We ask for God's blessing. What is the meaning of this? Many of us were given a picture of God when we were young that roughly corresponds to an old white man with a beard. Not meaning to say anything critical about old, white men with beards, but many of us don't hold to this. As Rabbi David Cooper put it "I don't believe in the God you don't believe in."
"All images or metaphors (including the word God) attempting to render an ineffable experience are necessary and even noble, sacred projections that hide as much as they reveal and to confuse an image with God or to make any image a literal and exhaustive representation of God is the classic definition of idolatry. Descriptions of God should never be confused with God anymore than the description of passionate love making should be confused with making love... my tradition names [God as} Ein Sof which literally means "There is No End" and which the mystic poets of the Bible cal YHWH from the Hebrew root Becoming." (Rabbi Irwin Kula, "How Big Is Your God?") No white man, no beard.
So what is prayer? Clearly prayer is not any one thing, it ranges from a communal action to honor one's heritage; to a very personal need to speak aloud and identify what is important to you; to a practice to allow one to experience touching the divine. In some cases we accept using language that we do not believe in (that old man with a white beard) to send a message to others, just as we say (Rabbi David Cooper again) the "Sun is going down" even though we know it is the Earth that is turning.
Tonight may we all find something in these prayers that speaks to each of us.
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