The Birds Sing Praises of Hashem: A Thought on Tefila


The Birds Sing Praises of Hashem: A Thought on Tefila

 I just came back from a week in the Golan. We spent a week hiking up and down mountains, seeing exquisite scenery including stunning waterfalls. The highlight was watching the migrating birds on their way from Southern Russia to Africa (Israel is a way station for them). We saw tens of thousands of storks and pelicans and ducks.


Every evening at about 4:15 (as the sun was setting - shkiya), we were treated to the most miraculous display right in front of the home where we were staying. Thousands of migrating birds flew over the village, in order to find their resting place for the evening. As we stood in front of the house, 100's of the birds landed in the fir trees in front of the house, as well as other trees in the neighborhood. As they landed, the chirping was loud, as if they were checking to be sure each bird in the family was present. Then suddenly, there was silence, and they settled in for the night. The wonders of our Creator.


Birds have their own way of praising Hashem. In fact, every animal has "language" that he uses to ask Hashem that his needs be met. The lion roars, the mouse squeaks. To the animals, this is natural, an instinct.


We, too, have an instinct to call to Hashem, although we are sometimes unaware of it. For instance, if we are sick, even if we are alone in the room, we will groan or even call out. If we are about to fall from a ladder, we will cry out, HELP, even if there is no one around to help us. Sometimes, we talk out loud even though no one is in the room. We find ourselves speaking words though no one is listening. All of these "callings" out are, in fact, part of our instinct to reach out to Hashem.


The power of intelligent speech is what separates man from the animals. Words are the connection between physical and spiritual, between our body and soul. When we say words of prayer or Torah or consolation, we are using speech, we are using words in their highest form.


Yet, the instinct to groan, or yell "help" or grunt in times of stress, illness or fright, are also part of our attempts to draw near to Hashem. In fact, if we are aware of this, we can transform these wordless sounds into a kind of prayer.


How do we do that? By imbuing them with Kavana, intentionality. In other words, instead of merely groaning, we can direct our groans to Hashem. They can be a means of connecting with Hashem, and we can become deeply aware of our natural desire to transcend ourselves, reaching toward our Creator for help, comfort, and attention.


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