13 Elul 5778
24 August 2018
I recently listened to a story by Rabbi Leora Kaye called “The Bird Trap.” There was once a little girl whose brother made a bird trap. He was catching birds in the garden and the little girl was incredibly distressed. She asked him to allow the birds to be free but he would not listen, so she began to pray. Every night she prayed to God for the bird trap to go and every morning she woke and the trap was still there. After a week of prayers, she skipped into the kitchen where her mother was sipping her morning coffee. Her mother was surprised at her daughter’s good mood and she asked why she was so happy.
Her daughter replied: “My prayers have been answered! The bird trap will no longer be a problem.”
The little girl’s mother was worried, she did not want her daughter to be disappointed but she seemed so sure.
“Sweetheart,” she said, “how can you know that your prayers have been answered and the trap will no longer be a problem?”
“Because,” said her daughter, “I went out this morning and broke it.”
Our siddur has a beautiful quote “pray as if everything depended on God, act as if everything depended on you.” And that is the tension that we hold within ourselves, especially at this time of year. We are about to enter into an intense time of prayer, contemplation and connection with the spirit, but it is also a time when we reflect upon our deeds and our actions in the world. We look back at the year that has passed and consider how we could have improved, ways we could have done better, how we have impacted the world and we resolve to make changes. But prayer alone will not help to shape the world in which we want to live or the people we hope to become. For that we need to take action, to work in partnership with God. A man came to God and said: “ what kind of God are you? There is such pain, suffering and heartache in the world and you have done nothing about it!” God replied: “I did do something, I created you.” As we stop this month and reflect, we pray and we also consider the ways we are in partnership with God in healing ourselves and our world.
--Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio