONLY possible reason for me to do this is because I love God and because I owe him due allegiance as Master of the Universe. It is an obesiance due Him as creator. Even at it's most mechanical, like saluting the flag, it becomes an fresh acknowledgement of His Lordship and a reminder that it is from Him that all blessings flow.

In fact, the more I resent it, the better I feel. After all, my 15 minutes in the morning is really proving to me how much I love God and how I must subordinate my will and my judgment to Him. I certainly don't do this out of fear of punishment. But the awe and gratitude I am required to feel compell me as assuredly as rejecting the shrimp at tonight's open reception at the muniwireless conference. My two minutes in the afternoon reaffirms that no matter how busy I am and how important I think my work is, it pales before what I owe God and can appreciate his Benificence once more, even as I am grinding my teeth over the fact that I need to do this.

All of which, I suppose, is why I like a challenging religion and find the touchy-feely stuff that passes for spirtuality these days about as useful as an exercise program that lets you stop if you break a sweat. I've been using that exercise program for years, and I see how effective it is.

While such caveats should not be necessary, all of this is simply as applicable for me. I've got no more right to say what works for other people (some of whom think all religious spirtuality is, at best, a waste of time, others of whom derive great satisfaction from things that make me scratch my head). But the essence of blogging is such random self-absorbed musings.

Off to daven marriv.

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