I was rolling as I watched the black-ish episode, "God." The scene where Dre struggles to concentrate while praying was so, pathetically, true.
Following those rare moments of rapt kavana, I feel like high-fiving myself—good job! You stayed on message, girl!—only to flunk all over again the next day, as I suddenly recall what face creams I should reorder during Baruch She'amar. Girl, you suck.
It is a work in progress. According to the method of meditation, instead of beating up oneself if thoughts drift, merely draw it back into the center, and move on. Not a bad idea if self-flagellation poisons the rest of prayers.
Every week, the NY Times Magazine recommends a poem. Matthew Zapruder submitted this:
Yehoshua November integrates his Orthodox Judaism with the everyday, through poems of radical clarity. Throughout his work, he shows that religious faith can be compatible with a poetry of deep, uncertain feeling. Poem selected by Matthew Zapruder.Credit Illustration by R. O. Blechman
Before the Silent Prayer,
some slip the hood of their prayer shawls
over their heads,
so that even among many worshipers
they are alone with God.
Primo Levi wrote about the sadness of
“a cart horse, shut between two shafts
and unable even to look sideways ... ”
Let me be like those pious ones
or that horse,
so that, even amidst a crowd,
no other crosses the threshold
of my dreaming.
During davening, the avodah, we are supposed to stick to one message: "Know before whom you stand." To be a blinkered horse, indeed.