On Prayer, Person & Purpose

Sep 23, 2007 Published under Life, Religion

How does a secular Jew relate to prayer? What is the meaning of Judaism, particularly in the modern world? 

What I love about Judaism has always been its overarching emphasis on striving to become better human beings.  The golden rule stems from Judaism: Do onto others…

I particularly admire the concept of “Tikun Olam”, that we are here in this world to make it better, to heal it.  I was raised in my Mexican Jewish school reading stories from Isaac Bashevis Singer and other Yiddish writers about that humble Rabbi’s unassuming good deeds in the shtetl (the little village in the farmlands of Eastern Europe).

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people.  It is not a day for celebration, though, as much as for introspection accompanied by a fast (so, instead of telling a Jewish person “Happy Yom Kippur”, you may want to say “Have an Easy Fast” or “Gmar Hatima Tova”, which means, may you be inscribed in the heavenly book).

When Yom Kippur comes, I try to use prayer as a way to meditate on how I can improve as a human being.  These are some of the reflections and areas I thought about – and will work on – improving:

Try to be more patient.  Try to be more patient with my Mom.  Try to be more patient with my team.

Try to be more empathetic and understanding.

Strive to be a better son.

Strive to be a better partner to Michelle.

Strive to be a better brother.

Strive to be a better friend.

Strive to be a better team member, mentor, CEO, colleague.

Be on time.  Be on time.  Be on time!

Fight all instincts at arrogance, conceit, self-importance, superiority, and haughtiness.

Treat every human being with respect and as an equal.

Be a better coach, be more supportive of my team, empower my team more, be better at guiding, trusting, strengthening.

Expect nothing from anyone, fight any sense of entitlement, never feel any support is not enough or not acceptable, be genuinely grateful for any support any person gives to the OneVoice Movement.

Never speak bad of others, never criticize people behind their back.

Give more time to my team at the company, and be thankful to them for their understanding for the time I have judged I need to give to OneVoice.

Strengthen and support my team for their professional and personal growth.

Be tolerant of errors, and guide team to excellence in a positive way.

Strive for justice, equality, peace, progress, light, prosperity, respect, humanity.

Fight terrorism, fight fundamentalism, fight to extinguish all forms of violent extremism.

Reject, uproot and actively fight any form of crime, abuse, mistreatment, cruelty, or injustice.


While prayer some times contains allegorical words designed to take you to a place where you can ponder and reflect on your role in the big scheme of things and on the importance of keeping in perspective what we each are in the grand design of life, some Yom Kippur prayers are actually quite poignant in teaching all of us to recognize we are far more imperfect than we would like to acknowledge.

Here is an example of prayers about sins we seek absolution from, from the seemingly mundane to the truly wicked, which I would not have thought about in my singular reflection but which all congregants probably realize we need to work on:

For the sin of the mocking voice,

For the sin of the clenched fist,

For the sin of the deceitful smile,

For the sin of spoken falsehood,

For the sin of enjoying violence

For the sin of causeless hatred….we seek forgiveness.

Somehow the way these are written, it makes you come to terms with your imperfections and failings.  "For the sin of spoken falsehood" – yes, nicer way to put it but I guess I’ve lied at some point in the course of last year, and I regret that…

And also the following:

We have sinned against you by polluting your earth

We have sinned against you through evil thoughts

We have sinned against you through false pride

We have sinned against you through wanton glances

We have sinned against you by envy

We have sinned against you by committing iniquity

We have sinned against you by hardening our hearts

We have sinned against you by being stubborn

We have sinned against you by perverting justice.

The above are NOT verbatim or in order, just to the best of my recollection, and from cryptic little notes I took…against the edict of not writing during Yom Kippur…

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