Every year I make a “resolution” at the Jewish New Year. Not a fluffy one like people often make on January 1 that is forgotten just a few weeks in – but something that will hopefully make me a better Jew.
Last year, my goal for the year was to give more monetary tzedakah. I have always been good at giving time and items, but not so much financially, and while I don’t have the money to give as much as I would really like to be able to – I recognized that if I planned it out, I could give more than I had been. Working for a Jewish non-profit definitely helped me in this way and I feel like I have taken concrete steps towards identifying how I can best give financially and more personally. Both are important, so now I need to find the balance. (And before anyone says it, yes I know that working as much as I do for a Jewish non-profit is a huge gift of tzedakah in reality as well.)
This year, I wanted to focus on tefillah as that is someplace I tend to keep having the best intentions but not following through on making changes. There are two components which I considered, the first being better about remembering to pray three times a day and the second being better about mouthing the words of my prayer. I decided to focus on the second first because I feel that saying the words (rather than just reading them) makes praying more meaningful and intentional. I’d rather pray less often but with more focus, then more often without.
I have also always had a bigger block to mouthing the words of my prayer. You see, I feel like a crazy person talking to herself – but the story from which we derive the need to daven in this way makes the same point. We read in Samuel that our ancestor Chana prayed in Shilo silently and desperately for a child, where the High Priest proceeds to scold her, mistaking her voiceless prayer for the ravings of a drunk woman. She replied that he is incorrect and that she is “a tormented woman. I have drunk no wine or other strong drink, but I have been pouring out my heart to God.” From this, we gain the custom to inaudibly speak our prayers.
I feel like if Chana could do it in such a way that mistook her for a drunk, perhaps I too can find the kavannah to overcome my preoccupation with the appearance in order to daven more purposefully and to pour out my heart to Hashem.