All of us frequently succumb to the danger of prayer by rote, which can easily lead to other serious problems. The worshipers may be so arrogantly satisfied with themselves that they completely forget in front of Whom they stand while praying.
The day after Yom Kippur, the synagogue service really should be a completely different experience from what people are used to. Yom Kippur should still be in the bones of all synagogue participants. Its spirit should still be felt with every prayer. It should be completely impossible for synagogue services to return to their old ways, in which prayers are said as if “nothing happened.”
For me, praying is the admission that we need His help and that we are not God! I have to make myself aware that I need to praise Him because I am not His equal; not because He needs me for anything. But sometimes, as after a tragedy, I want to turn my prayer into a protest against God.
To attend synagogue is an art. People must come with a sincere urge to discover their Jewishness, to reconnect with their inner being and with the Jewish people. To enter the synagogue is to hope for a metamorphosis in one’s soul and a transformation of one’s personality.
Because we Jews have experienced, as no other nation has, what indifference can lead to, it is our duty, more than anybody else, to care about our fellow human beings and be an example for the rest of the world.
There is probably no greater curse in our world today than the curse of indifference. While we are surrounded by abundant beauty and have much to be thankful for, millions of innocent people live lives of war, hunger, displacement, and other disasters. Here is a prayer, in Hebrew and English, which I suggest we say in all our synagogues on Shabbat, when saying the prayer for the State of Israel and our soldiers, or when praying at home. It is not just a prayer to God; it is also meant as a reminder to us not to remain indifferent to the pain in our world and to what requires our care and serious attention.
It takes an instant to trust an idol but ages to attach to God. It requires effort, stirring, and preparation. It means growing in prayer, in selfless deeds, and in the realization of the mystery of all existence. Faith means striving for faith. It is never an arrival. It is a constant journey and can only burst forth at single moments. In no way can it be commanded.