Sunday, January 27, 2019

Meet Prayer Bubbe

Mia Sherwood Landau is also 
Prayer Bubbe.
Follow her here and on Facebook.
to get connected to Mia's next book.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Jewish Personal Prayer - On My Own

First, the WHY - Why would any Jew or anybody exploring Judaism want or need to explore the idea of Jewish personal prayer? 

Torah gives us a 3-word Hebrew phrase to answer that question. It's Ein Od Milvado.  "You were shown to know … ein od milvado — there is none other than He.” Devarim 4:35
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There is no one, there is nothing besides God for us. That's why we need to know God and have conversations with God for our own personal lives. 

This short podcast from describes Ein Od Milvado beautifully. 

Next, the WHAT - What is Jewish personal prayer? 

An exploration of Jewish personal prayer often begins with reading what other people have to say about it. Here's a list of resources, meaning webpages, videos and books on Jewish prayer, some with sections or brief mentions of Jewish personal prayer. 

* Judaism 101on Jewish Liturgy, by Tracey R. Rich

* To Pray As A Jew, by Hayim H. Donin

* Entering Jewish Prayer, by Reuven Hammer

* My Jewish Learning on Personal Prayer, by Sylvia Barak Fishman

*Jewish Prayer and Meditation, a Jews For Judaism video by Rabbi Michael Skobac

* on Your Thoughts And The Power of Hisbodedus, by Chaya Rivka Zwolinski

* The Jerusalem Post on World of The Sages: Adding Personal Prayer, by Levi Cooper

*My Jewish Learning on Keva & Kavanah, by Arnold J Wolf

* video series on A History of Prayer, by Lazer Gurkow

* Institute For Jewish Spirituality on How Do Jews Pray? by Jonathan Slater

* The Way Into Jewish Prayer, by Lawrence A. Hoffman

* on Hisbodedus: A Time For Yourself, by Avraham Ben Yaakov

* In Forest Fields: A Unique Guide to Personal Prayer video, by Shalom Arush, translated by Lazer Brody

* video on The Power of Jewish Prayer, by Yechiel Spero

* Gedale Fenster video on Hitbodedut:The Ultimate Tool to Get You From Anxiety to Confidence (I saved the best resource for last. This video will change your understanding of Jewish personal FOREVER. Invest the hour and 18 minutes to watch, it's worth it.)

And finally, MY RELATIONSHIP WITH PERSONAL PRAYER -  I am the World's Leading Expert on the subject of my own personal prayer. Nobody else has my relationship with prayer, so nobody else can correct or criticize it. It's mine alone. I am the only one in the world who can pray my prayers. God wants to hear from me!

(Read the paragraph above out loud. Try looking in a mirror while you read it. I wrote it for you! Read it out loud to hear yourself say it. That's what we all need. We need to hear it to believe it.)

Hello, my name is Mia Sherwood Landau. I am a writer, folk musician and folk artist. Oh, I’m also a farmer We raise Lemon Verbena commercially here in North Texas.

Searching for a book on Jewish personal prayer, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. So, I decided to write the book I want to read.

My forthcoming book is called Solitary Splendor: Jewish On My Own, But Not Alone.

What I’m sharing today is part of it, so I want to thank you for being here and being part of my book in progress.

Your thoughtful comments are welcome. And, who knows? You may see them in the book someday.

Here’s a list of three thing I've discovered people think about Jewish personal prayer:

1. Many people think our personal prayers should only be inserted into the daily prayers. There’s no requirement for additional prayers of a personal, individual nature.

2. And some people are shy about speaking directly to God in their own words. It seems selfish somehow, or they are hesitant to demand time and attention from the Almighty God of the Universe.

3. All of us are subject to the sad, secular notion that talking out loud to God is a sure sign of a crazy person. Normal, sane people don’t need to speak out loud to an invisible God who may or may not be real anyway.

Those are three things I learned about personal prayer that may stop us before we even start exploring it.

