Understanding Prayer: Praise (3/10)

Posted By on October 19, 2019

It’s said that Eskimos
have fifty different words for snow. I’m not sure about that, but this I know that Hebrew has many,
many words for praise. Lehodot, lehallel, leshabeach, lefa’er, leromem, lehader, levarech, le’aleh, ulekales, and others. Because just as Eskimos
live in the midst of snow, so to be a Jew is to live in
the midst of the praise of God. It’s our element, the
air our spirit breathes, the music that the Jewish soul sings. We gave the English language
the word Halleluyah, “Praise be to God,” and the Book of Psalms remains the most beautiful of
poetry of praise ever written. Jewish prayer always starts with praise. It takes different forms
in different services but it’s always there
before anything else. Why? Because on the bad days we
can be distracted by worry or depressed by anxiety
or clouded by fear. We turn in on ourselves, as if we were shut in a small, sunless, airless room, unable to see the sunlight
or breathe the free air. I’m the last person in
the world to minimise the seriousness of depression. Along with Simon and
Garfunkel, I know what it is to sing “Hello darkness, my old friend.” Which is why prayer as
praise is so important. It says don’t look in; look out. Don’t look down; look up. The world is full of light,
said the Jewish mystics, if we only know how to open our eyes. The psalms are a symphony of praise. Listen to this from Psalm
148: “Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise
Him in the heights. Praise Him, all His angels,
praise Him, all His hosts. Praise Him, sun and moon,
praise Him, all shining stars. Praise Him, highest heavens and
the waters above the heavens.” Or this from Psalm 150: “Praise Him with the harp and lyre, praise Him
with timbrel and dance, praise Him with the strings and flute… Let all that breathes,
praise the Lord. Halleluyah!” These psalms say: see
the glory of creation. Look at the beauty that surrounds you. Listen to the song of the bird. Look carefully at the beauty of a tree, its leaves shimmering in the breeze. Pause and inhale the
sheer miracle of being. Remind yourself slowly, gently: I am here. The universe is here.
I am alive. I am free. I am capable of love and I am loved. And I will praise the force that made all this and allowed me to be here and see it. Then feel the restlessness subside, the striving cease, the pulse slow, and know for a moment the
sheer blessedness of being. All you need for happiness,
you already have. It’s there, waiting to be uncovered, in the secret places of the soul. Praise is where the journey
into happiness begins. Among my favourite lines
of poetry are the words of W.H. Orton about the
power of the imagination to liberate us from negative emotion: “In the desert of the heart, let the healing fountain start. In the prison of His days, teach
the free man how to praise.”

Posted by Lewis Heart

This article has 8 comments

  1. I love my Jewish people, I love my Rabbis, I love even more Hashem, blessed is He. He is with us. This Rosh Hashanah, he is listening our prayers. Mashiach is coming soon. I dreamed it. Believe me. The True Messiah of Hashem, blessed is He.

  2. Rabbi, Please tell me the name of the Auden poem you quoted from in "Praise".
    I would like to read the whole poem.
    I appreciate your lessons so much. They have been life changing.


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