I am well aware that there are a lot people that would give just about anything for the opportunity to pop over to the Old City of Jerusalem for a chance to pow-wow with G-d at the Western Wall. With no disrespect intended, I am not one of those people.
My ADD is an equal opportunist in both the physical and spiritual realms and I’m more likely to find myself in the “prayer pocket” on a public bus or watching kids play outside than I am at a bona fide holy site where prayer is the singular focus. That’s just the way it is for me.
So, when one of our recent, out-of-town guests asked if I could drive him down for a visit to one of Israel’s most famed Holy spots, I marshalled the resolve of a bratty four-year-old resigned to do what she knows she has to and said “Fiiiiiiiiiiine. I’ll go.”
I was totally committed to my negative headspace and decided that just agreeing to be there was enough hard work for one day, actually enjoying being there or making an effort to hitch a ride on the holy-prayer-train wasn’t even on the menu.
As we walked down the steps towards The Kotel, I looked out at all the devotees swaying and grooving in their private prayers, and confirmed that there was in fact no way I would be capable of communicating anything honest or deep to G-d. It had been a long week, I was spent and quite simply not in the mood for an intimate soul chat with My Creator.
I know that prayer isn’t the only way to connect Above, so I figured I would just hang in the back row and keep my eyes peeled for something interesting. If He needed me, He’d know where to find me.
I hung a sharp left at the entrance of the women’s section and sat down in the “cheap seats” as far away from the wall as I could get. I wasn’t there for more than a minute before a middle aged woman with a prayer book, a bottle of orange “drink” under her arm and a plastic plate full of cookies beelined straight for me.
“I need you to say a blessing,” she said matter-of-factly. She put her stuff down next to me and handed me a cookie.
“First mezonot” (a blessing on the cookie).
I attempted my best “do I have to?” face but immediately reneged when I met her eyes and saw how positively adorable and earnest she was. She was all there. I took the cookie with a smile and raised it to my lips.
“Listen,” she said, “my sister’s son is finally engaged to be married. Thank G-d! Yishtabach Shm’o, Praise be His Name! You can’t imagine the tza’rot (suffering) my sister has had, how much we’ve prayed… And now, he’s finally getting married! Never mind that they’ve been living together for the last five years… Thank G-d, b’sha’ah tova, they’re getting married! Please pray that they have a good life together, and that they give my sister nachat (joy) and healthy grandchildren.”
She said the names of the bride and groom in a repeat-after-me voice and listened to me say a blessing over the cookie. She offered an enthusiastic “Amen!” as I finished.
She poured syrupy, almost fluorescent colored orange drink into a disposable plastic cup and handed it to me.
“Okay! This one is for my mother. She just got out of the hospital. Hashem Yishmor! You can’t believe how ill she was, it was unbelievable! The scare we had! … But there were mamash Miracles! Wonders and Miracles! You can’t believe the miracles…”
Here, she paused midsentence, and turned her gaze heavenward with a rascal-like twinkle in her eyes, and redirected her words to G-d, as if I wasn’t there at all.
“G-d!” she said, “I’m crazy about You! I LOVE YOU!” She made a motion in the air with her fingers like she was pinching G-d’s cheek. She brought her fingers to her mouth and kissed them with the energy of an adoring auntie kissing her favorite nephew’s face.
I giggled out loud because it was the sweetest thing I’d ever seen a grown woman do in prayer. She smiled at me, waving off her animated love-gush with G-d and said, as if she was explaining herself, “Ka’cha, ani v’hu… Yedidim.”
“That’s how I am with G-d … we’re friends.”
I blessed her mother with continued good health, said my blessing over the drink, and let the sticky sweetness of artificial orange coat my throat.
She kissed me hard on each of my cheeks, thanked me and wished me well.
She walked away and I covered my face with my hands, laughing quietly as a few sweet, happy tears pooled in my eyes. I may not be the best “pray-er” in town, but man, whenever I do show up, like this time, and this time, He’s always ready to make it worth my while.
“Thanks for hanging out with me in the back row today. That was awesome.” I said to my G-d with total sincerity. I had no idea that showing up to one of the holiest spots on earth with a super bad attitude would land me a private audience with G-d’s best friend.