I recently taught a class in which a group of women discussed what distracts us when we pray. At first, the answers were benign: our children, someone else’s child, the sounds of the cars outside, our own personal worries, etc. But the conversation shifted and someone said, “Other women distract me when I pray.”
Pushed further, the answer resonated with almost every woman around the table. When another woman walks into the synagogue, pretty harsh questions run through our mind: “Why did she choose to wear that dress with those shoes?” “Doesn’t her skirt look a little short?” Or perhaps worse if we know the woman: “Did you hear about her husband’s job?” or “I wonder why she’s single.” Although we may start a morning of prayer with the best of intentions, we often leave the synagogue filled with judgment and superiority. Women silently attacking other women…perhaps this is the biggest distraction of all.
Sunday is Mother’s Day. For many, it is 24 hours filled with a few more minutes of sleeping in, hand-made cards, spilled orange juice at brunch, and some Facebook photos praising mothers around the world. And this is all wonderful and beautiful and should be embraced. But I am wondering if Mother’s Day can also be 24 hours of women expressing prayers. A day in which every woman steps out of her own shoes, thinks about the women in her life, and silently offers a prayer to God on their behalf. A prayer for the mother that finds it difficult to get out of bed in the morning and faces another day of depression and fatigue. A prayer for the woman that suffered a miscarriage and thinks that nobody remembers, that nobody cares. A prayer for the woman that buried her child and can’t imagine going through another Mother’s Day, ever again. A prayer for the woman that longs to be married, to become a spouse, to become a parent and wonders when that day will come.
At the end of our class, I asked the participants to write a short prayer, a prayer for the woman that walks through the synagogue, a woman we would typically attack with short snippets of judgment or shame.
Master of the Universe, may this woman’s story be woven through mine. Her tears, her smiles, her hills and valleys. Let my prayers heal the holes in her heart and may her prayers give me comfort and lift me with hope.
Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.”
On Mother’s Day, I will offer thanks for this beautiful world and the gift of life. And I will offer a prayer to the women that surround me—at whichever stage they’re at. 24 hours of women praying for women. 24 hours of women praying with women. That is a day that I look forward to.