My daughter’s siddur ceremony was a few weeks ago. She’s in first grade at a Jewish Day School, and after spending the year studying tefillah, or prayer, the entire class got their own prayer books.
In our school, as in many other day schools, the parents’ job is to decorate the cover of the prayer book. I was thrilled about this task, because it gave me another opportunity to participate in my daughter’s Jewish education, and because crafting is something I can do. My projects never come out quite as I imagined them, and they’re always a little rough around the edges. But if raising two daughters who love nothing more than a good craft project has taught me anything, it’s that imperfect and beautiful are not mutually exclusive.
With the help of my friends and husband, I ended up making a cover I was quite pleased with: a six-pointed sunshine. I have just such a star tattooed on the inside of my ankle, and “You Are My Sunshine” is one of the songs we sing at bedtime each night.
Once the cover design was done, I needed to figure out what to write on the inside. I knew I wanted to start with a quote, and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t about God, as my husband is an atheist, and I wanted his perspective to be represented.
The thing is, I wasn’t entirely clear about my own views on prayer. Whenever we go to services, I am happy to pray silently on my own and sing along with the community, and each night at bedtime I sing the Shema with the girls. And yes, I believe in God, primarily from the perspective of Reconstructionist Judaism, which sees God as a power that works through people, rather than upon us. Thus, it is incumbent upon us to behave in ways that bring compassion, justice, kindness, and peace into the world, rather than expecting a just and compassionate God to do that work for us.
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