What do you pray for? 

What do you pray for?

Maybe you pray for good health for yourself and those you care about. Perhaps you pray for success or material blessings. Perhaps you pray for peace, the end of strife and struggle in our world. Or maybe you don’t pray for anything at all.

If asked what I pray for, I would reject the premise of the question. To my mind, the question shouldn’t be “What do you pray for?” because I don’t see Jewish prayer as a pathway to fulfilling needs and wishes. Of course, there are people, Jewish and not Jewish, who do hope for and even expect specific results from their prayers. I’m just not one of them.

Instead, I think the most relevant question is “Who do you pray with?”

crowdJewish prayer is about connecting. Through prayer, we connect with powerful and compelling ideas, most often expressed in poetry and metaphor, about the meaning of our lives and our purpose in this world. Through prayer, we connect with our people’s past and link ourselves, by means of a shared language and common values, to generations of Jews who have sought to continue the holy task of healing the world.

Jewish prayer invites us to connect with one another as human beings. I can pray by myself but, at least for me, praying alone is never very uplifting. But the experience of praying with a congregation has the potential to be exhilarating. Singing together and praying in each other’s presence create and sustain community, which is the great engine that propels us forward and makes it possible to keep the Jewish way of life vital and compelling.

At Oheb Shalom, we continue to seek deeply meaningful ways of praying together as a community. Introducing Shabbat Shelanu, meaning “Our Shabbat.” Don’t think of this as your typical Shabbat morning service. This is a prayer experience to inspire you with instrumental and vocal music, with Torah study and discussion. English meditations and readings alongside traditional Hebrew passages (and transliterations) will ensure the morning is accessible for all.

matt-turk-2Co-leading with me will be Matt Turk, a talented musician who plays guitar and mandolin. Matt is steeped in Jewish music and was trained by Pete Seeger. He brings to Oheb a soulful combination of teacher, worship leader, and mensch.

Will Shabbat Shelanu be different from the traditional Shabbat morning service that we share each week at Oheb Shalom? Yes, it will. It’s being offered out of a desire to innovate and experiment, to reach deeper within our connection to one another on Shabbat morning.

Shabbat Shelanu will happen four times this year, with the first on October 27th from 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM. (If you miss it, the other dates are December 1, January 12 and February 9.)

Remember, it’s not what you pray for, it’s who you pray with. Shabbat Shelanu invites us to connect to each other, to our community and to our tradition through music and energized singing. I hope you will be with us for this first initiative on October 27.

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