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Danita and Michel Aziza


by Danita Aziza, May 17, 2011

When I am faced with a problem, frightened or at my wits end my method of coping has always been the same; first I pray and then I clean.

When Michel underwent emergency triple by-pass surgery in February of 2005, I remember leaving very late at night the downtown Winnipeg hospital where he was awaiting his operation and praying fervently during the drive back home that he should be ok. No matter the lateness of the hour, as soon as I entered the front door to my house, I would make a dash straight for my bottle of environmentally safe spray cleaner and spend a good ten minutes or so cleaning the countertop in my kitchen, spraying and rubbing until it glistened in the moonlight.  The combination of praying and cleaning brought me comfort and a sense of control.  With a sparkling clean kitchen and a plea to Above, I was able to manage a few hours of necessary shut eye that would sustain me and allow me to maintain a sense of normalcy when nothing in my life at the time was all that normal.

I pray quite often in the day.  Not in an organized way or with a prayer book, but with the muttering of my lips or in silent thought.  When something good happens be it a call from one of the kids telling me of a great mark they received or just hearing their happy voice on the other end of the phone, I try and remember to follow the call with a little prayer of thanks. When I’m waiting to hear that Tali or Benji have reached a destination by bus, train or car or when I hear the key turn the lock in the middle of the night when they come home from being out with friends, I say a little prayer grateful to know that they are back home safely.  When something simple happens that brings a smile to my face or I share a good laugh over something silly I try and not let the moment pass without a word of thanks although, to my dismay, more often than not it does.

My favorite prayer is when I light the Shabbat candles with the girls on Friday night and we say the blessing together and they follow aloud with an English prayer that they learned from my Mom. Even if the girls have had a tiff or if I’m upset over something, coming together to recite the blessing seems to relinquish all the tension and we pass into a different space that is much calmer, softer and more at peace.  As I get older, my prayer on Friday nights gets longer and longer which serves perhaps both as a measure of maturity or the number of things that I’ve added to my list for which I’m grateful. 

My biggest prayer challenge is the prayer that I say before I fall asleep at night.  With time my prayer has become more complex, my memory duller and my attention span much shorter.  I start out my prayer in much the same fashion as I did when I was ten years old and then I seem to get lost along the way finding myself somehow thinking about the groceries I need to shop for, the person I forgot to call during the day, the piece of work I left undone and so on and so on.  When I realize that I’ve ventured somewhere far from prayer, I try and bring myself back and inevitably can’t remember where I left off so start from the top again, many times drifting into sleep well before reaching the end of my recitation.

Prayer grounds me.  It forces me to try and not take things for granted and it tends to calm me when I feel that circumstance has been taken from my control.  It helps to connect me to people who I am far removed from both physically and emotionally and to those that I don’t know personally, but whom I know are in need in some way.  It makes me feel human in the sense that there is something much greater that has a hand in how my own small world and the world much larger, unfolds. 

Since moving to Israel, I probably pray more often than I did before.  There are simply more things to be concerned about perhaps, but also more opportunity to experience the wonders of creation and the joys of life and to be grateful for them.  When I get up in the morning and peruse the morning paper and contemplate the myriad of problems that plague the country in which I now make my home, I feel overwhelmed and at times quite frankly, down right scared.  Mumbling a little prayer under my breath helps me go on with my day and not to be consumed with a feeling of helplessness and despair.  When I seize the opportunity to take a walk on the beach, look at the sea and marvel at the beautiful sunset, I feel ever so grateful to be blessed with the opportunity to live here and soak in all the magnificence that abounds.

In an attention deficient society faced with constant worries about climate control, disease, financial security, technological sophistication and personal safety, prayer can be a formidable tool for helping to navigate life and cope with the multitude of unknowns that we anticipate, sometimes with a very deep sense of concern.  As someone who has wrestled with anxiety from a young age, I’m able to confront many of my fears with the aid of prayer whether it be to conquer a transatlantic flight, deal with family health issues, adapt to having a son in the army, or live in a Country where worry and fear cannot be allowed to clutter your thoughts.

Prayer does not necessarily need to be steeped in religion or have a set script.  It never needs to be judged by another mortal or shared with anyone.  It is deeply personal and easy to construct and it is probably the simplest, healthiest and least expensive way I have found to quell negative emotion when it dominates as well as accentuate feelings of contentment and gratitude when those types of feelings abound.

Today I stood behind an elderly gentleman at the banking machine and he happened to drop his credit card.  As I bent down to pick up the card for him, I heard him bless me with good health. A small encounter that I won’t soon forget…a stranger said a little prayer for me.  G-d bless him.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

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