The Daat Zekenim teaches that there are seven different names that refer to prayer. The common word we use is tefilah. There is rina, joyous song, tzaakah, shouting out to God, nefilah, falling down, and several others. So why does Moses choose a techina, pleading with God when speaking before the revelation of the ten commandments? We learn that Moses wanted God to know that though he pleads, he is aware that even if God responds favorably, this response would be a gift rather than something he is entitled to.
Moses’ thought process is a life lesson for us all.
Imagine if we took every day not as an entitlement but as a gift. We do this often when we are given second chances, but the possibilities would be endless if we could act like this the first time around.
This week, many of us witnessed a techina in action. Sinai Temple hosted an interfaith conversation between the Orthodox Jewish basketball star Ryan Turell of Yeshiva University, and Enes Kanter Freedom, the 11-year NBA veteran who returned from Israel last week, where he preached to his two million Instagram followers the importance of respect between the Abrahamic faiths. When the seven-foot Freedom approached the Kotel with a note in hand, the Rabbi of the Western Wall came up to him and said, “I have never met such a tall Jew before.” Freedom responded, “I am not Jewish. I am a Muslim and have come to pray.” Over the next few days, Enes Kanter Freedom posted messages from the Church of The Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock, and Yad Vashem. He explained that he felt the need to be the first to step foot into the water, to change the narrative of conflict to harmony by seeing each other face to face.
Enes Kanter Freedom, a remarkable athlete, has given up his career to share the message of human love. In Israel, he led a basketball clinic with Tamir Goodman, known as “The Jewish Jordan.” The clinic was filled with Israelis and Arabs, Jews, Christians, and Muslims. He told the story of the young Arab girl who made a basket, ran down the court to high five her Jewish teammate, a moment that he knew could transform both of their lives, a moment which each of these children were not entitled too, but was a true gift. This past week, he did the same at Sinai Temple.
There are many different ways to pray. Some of us look to prayer for answers. This Shabbat, let us look to prayer as an acknowledgment of a gift.