7 Cheshvan 5781 / Sunday, October 25, 2020 | Torah Reading: Lech Lecha
 
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Service From The Heart    

Service From The Heart



For Noahides, life can be tricky; they fear offending Hashem by going too far, yet feel nervous that they’re not doing enough. This new siddur provides them...

 



There is a touching Chassidic story about a Jew with little education who is struggling to pray in Hebrew, a language he doesn’t speak.  Instead of giving up, he gets resourceful and prays to Hashem using the aleph bet, the only Hebrew he knows.  When a rabbi questions him about what he’s doing, he says, "The Holy One, Blessed is He, knows what is in my heart. I will give Him the letters, and He can put the words together."  (jewfaq.org)  There are many lesson to be gleaned from this story and many reasons it speaks to me.  I often find myself praying that Hashem will look into my heart when I can’t find the right words, or that Hashem will look into my heart when I might be using the wrong ones from a siddur designed for Jews. 
 
For thousands of years dedicated and brilliant rabbis have worked to spell out what the daily routine of a Jew should be, structured prayer playing a central role.  Structured prayer is not required for a Ben or Bat Noach so there is no such routine, despite our common belief system.  This feels like both a blessing and a curse.  There are many Jews out there who in the midst of a grass-is-greener moment may wish there was a bit less structure to their day, which is understandable.  But there are many Bnei Noach who long for the comforts of structured prayer, the grounding effects it has, the lessons it reinforces, and the connection it gives to other Torah-believers - just to name a few of the benefits. 
 
Pam and Larry Rogers and Nancy January of the Oklahoma B’nai Noach Society (OKBNS) decided to fill the void and created a kosher source of prayers for Bnei Noach seeking it.  They joined forces with Orthodox rabbis and Bnei Noach from as far away as Singapore and Australia to create a prayer siddur called Service From the Heart, and it is an amazing undertaking.  This siddur is a collection of prayers taken from the Jewish tradition that have been carefully altered under the watchful eye of educated and respected rabbis to make them appropriate for the gentile speaker.  It took over ten years to create, emailing copy back and forth to Israel- translating it in and out of Hebrew- rescuing remnants from computer crashes, and combining and editing prayers contributed by many creative Bnei Noach from places as far away as Australia and Singapore. 
 
Some of the rabbis who contributed to the project are Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, senior lecturer at Yeshivat Dvar Yerushalayim and prolific author; Rabbi Yirmeyahu Bindman author and lecturer; Rabbi Yechiel Sitzman lecturer at Yeshivat Dvar Yerushalayim; and Rabbi Michael Katz of Florida who is extremely knowledgeable about issues pertaining to Bnei Noach.  Rabbi Katz also wrote the foreword, which is both elegant and informative. 
 
The team involved in creating the siddur is helping to bring quality instruction and resources to the Noahide movement.  For Bnei Noach who want to learn the minimum and do the minimum, this isn’t such an issue.  But for those who want to go even a little bit beyond the minimum, finding material that is both deep enough and offers legitimate scholarship is quite challenging.  It is very encouraging to folks considering the path of the righteous gentile to have easy access to resources that are intellectually rigorous, speak to them spiritually, and most importantly are connected with established Orthodox Jewish institutions and/or respected, experienced rabbis.    
 
In addition to prayers, Service From the Heart offers a brief history, a wedding service, a baby naming, and even a funeral service.  The OKBNS sees the siddur as a springboard that can, God willing, be elaborated on.  They offer it as a humble beginning and hope to continue collaborating with Jews and gentiles to create more resources for Bnei Noach around the globe.  They are in search of folks who are willing to share their time and knowledge of French, German, or Hebrew to create translations of the siddur for which there is already a demand.   
 
It takes an enormous amount of courage for Gentiles to venture into the world of Orthodox Judaism.  We must walk the tightrope between being overly assertive in pursuit of one’s faith and cautious to never be arrogant or offensive.  You may feel like a guest one minute, a relative the next  -- and sometimes even a trespasser.  Above all we may feel trepidatious about offending Hashem by going too far, yet nervous we aren’t doing enough.  At times, I find it a quite uncomfortable place to be, and I’m probably not alone.  This siddur offers those interested in experimenting with structured prayer as a means to connecting with Hashem a comfortable, practical, and sound starting point. 
 
For those interested in an unstructured approach to prayer that I have found life changing, there is the Breslev approach to spontaneous prayer called hithbodeduth. You can read all about it in “Outpouring of the Soul,” a translation of Rabbi Alter of Teplik's classic "Hishtapchut HaNefesh," a compilation of Rebbe Nachman's teachings on Hitbodedut. In addition, Rabbi Shalom Arush’s The Garden of Yearning, translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody, gives wonderful and astute guidance about the proper approach to hitbodedut (meditation with a focus on personal prayer).  Whichever approach you choose, remember that Hashem always wants to hear from you, so as the prophet Jeremiah said, “…pour out your heart like water before God…”   




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