Rabbi Cassi Kail
My favorite prayers aren’t the words in the prayer book, sanctified by time and passed down for generations. They are the personal blessings that usher forth from the hearts of individuals grappling with life’s joys and challenges. In the words of Rabbi Naomi Levy, these prayers are “the ones not printed in black and white, but in all subtlety and mystery of the human soul.”
The prayers of our siddur are powerful. They contain ancient wisdom, foundational to the Jewish experience. Their meditative rhythm inspires an internal calm, reflecting the warm embrace of our 6000-year-old tradition. They remind us of our sacred connection to our ancestors, one another, and something beyond ourselves. They reflect gratitude, longing, joy, fear, inspiration, and comfort.
However, there are times when the prayer book alone cannot speak to the depths of our soul. As Rabbi Shimon teaches, “Do not make your prayers static; pour out your supplication and mercy before God.” We need keva, the timeless traditional words of our faith, but we also need kavana, sincere intention. “God desires the prayers of the heart,” the Rabbis teach. It is no coincidence that the word for prayer, l’hitpalel, is reflexive. Prayer requires attunement to reflect our soul’s deepest yearnings, aspirations, and expressions. In addition to the prayer book’s words, we need new prayers that reflect the timely realities we face and transform them into opportunities for connection and inspiration.
In recent years, talented modern liturgists have emerged, including Rabbi Naomi Levy, Rabbi Karyn Kedar, and Liturgist Alden Solovy, to name a few. They aspire to put our inner longings into words. “The act of creating a prayer is healing,” wrote Alden Solovy. “No matter what, our lives are enriched by prayer. Prayer gives our hearts a voice.” Over the past several months, I have had the pleasure of working alongside Georgia and Gary Freedman-Harvey to give the heart a voice in commissioning a prayer by Alden Solovy entitled “For those who Endure Chronic Conditions.” They were inspired to honor their son Ezra by engaging in the development of this new prayer. This blessing was created for all who live with chronic conditions and yet persevere and endure every day.
Whereas the Misheberach prayer asks for complete healing, this new prayer asks for strength and dignity while grappling with conditions that will never fully go away. We believe this liturgical creation will offer comfort and hope to so many people. Perhaps you are one of them.
I am pleased to announce that this prayer will be debuted at the healing service on January 8th at 10 am. I encourage you to attend this service, which balances the traditional rhythms with modern prayers which give our hearts a voice.