Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Looking for What We've Really Lost

One of the best prayers is the prayer we have for finding a lost object. "A prayer for finding a lost object?" you might wonder, "what kind of a religion did I sign up for?" Part of what makes it such a great prayer is because it is not what you'd think. Here is the text: Rabbi Binyamin said, "everyone is presumed to be blind until the Holy One, Blessed be He, opens their eyes, as it is written, 'God opened her eyes [and she saw a well of water], and she went and filled the skin." God of Meir [Baal Ha-Ness] answer me, God of Meir answer me, God of Meir answer me. In the merit of the charity I am donating for the elevation of the soul of Rabbi Meir Baal Ha-Ness, may his merit protect us, may I find what I have lost. So I'll admit, the last half does get a little "magic-incantationy" but when you take it with the first part, you learn something else about how we should relate to what we've lost - and also what we think we've lost. In the parshah, Balaam the prophet is riding his donkey to fulfill the command of King Balak to curse the Jews. As he is riding, he has his famous encounter with the angel which initially his donkey can see but Balaam cannot. Only when the donkey speaks to him is Balaam able to see what is in front of him, "then the Eternal One uncovered Balaam's eyes, and he saw the divine emissary..." (Num. 22:31). It is one thing to look, another to see, and yet another still to be able to perceive the difference between things we have really lost, things we never really had, and things that never really leave us. We therefore overlook an opportunity if the Prayer for a Lost Object only comes across as a magic spell. If however, we view it in light of the passage in the prayer about Hagar or in light of the passage in this week's Torah portion, we see it as a prayer to really open our eyes and become conscious of all the unimportant things we worry so much about and we can instead focus on the things that are truly precious to us. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Aaron Benson

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