We are now one week into the month of Elul, the Jewish month before the start of the new year. Our job this month is to review our actions over the past year and resolve to do better in the coming one.
One thing that I have tried to do over the years is to improve my davening (praying). At some point I realized that I needed to add some requests to my daily prayers, and that things that some people take for granted are not necessarily “part of the package”.
When I married I prayed very hard under the chuppah (the traditional marriage canopy) that we would move to Israel. I didn’t even think to pray for children! In my naivete I assumed that children would be a natural part of the package. Then I hit infertility, and I learned my lesson.
Later I continued to make the same mistake. I assumed that if westbankpapa and I “did all the right things” then our kids would turn out ok. At one point, after the problem of teenagers “going off the derech” (not continuing to be Orthodox) became obvious, I read a Jewish magazine devoted to the topic. Some of the articles had advice on how to raise your kids – but one article by a very prominent Rabbi knocked my socks off. He said that how are kids turn out is 50% due to our shalom bayit (“peace in the home”, or how we get along with our spouse) and 50% prayer. I quickly added another very important “basic” to my prayers.
Somewhere along the line I finally learned my lesson, and I pray for a lot of things now that I never did before. I pray for good health for my family, I pray for brides with good midot (character traits) for my sons (21, 15, and 14 – never too early to pray…), for shalom bayit in my family, and I pray for parnassa (material wealth).
This past week I added a new twist to the last. There is a very personable young man who works near our store in the industrial zone of the yishuv where I work. He has organized a group of us to say “Parshat HaMan” every Sunday morning. This is a prayer for material wealth, that quotes the portion of the Torah that discusses the manna that G-d sent down to the Jews wandering in the dessert. The prayer is heartfelt, and it is a wonderful experience saying it along with the others of our group – who are not all religious, but are mainly traditional. None of the men besides the one who organizes the tefilla wear kippot (one even sports an earing), and except for two of us the women do not dress in the traditional modest way. But we all work for small businesses, and we all know that our parnassa cannot be taken for granted.