Oh, there’s one more thing – personal prayer is also called hisbodedus, hitbodedut or hisbonenut. It’s all the same Hebrew word with different pronunciations. It means self-seclusion and in-depth meditation, referring to secluding yourself with the Creator of the Universe to pour out your soul in heartfelt prayer.

What I’m talking about today could be called hisbodedut, but we’re going to call it Jewish personal prayer because that’s easier to say and to understand.

I like to make prayer easy to say and understand, so that’s what I do when I’m by myself. I like to make my prayer so simple that even a child can understand it.

And why would I need to do that when I’m all by myself? Because there is a child present, for sure. It’s my inner child inside of me. My prayers need to be simple and honest, like the prayers of a child, because I am a living child of God. I really am. You might say my inner child is praying from my heart straight to my Father in Heaven.

I want to pray from the depths of my inner child to the heights of the throne of God, the Creator of us all. To me, this is how to pray as a Jew. It’s very personal. My Father in Heaven wants to hear from me, in my own words and in my own language because that’s how He made me.

Who I am and what I think and feel is not a mystery to my Creator. He made me and sincerely welcomes me to call home anytime, day or night.

As you can see, my personal beliefs about our Almighty God are showing up boldly here. Please feel free to tune me in or tune me out as you are led by your own soul. Our adventure in Jewish personal prayer together has just begun, and the truth is this – it never has to end. 

When asked my level of observance I say, "I am an Internet Jew." 

My reply tends to disturb some people who participate in their local congregations, but often rings delightfully true to other Internet Jews. We know who we are, and we know we have more access to Jewish wisdom and experience than any Jews throughout history. 

This is my first post and OneShul video exploring Jewish personal prayer on my own. It's just the beginning of my sharing about my own experience and the experiences I'm collecting from others. Please feel free to share in the comments, or leave a message on 903-642-1449. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Jewish Personal Prayer - Make A Time

Does making a time for Jewish personal prayer feel like one more obligation in your busy, crowded schedule? 

Are you wondering what you'll have to give up in order to set aside a special time to "do it right," and secretly plotting to avoid it because if you can't do it right you're not going to do it at all?

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Each one of us has the same 24 hours every day. Most hours are filled with obligations to other people and responsibilities we’ve taken upon ourselves.

Oh, and some of us spend increasingly more and more time unconsciously looking for fun and entertainment online, like this class, for example. It’s both fun and entertaining!

How are we supposed to find time to speak to the Almighty God of the Universe?

If the idea of talking to God in my own language without a script feels like an obligation, I will resist it. I don’t want another obligation, I want more freedom from obligations.

Most of us want fewer obligations and more freedom.

We want more freedom, yet we can’t figure out how to get it. Freedom to do what we want to do instead of what we have to do is a constant moment-to-moment challenge.

Torah stands as a reminder that God is an expert on the subject of freedom. We memorialize freedom on Shabbat and at Passover. And yet, we still yearn for it daily. We long for freedom as though we were still in Egypt trudging through mud pits and gathering straw.

What’s going on with us? I think we’ve forgotten the reason Pharoah finally let the Israelites abandon their mud pits in Egypt. Do you remember the reason?

In Exodus 9:1 God instructs Moses to tell Pharoah to “let my people go…” Usually we remember that part. But do you remember the rest of the verse? The whole verse is, “Let my people go to worship me.”

There’s a reason we were set free from slavery in Egypt – to worship God.

I think we forget that reason most of the time. We forget that our own personal relationship with our Creator, our Almighty God, is a gift. God gave us the gift of freedom to worship Him.

If we feel like slaves to our schedules and our obligations to other people, it’s probably because we’ve forgotten we are already free. We’ve been set free by God to worship God.

God set us free to worship Him, which usually starts with prayer. At least it does for me. It starts with praying to God, not watching Netflix or playing Fortnite or even golf. My freedom has been, is and will be based on worshipping God.

