How You Slice It - or -
The Satmer Rebbe told one of his chassidim, "In past times,
women were davendik." Now they are too busy. Even
davening can be busy work or a pressure to make a time
slot. Davendik means that on small baby steps you ask
for help. On big ones, too. In formal prayer, too, but also
when you're prayerful, full of inspiration, hopeful or
defeated. To ask for that blessing, for strength and even for
chen - to find favor, charm, grace in the eyes of
I heard that one last night. A teacher, with forty-three
years experience behind a desk, spoke for a round table full
of her students' mothers. "A veteran great-grandmother gave
me this tip for success with my students. She claimed that
the generations are getting rougher and her great-
grandchildren are not made of the same fiber as her children
and even grandchildren. You need extra siyata dishmaya
to reach and teach, as never before. Before I leave home, I
stand by the mezuza and ask that Hashem grant me
chen in the eyes of my students, just like the
grace/favor of Queen Esther in the eyes of the king."
Another example of davendik is a mother of a large
brood preparing school sandwiches and asking that each
child's real needs be met that day, and day by day, slice by
slice, sandwich by sandwich - and that the filling be sweet.
A slice of life. So many situations must be addressed in
private moments, heart-to-Hashem talks, outpourings,
unburdenings. Rebbetzin Freifeld put it this way: "Hegyon
libi lefonecha - Accept the thoughts of my heart, the
unspoken but poignantly felt requests of my heart."
Value those great moments of unexepected inspiration and
intimacy with your thoughts and prayers, that marvelous
uplifting of the soul to cloud-height. But do continue with
formal prayer. Of course. Because if you look at the text of
everyday prayers, even short blessings, you will realize that
our Sages compressed everything into those short few words.
Asher Yotzar is the finest tuning of the most
incredible organism, the human body, starting from
conception. And at birth, at this momentous time, apertures
must close and apertures must open for the child to begin
living in the outside world, and to continue to do so for the
next 120 years! Each and every one of our bodily functions in
mega-miraculous color. Certainly a function-blessing to imbue
with intent and gratitude.
Grace after meals, the lifeline for life and livelihood.
Every blessing, one by one, and all together. One reason that
prayer is considered avoda shebalev is that it takes
more effort and concentration than a spontaneous request. It
is not limited to exalted moments, on a plane, in a hospital
waiting room, by a vehicle's short stop in the nick of time
etc. We are asked to concentrate and live the moment alert,
each moment, with shivisi Hashem, in partnership with
Hashem's outstretched hand, and not in a maze or fog. Aware
and all there.
Who could create a better system or ask for a better quality