D’var Tefilah: Tefillah – Helping us view the world with amazement

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement . . . get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” – Abraham Joshua Heschel

 Heschel’s advice to wake up and see the world with amazement and take nothing for granted is reflected in many prayers throughout our liturgy. For example, right after “barchu” we read: “in Your goodness, day after day You renew Creation. How manifold Your works, O Lord; with wisdom You fashioned them all.” (Sim Shalom, page 97)

I often ponder why we are directed to acknowledge God as creator. These words help me ground myself and realize my place in the world. Click here to continue reading. I suspect that I am not unusual in my tendency to think that everything should revolve around me and that whatever particular need or want I have at the moment is the most important thing in the world. I also find that I take things for granted. I have been so blessed to have lived my life well fed, with family who have cared for me and loved me, and to have been given tremendous opportunities. It is true that I have done some things to capitalize on those opportunities, but I started with great advantages. So it helps that I am in daily awe of our natural world. From sunrises over the Agam at camp to the deer I saw grazing on the side of the road on my bike ride to the Quabbin Reservoir, I see that the world is so big and I am just a very small part of it. My realization that I live in a world that God created helps to keep me humble and gives me a sense of perspective.

I also think that Heschel’s message can help us to give meaning to our lives. God “renews creation” each day. We cannot live our lives on autopilot. For us, every day is a miracle, every day is special. By stopping to look around and appreciate what we have, we can see what we can do as creators. We can initiate social interactions that lead to deep friendships and love. We can care for those who are not as blessed. We can remember to cherish our families and to be present with them. We have tremendous power to make others feel good about themselves and to lift up each other’s spirits.

When praying, try to find moments that inspire you to think about how amazing our world is, how fortunate we are, and how we can fill as many moments as possible with meaning. Have an amazing Shabbat!