("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
Steve was what you would call a real renaissance man. On the one hand, he worked hard and was quite a successful investment banker. He could wheel and deal and crunch numbers with the best of them. He had an uncanny ability to pick stocks, analyze them and know which ones to buy, sell and short. He was really good at his job.
At the same time, Steve was not exactly married to his job. He was quite the conversationalist. He loved to read, to think and to converse. He sought out different people and shared their intellectual and cultural interests and pursuits. He loved life and the people in it. He loved sports and the comraderie of being a sports fan. There was almost nothing that Steve could not learn to love and do in life…
…Except be a Jew.
While technically born Jewish, Steve had been raised in a secular Jewish home. Success in the home that Steve grew up in was based not on the appreciation of HIS unique background but on how many ways he assimilated away from it and into American society. Steve grew up thinking that Tefilla, and Shul in general, were places to be avoided at all costs except when one’s loved one died.
That is, until Steve’s father died.
The one thing Steve remembered from his upbringing was his need to appear at services for something called a Kaddish. Steve didn’t know what to do during a Kaddish and certainly not how to say it. Still, he felt it was his duty as a son to go to Shul, at least weekly, and try the Kaddish thing. Weekly, (and weakly) he went to Shul and as the others stood to recite Kaddish he would fake it. He would shukle and mumble when those around him did. He moved as they did – three steps back toward the end and three forward in conclusion. He thought he was getting the steps down in the same way he had done so in Hebrew school prior to his bar mitzvah.
As he was sleeping one night he dreamed that that he saw his father. “Steve” he thought his father said, “ I appreciate what you are trying to do but up here they keep telling me that it cannot help because they don’t know what you are saying.”
Steve woke with a start and slowly fell back asleep. Again he had a similar dream “Steve, up here they don’t know what you are saying,” he heard again.
Renaissance or not, Steve decided to take no chances. He sought out teachers who could teach him to say the Kaddish. He sought out people to explain the Kaddish. He asked people to understand the role of kaddish. Soon, he became quite the expert. The Kaddish experience was no longer dreary for him and Steve began to relish the opportunity to lead the people in response to it.
Not long after, Steve dreamed of his father again. This time he was with an older person Steve thought must have been his long deceased grandmother. “Son, I thank you. NOW, in Shomayim they know what you are saying!”
Rabbi Aharon Leibovic of Cleveland used this story to try to explain how one can make his or her Tefillos count. The fact is, if we don’t know what we are saying, how are they supposed to understand us in Shomayim? If we do not know to whom we daven, how is Hashem supposed to know we are addressing Him?
How often do we wish our Tefillos have impact on life, our success in it, peace, or a myriad of other important causes? Do we take the time out to understand what we are saying in the context of Tefillah?
How about creating the mood for Tefillah? Do we approach davening by taking the time to consider what we are about t say and to whom we are going to address? Do we consider the location when we daven in order to best concentrate and best make our points?
What can WE do in our lives and Tefillos to be “able to be heard”?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and communities.