My husband and I were sitting at a kosher restaurant recently, and before eating, we said our usual brachas. Growing up, I witnessed only people of other faiths praying before meals. I didn’t realize until learning more about Judaism as an adult that it’s common to thank and praise G-d many times throughout the day, such as when waking up, before eating and even after using the restroom.
When it comes to food, there are blessings for the various kinds. Hamotzi for bread, mezanot for other grains, ha’adama for things like vegetables that grow in the earth, ha’etz for fruits from trees and shehakol for drinks.
It took me years to remember and really understand them. But now taking a bite or a sip without being aware of what it is and where it came from — and not making a bracha first — seems strange.
As my children feed their pet rabbits, I watch the fuzzy little creatures dive into and devour their food, and I think, “This is one thing that separates us from the animals: being mindful and having the ability to thank G-d.”
This recent trip to the restaurant, as we each said our brachas and amens, it occurred to me that we say these blessings in hushed tones while people around us naturally speak somewhat loudly to each other about mundane things. And I wondered, “Why do we whisper our words to G-d, but when we speak to each other, whether it’s recounting a story or getting irritated, we speak loudly or even yell?”
What would the world be like if the opposite were true — if we passionately articulated our prayers of gratitude but held our tongues when it came to criticism or complaints?
Despite my evolving faith, many of my waking moments are still compartmentalized and disconnected. I sometimes go about my day mindlessly maneuvering the mundane — unloading my cart at the grocery store, helping my children find their shoes, listening to my middle-schooler groan about homework, spreading jelly on bread while my preschooler asks me to play a game with him.
There are times when nature and nurture get the best of me and I yell at my children or husband when I get upset. There also are times, when facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge, I get stuck in my own mind and feel as if I’m grasping for solutions in the dark.
Then there are those magical moments when I manage to stop, to breathe deeply and to softly speak those all-powerful words: “G-d, I need help.”
Then it comes. Each time I’m able to move beyond my mind and emotions and eek out that simple prayer, the entire feeling and momentum of the situation change. It is no longer just me and my thoughts navigating a seemingly crazy and unpredictable world. It is me connected with the infinite.
When I allow that spark to enter the darkness, suddenly the situation is flooded with light.
I realize, however, that my children should hear my often-silent prayers. I can tell them over and over again that G-d runs the world and that everything He does is for the good. But when they are in pain emotionally or physically, my role is to acknowledge their pain, show compassion and articulate my own faith.
“G-d, please help me make the right decision.”
“G-d, my children are fighting, and I feel like I’m going to lose it. Please help me be a good mom.”
“Thank you, G-d, for giving me the ability and resources to feed my family.”
“Please, G-d, help me choose the right words so they can reach the right people.”
In a world where discussing faith can be a faux pas, my challenge, I think, is to feel more secure speaking aloud to G-d at any moment — to remember to reach out to Him even in the trenches when life is messy and even when others may be listening.