And yet, perhaps it is not so strange at all. Worship takes work. For those of us who rarely enter into prayer, or even for those of us who pray regularly, worship is not easy, if we truly want to make sense of the prayers and to relate to our God. Worship takes a familiarity with the words of the prayers themselves, be it in Hebrew, English, or some other language. However, worship also requires an intense willingness to take to heart the words we are reciting.
Take for example the v’ahavta prayer. For many of us, chanting the words of the v’ahavta in Hebrew is not so difficult. For some of us, we grew up with the Union Prayer Book or the Gates of Prayer, both of which had recognized English translations for the v’ahavta prayer. So the words might easily flow off our tongues, but what thought did we put into the meaning of the prayer? Do we think about the mezuzah that is affixed to our doorposts, and does reciting the v’ahavta prayer inspire us to want to acknowledge our mezuzah when we enter our homes? Does chanting the v’ahavta prayer remind us of the requirement to observe daily mitzvot?
Every time we pray, we offer a prayer for worship. You know it as the Ritze prayer, though it is officially our prayer of Avodah. In this prayer, which has many different versions, we begin by acknowledging that God’s people yearns for God’s favor, and we then ask God to receive our prayer with loving acceptance. We do not take for granted that our prayers will always be heard, and so we ask God to hear our prayer, every time we pray.
On Labor Day this year, let us not only think of the workers who deserve equal pay, and the children, women and men who are mistreated in their places of work.
On Labor Day this year, let us not only celebrate the hard work of the past, the workers who led the way to create safe and fair guidelines around work and work places.
On Labor Day this year, let us remember that avodah, labor, is not only our “work”, but also our “worship”.
On Labor Day this year, let us begin to embrace the difficult and yet rewarding path of avodah, which ultimately leads us to coming closer to our God.
Now let the sound of the shofar be heard;
And let our souls be awakened!
Rabbi Debbie Bravo
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