The base of all Hebrew prayer is to listen for the Oneness. As Rabbi Alan Lew says, “There’s a deeper speech that doesn’t come from where normal speech comes from.” So how do we hear this deeper speech of Oneness? Well, we can gather many views of something true, not relying on any one; and, if stilled enough, we can join our small breath with the one breath of the Universe; and, if patient enough, we can track what lives just below the surface till it connects us to the living Source.
If blessed, enduring and living our lives in the open can wear us down to the bare speech of Oneness. In everyday terms, ordinary spirits—like the great salmon that return from the sea—can break surface with traces of Oneness. Like the minion of Jewish men in San Francisco who prayed together every day for much of their lives. After thirty years, several had strokes that impaired their speech. Yet when together—and only when together—they could still sing the prayers imprinted in their hearts. Just what enabled these men, after losing their speech, to keep singing in each other’s presence? And what does this say about the source of song and the sense of community that keeps the song alive? What kind of medicine is this whose serum is love and whose needle is time?
—excerpt from Seven Thousand Ways to Listen,
forthcoming from Simon & Schuster, October 2012