I recently traveled to Israel. I wanted to pray at the most sacred site in all of Judaism: the grave of Menachem Begin. I also visited popular tourist sites like the Western Wall, where I stuffed a handwritten scrap of paper between the cracks of the holy Herodian stones. My note contained but a modest request; and yet, despite my heartfelt plea, I found myself in a middle seat on the flight home.
Why did God forsake me?
– Crazy for Israel
I understand how you feel. Just this morning, in fact, I prayed I would be presented with a meaningful question, one that would touch on issues of Jewish identity, history, and scholarship. A question that would challenge me intellectually and emotionally, one that would illuminate the world simply by having been asked.
But I received yours instead. Nonetheless, I will respond, because I get paid the same either way.
Crazy, I am sorry to report that your uncomfortable flight is clear evidence that the Almighty finds you as irritating as I do. The depth of Divine disdain can be measured in inches: specifically, the waist size of your travel companions. Based on my initial impression of you, I’m going to go ahead and assume you were seated between identical twin Sumo wrestlers.
Still, you ask a valid question. After all, you prayed at the grave of the greatest Zionist leader of all time. Who but a true patriot would defy the government by forming and arming his own private army? Do we Americans not admire our private militias as models of democracy?
Maybe the Holy One, Blessed Be He (or She) harbors a grudge against you. For example: did you vote for Obama in 2008? (Voting for him in 2012 is considered a lesser transgression, as even the All-Knowing tends to stick with the incumbent.) Other activities frowned upon by Our Father, Our King include: murder, adultery, and becoming a vegan. (He went to a lot of trouble to make cows — who are you to waste them?)
Or, perhaps it was the nature of the prayer itself that offended. We have all seen situations in which a terrible mishap is unexpectedly survived by a few of its victims. They invariably testify to having prayed for salvation as the disaster unfolded, but surely the doomed passengers/mine workers/hikers prayed with equal fervor! The obvious conclusion is that they, like you, prayed wrong.
But don’t be discouraged. Keep praying. Sure, it’s done you no good until now, but who knows? Maybe G-d will one day confuse you with somebody He actually likes and your prayer will be answered. In the meantime, did you know you can select your seat online? Point-and-click may lack the gravitas of stand-and-daven, but at least it’s reliable.
N. Troyer was taught the importance of prayer from a young age; it was only later the author developed an appreciation for booking a flight well in advance.