Not to Worry: Jewish Wisdom and Folklore

By Michele Klein | Go to book overview

3 Prayer

A Hasid consulted Rabbi Menahem Mendel of Kotzk about his anxiety.

“Don’t worry,” advised the rabbi. “Pray to God with all your heart, and the good Lord will have mercy on you.”

“But I don’t know how to pray,” protested the distraught Hasid. Pity surged into the heart of the rabbi as he told the poor man:

“Then you have indeed a great deal to worry about.”1

Another Hasidic rabbi, Simha Bunim of Pshiskhe, used to say that if your heart is full of worry, you can lighten it through ardent prayer and gain faith in God’s mercies.2

These rabbis, who lived around 1800 in an area that is now Poland, might have counseled the worried man to attend the synagogue when the congregation gathered to pray, and concentrate on the prayer ritual wholeheartedly. Such concentration would leave no room for worry. They knew that by praying three times a day, the Jew would have regular “time-out” from his worries, and would thus limit his worrying and prevent it from taking over his life.

Alternatively, these eastern European rabbis might have advised the Hasid to share his worries with God in a personal confession, admitting all that weighed down his heart. They could have assumed that such a prayer would have a cathartic effect; it would release tension and uplift him. We will see that Jews have often talked about their worries to God in their private prayers. They have also shared their worries with others while they pray. Prayer often connects the

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Not to Worry: Jewish Wisdom and Folklore
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • 1- About Worry 3
  • 2- Coping Strategies 25
  • 3- Prayer 53
  • 4- Meditation 85
  • 5- Dreams 113
  • 6- Theurgy and Magic 145
  • 7- A Moving Melody 183
  • 8- Humor 213
  • 9- Worry- For Better or for Worse? 237
  • Glossary 261
  • Notes 267
  • Index 319
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