The song of prayer
The lion is in dire straits and needs advice to extricate himself from the situation. The unfortunate fox crosses the lion’s path, with no way of escape. “Tell me, Mr. Fox,” the lion says, ”I hear you are very clever. I need your help to solve my problem.” The fox is now really on the spot.
The fox tells the lion, “It is true that I am very smart and can help you, but my wisdom is in my heart, which I left in my cave this morning in my hurry to leave. If you will permit me to scamper back home, I will gladly get my heart and then help you.” A clever fox indeed.
The Ben Ish Hai (1832-1909) told this parable to introduce a story of a pious woman who was hurrying to the synagogue one day, and she was stopped by one of the town mockers. ”Where are you running to?” the man asked, laughing.
“To pray in the synagogue,” she answered.
“But where is your siddur?” he replied. “Shouldn’t you run back home and get it?”
“My siddur is deep within me, as I pray from my heart,” replied the woman. ”You, Sir, may have your siddur, but you should run back home to get your heart just like the fox!”
“Can you do me a favour and get my heart for me?” mocked the man.
“I’d be happy to,” the woman said, “but I don’t know where you put it. Is it at home with your wife, or is it at work? Is it perhaps at sea in a freight container? Or might it be in London or in Paris? Only you know where it is, so you must get it yourself!”
When going to the synagogue, says the Ben Ish Hai, one’s heart is most essential – even indispensable.
As I get older, I realize how important it is to serve HaShem with one’s heart, as we read every day in the Shema.
King David sings in Psalms (100:2), “Serve God joyfully,” and joy, as we know, comes from the heart.
Prayer is more meaningful when we invest feeling and emotion through singing together. One doesn’t even have to understand the words in order to join in; one just has to meditate by singing, humming, or even just listening. Participation through voice in prayer with our fellow congregants is extremely powerful on a personal, as well as a communal level. When I hear someone expressing authentic emotions through song, it gives me goose bumps. At times, I feel so connected that I have tears in my eyes
We Sephardi Jews are blessed with a powerful way of increasing our happiness because our heritage includes singing during our tfillah. After all, prayerful song originates in the heart.
My voice teacher once wrote that I should remember I’m God’s vessel, and He relates His message through my voice. So much truth revolves around the vibrations of the voice.
Let us remember that we are all God’s vessels and that we are utterly free to express our emotions through the heartfelt song of prayer.