Striving to Become My Prayer

Rabbi Nina Mizrahi

As a young child, I went into the woods to pray in a sanctuary built on wonder.
In my silence I heard the prayers of the trees, the minnows, the elusive salamander, the damp earth 
enriched by decay.
Ma gadlu ma’asecha, Adonai
“How utterly awesome are your deeds, Yah.”

I learned to put ancient words to my prayers, 
to shuckle like the swaying trees.  
And like the rustling leaves, to offer these words b’lachash
Adonai, sifatai tiftach u’fi yagid tehilatecha 
“Adonai, bring words to my lips; let my mouth declare Your praise.”

Coming into womanhood, I yearned for more.
To read Torah, 
to crack open the secrets of the prayer,
to be equal in prayer.
Instead, I learned about women’s prayer
and discovered the Shechinah – The Divine Presence.

Years later, when my beloved left me,
it seemed the Divine Presence departed as well.
I cried out from the sorrow that pulled me to a dark, narrow place.
Min ha-meitzar karati Ya Anani b’merchav Ya – 
“From the narrowest confines I called out, ‘Yah.’  You responded with Your loving boundlessness” 

And the Holy One showed up in the form of my children,
and in my renewed determination to move 
from the constrictions of what failed
to the expansive space of possibility.

Ani tefilati - “I am my prayer”
I became my own prayer of forgiveness
Wanting at first to return to the woods
Discovering that solitude must be complimented by community 
Seeking not to return to the past
But to honor the path within myself, learning
B’chol d’rachecha da’ei hu  
“Know the Holy One through all your ways”

And a door opened….
To silence, mindfulness, forgiveness and acceptance
To words which stretch my soul
To movements which expand my inner sanctuary.
Sometimes the intensity leaves me too contemplative about the brevity of life
But my teacher says, “This is the nature of impermanence.”
When we can be “sober, not somber,” we can still access the lightness.
I am still not sure what this means
But I suspect, in time, I will.
Shiviti Adonai l’negdi tamid
“I place the Eternal before me always”

Mindful of the blessings received
Embracing the challenge
Awash in hope
L'olam Kivinu lach
“To all eternity we endow you with our trust “
Leading with my heart
Walking in God
I strive to become my prayer.

Rabbi Nina J. Mizrahi          22 June 2010/10 Tammuz 5770

Rabbi Nina J. Mizrahi, ordained by HUC-JIR, describes herself as a “community rabbi,” focused on guiding seekers through a journey of spiritual discovery. Meeting people where they are, she honors all learning styles through her multiple-intelligence approach to Jewish learning. Her own spirituality continues to evolve and is shaped by traditional and post/trans-denominational Judaism, science, nature and an integrated practice of leading a prayer-filled life. For Rabbi Mizrahi, prayer opens her heart to the Boundless One while cultivating everyday virtues and values.