Making time to speak to my Almighty God is how I choose to be free instead of enslaved.

God is the expert on freedom, I am not. I am human and I forget to choose freedom. I need to talk to God and ask Him to help me to live the freedom he has already given me.

Finding the time for personal prayer is easy when I remember what God had already given me, and why.

God set us free from slavery to worship Him. That’s it. And it wasn’t just a one-time Exodus event 3500 years ago. It’s right now, in our lives today.

Praying for one minute, just saying, “Thank you, Lord,” is how I choose freedom every day.

Doing that, I start to notice other things I do. I start to put them in perspective when I notice what feels like slavery and what doesn’t.

Really, I actually start noticing obligations and decisions about what I do and how I invest or spend my time. When I spend my time playing games, it’s gone forever. When I invest my time praying, it’s an investment in this life and the next.

If I start feeling like a slave I say, right out loud, “Please help me remember you’ve already set me free to worship you, Lord.”

That’s a good start. Finding the time for personal prayer is not about tips and tricks. It’s about remembering the freedom I’ve been given during the 24 hours each day I have to spend or invest. It’s my choice. That’s how I remember to prioritize the time for personal prayer – I remember I have already been set free.

Mia's Little Song - All God's Time 

God is not old-fashioned
We all need Him everyday
Gotta fit Him in the schedule
It's all His time anyway

God is not too busy
To hear our every prayer
Gotta talk and gotta listen
To our God everywhere

Here's a short video (10 years old) of Jews talking about their relationship with traditional prayers:

This is my second post sharing about my own experiences with Jewish personal prayer and the experiences I'm collecting from others. Please feel free to share in the comments, or leave a message on 903-642-1449.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Jewish Personal Prayer - Make A Place

Finding a place for Jewish personal prayer begins by looking inside myself, not outside myself. 

We talked about finding a time for personal prayer last week, and you'll notice that's how it starts, too, meaning inside ourselves not outside ourselves. 

Finding a place for personal prayer also happens inside me, in my thoughts and priorities, not outside me where clocks and timekeepers are located. 

So, here's the reality of making a place for personal prayer - Wherever I am physically located, I can pray. Nothing is in the way of my prayer except my own beliefs and excuses. 

With the exception of certain places we may live or visit (such as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem) where political, religious, academic, business or family leadership forbids prayer, any place we occupy is a place of prayer. Standing, sitting or lying down, we can pray. 

Proverbs 20:27 gives us a lovely image of each person as living, breathing lamp of God. 

"Man's soul is the Lord's lamp, which searches out all the innermost parts."

"The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all the inward parts.
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This verse has inspired and motivated me for many, many years. It reminds me that God gave me breath and that my breath is my life. 

When there is no breath, there is no life. That's a fact. Having the breath and having the life that God gave me, and continues to give me each moment, is how I know that wherever I am is a place of prayer. 

Interpreting the different Hebrew words for "soul" and "spirit" and "lifebreath" is a bigger subject than our discussion of making a place for prayer. 

All we need to know right now is this - breath is life, and if we are breathing we are alive and illuminated by the One Who Gave Us Life and Breath.

We are His as long as we are breathing. We might as well acknowledge and thank our Creator for our life and our breath. We are the place where prayer happens, or not. I choose to be a place where prayer happens.

That last part of Proverbs 10:27, "...revealing all his inmost parts," is something a Hebrew Bible scholar could interpret more than one way, but it's generally understood to mean our conscience.

When we hear ourselves in personal prayer, we get in touch with our genuine thoughts and feelings, which is one way our conscience gets our attention. 

When we find ourselves completely overwhelmed and speechless, we can rest assured our very breath, each and every breath is a prayer. When it's all we can do is remember to breathe, that's enough. God knows it's plenty.

Here are 5 Easy Tips for establishing a habit pattern of hisbodedut:

This is my third post and OneShul video exploring Jewish personal prayer on my own. It's just the beginning of my sharing about my own experience and the experiences I'm collecting from others. Please feel free to share in the comments, or leave a message on 903-642-1449. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Jewish Personal Prayer - Write And Read Out Loud

For me, and for many people who journal their thoughts and feelings, writing brings healing.

Today, an aspiring writer who wants to write a book about her dysfunctional life posted on Facebook. I commented: The writing is healing. The book is for you more than anyone else. Write to heal and live beyond your pain. Write to create your new life. Then, later, you can decide what to do with your writing. For now, just write.

Therapists and writing instructors often teach journaling for its healing potential. It's not a new idea. In fact, it's a very old, Biblical idea. Devarim 31:19 is considered the final Torah commandment, and the basis of an age-old requirement for each Jewish man to hand-write his own Torah scroll.
Deuteronomy 31:19 "Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach thou it the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel."

"And now, write for yourselves this song, and teach it to the Children of Israel. Place it into their mouths, in order that this song will be for Me as a witness for the children of Israel." 

Well, I am not a Jewish man. And I am not in a position to purchase kosher parchment and create a letter-perfect Torah scroll. So, I need to find meaning in the final Torah commandment, specifically for me, in my own life now.

One way I do it is hand-writing my Jewish personal prayers in spiral notebooks. Yes, old technology! I have boxes of spiral notebooks, and they are written testimony to my growth as a Jew.

Years ago, I began writing letters to other people, expressing my real feelings, you know, all those things there's never a good time or place to say. Of course I never mailed these letters. They were really for me, not for the other people.

Eventually, my letters all began, "Dear God," because I realized He's the only one capable of hearing the cries of my heart and soul. My letters to God have been the most effective writing I've ever done. I write them, pray them, and watch my life change.

My boxes of spiral notebook journals have not been violated, which is something many people worry about. They fear what would happen if somebody else reads their prayer journal. Keeping them in a safe place is ideal, but may seem impossible for you. 

I am the living embodiment of the change my spiral notebooks have created, so discarding them is certainly an option. Once written, it's not about the words on the page, it's about the change in me.

Truthfully, I could have burned the pages immediately after writing them.  The words on the paper turning to smoke and ashes would still have had the same effect because my relationship with God and prayer is not dependent on those pages.

So, here's an idea for effective private prayer journaling - write your letter to God (or someone else) and immediately read it out loud. When you both see and hear the words they are doubly effective in creating personal change. 

Writing your Jewish personal prayers and then speaking them out loud is one way to apply Deuteronomy 31:19 to your inner "child of Israel," living within you. You are teaching yourself when you write and read your prayer journal out loud.

Reading it silently robs you of hearing the words. God acknowledged our human need to hear spoken words at Mount Sinai. Hearing our own words works the same way.

Then, if needed, feel free to destroy the pages, because they have already served their highest and best purpose in you.

Janet Ruth Falon, author of The Jewish Journaling Book, says, "People instinctively realize that writing is an act of commitment, and that can be scary."

Writing your prayers as letters to God, reading them aloud as an act of prayer, and then letting them go (discarding, shredding or burning) may be a bit scary at first, but when you experience the genuine relief, you'll relax and enjoy it. 

If you like the idea of a prayer journaling program, Rae Shagalov is a calligrapher who created a beautiful, 30-Day creative prayer journal called The Secret Art of Talking to G-d:

Here's a paperback Jewish Reflection Journal with prompts for holidays and spiritual contemplation.

Finally, for the digital natives among us, online personal prayer journals can be built in Google docs or in Evernote. They are private, eco-friendly, free and available to read aloud anytime, on any device. Low-cost journaling apps are also available for PC, Mac and mobile devices. 

This is my fourth post and OneShul video exploring Jewish personal prayer on my own. It's just the beginning of my sharing about my own experience and the experiences I'm collecting from others. Please feel free to share in the comments, or leave a message on 903-642-1449.