You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride;
you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain. — Song of Songs 4:12
Prayer in Judaism is defined as “the work of the heart,” which profoundly changes the nature of prayer from one of entreating God to an act that transforms who we are – not what God does. Our devotions throughout this month are focused on the purpose of prayer, how to pray effectively, and the power of our prayers. Allow us to take your prayers to the holiest site in all Judaism, the Western Wall. To submit a prayer request to be taken to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, please go here.
If you have ever watched a very young child try to dress him or herself, you know how cute it can be. I know because I’ve watched my young granddaughter! Stubbornly insisting “I can do it myself,” she painstakingly tackles each button as if she were trying to solve the world’s greatest problems. Then she tries to stick her head into the sleeve instead of the head opening, breaking out into an earth-piercing wail when she gets stuck!
It’s easy to find my young granddaughter adorable when she tries to “do it herself,” but what about when a 40-year-old or a 60-year-old approaches life with the same stubbornness — refusing help, even from God?
Now, most folks don’t intentionally shut out God’s help. Rather, they simply don’t ask Him for help. They wrestle through the day’s problems on their own, often too busy to even take a moment to ask God for His assistance. And what a shame, since as the psalmist reminds us, “The LORD is near to all who call on him” (Psalm 145:18).
While we may think we are saving time by not spending precious moments on prayer, we are probably doing the exact opposite because when the Master of the Universe is working with us, one can only imagine how much more efficient we might be.
I love how King Solomon put it in the Song of Songs. He wrote: “You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride . . .” This is the man in the story talking to the woman, or in allegorical terms, God talking to His people. Basically, it’s as if God is saying, “You are so beautiful, you have so much to offer, and I want to have a relationship with you, but you won’t let me in!” You see, when we don’t open ourselves to God, we are like a locked-up garden — so much potential inside but we won’t open up to share it.
The first teaching from this verse is to open ourselves up to God — to call on Him in prayer and ask for His assistance. In this way, we make God part of our lives on a daily basis. We open up our talents and treasures to Him. They are so much more valuable when shared.
The second lesson is that we also need to open up to the other people in our lives. This means asking them for help at times. While it might be hard for us to do and we might even feel like a burden, the truth is when we open ourselves up to another person, we are allowing them to be part of our life. Our relationships are strengthened as we share our lives with others.
We can’t do it all ourselves, and thanks to God, we don’t have to. But, we must be wise enough and humble enough to let others in and not insist on “doing it myself.”
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President