Tuesday, March 17, 2015

God, King of the World

Elokaynu Melech Haolam....it means Our God, King of all the world. It is part if every blessing we say. On food, in the prayer services, for health...everything - first we recognize to Whom we are addressing our prayers...and then we ask.

This is the first part of every blessing ...always the same...we know it by heart - and too often rush past these well known words to get to the second half. In this second part, there is the difference and you change it based on what you are eating, the time of day, the day of the week - it is the part of the prayer that explains what you are asking, what you are blessing. We focus on it too often missing the relevance of the first part.

This is the specifics - for bread, for water, on wine, on fruits or vegetables. A prayer for the welfare of the soldiers, that prisoners should be freed, for a woman after giving birth, a child upon reaching maturity. Beautiful prayers to the One God, the God of Israel...

I've been saying these prayers for most of my life; I raised my children to say them and now I listen as my children teach their children. And as with my own blessings, too often I miss the first half, concentrating on the second part to make sure it is right - that the child is saying the blessing on the orange he is eating, rather than on the water he wants to drink.

But when you are far from home in a culture that is at times shockingly different, those first words take on such clarity, such meaning. It's all there - all that we need to know...in the last 10 days, some fundamental part of me has changed. I can no longer say a blessing without slowly reciting these important first words. I find myself saying the blessing more slowly and out loud. Blessed are you, Our God, King of the universe...it is as if the rest no longer matters because all is contained in the beginning.

It has so much meaning when said in a world that doesn't recognize your God. For ten days now, I have walked in a world infinitely different than mine. At each step, I see endless similarities and countless differences. As human beings, we are the same. We eat, sleep, smile as if our children are the first to be smart enough to walk, talk. India is an amazing and wonderful place. The elderly are treated with respect; the children watched over. The land is fertile and flourishing with growth...everywhere there are coconut trees, ripe with fruit. Rivers flowing through the land; and so many people...

You do not need to hesitate to approach a stranger and ask for assistance - that too our countries and cultures have in common. We are the same but not. I struggle to understand their religion, how a cow can be both a possession and a god, how an elephant can be worshiped but his ivory sold. 

I find myself thinking of Avraham Avinu (Abraham, patriarch and forefather). Over three thousand years ago he asked the same questions I am asking now. How is it possible to worship as god something that you fashion with your own hands, something you can smash as easily as you create it, something you have the power to kill. If a cow is a god, why do you need a law that threatens you with ten years in prison if you kill it?

I believe we are all children of God, all creatures and mankind. I believe every tree, every river is where God intended it to be. These are a kind and gentle people and yet I find that I am speaking to God so much more here. He is with me everywhere - in each taxi ride we take, as we whisper the prayer for a safe journey, and in the super modern malls, where you can buy idols. Everywhere there are temples and gods made of wood and metal and plastic, even printed on clothes, umbrellas.

Each time, I whisper to God and thank Him for being King of the universe, of all that we see before us. We can eat almost nothing here; so many places we do not enter. The beautiful carving of an elephant - I cannot touch; the holy plants I do not smell. Everywhere around me, there is so much I want to run from. Dear God, King of the universe. I long for home...just days away. I want to see my children, my grandchildren, my land. 

I want to touch the Western Wall and feel cleansed because I know that the holiness that is there is not in the stones but in the Divine Presence. The cows wander the streets here and taxis swerve around them...I long for my home where an animal is an animal, deserving of respect and to be treated well, but an animal nonetheless. 

Once when I was young, I thought that God was not everywhere, that as I sat in a far off land, God was distant and waiting for me to come to Him. Now I know that is no longer true. God is truly everywhere and for a reason I don't need to understand, He accepts and cherishes and blesses cultures of all types, even those who do not recognize Him.

Until my feet are once more blessed to walk on the Holy Land, from afar I will continue to pray and bless the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, the God of Israel who is the King of all the world and I will thank You for being here with me in this distant land.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful words :)

Sherry

Anonymous said...

Hindus don't believe that cows are gods! They are considered a sacred animal by most Hindus, but people don't pray to them. Same with elephants -- there is an "elephant god," Ganesha, but he is one particular deity -- elephants are not all gods.

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