Sunday, March 4, 2012

Words of comfort

Praying three times a day, you say a lot of words.  I haven't done an exact word count.  But here's an estimate. In the Artscroll prayer book, the morning prayers go from pages 48 to 162.  There are some pages that are skipped on certain days, when the Torah is not read and when Tachanun is either not recited or only a portion is recited (Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday).  Half of these pages are in English, so we are at 114, divided by two or 57.  Let's say on average 40 of these pages are recited.  Turning to a random page, there are 17 lines and most lines have 8 Hebrew words.  So that makes about 136 words per page, times 40, or 5,440.  Let's just say that the afternoon and evening prayers take up 24 Hebrew pages, or about 3,264 words, which brings us to a grand total or 8,704, though to be sure, the latter two prayers are mostly repetitions of words recited at morning prayers.  In any event, Jewish prayer is highly literacy oriented.

The question is: in how many of these words do I find meaning?  There are a few that speak to me in my current condition.  One is found in Psalm 146, recited in the morning, It says, referring to God, "He is the healer of the broken-hearted, and the One who binds up their sorrows."  Most mornings these words leap out of the page at me.  The imagery is medical, as the words "bind up" in modern Hebrew refers to a medic.  I am, truly, in need of an operation to repair my injured soul.

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