The best part of our Fulbright adventure is meeting amazing people. We have been blessed with so many friends here, each with their talents. One of these great people is our friend Alden, who me met at the synagogue that we belong to. He is an wonderful person, full of positive energy and love for people and the world. He has an amazing story that we want to share with you.
The inspiration for this post is Alden’s book launch that we attended last night. Alden is a poet and liturgist. He writes prayers and meditations for different occasions, many of which are difficult situations, such as the loss of a loved one. He finds words to help with those difficult times when it is hard to connect with Hashem. He finds words to express the joy you feel when something wonderful happens. He has a gift for expressing the emotions that aren’t so easy to share with the world. Like I said, he is amazing!
From what we know about Alden, he has always been very spiritual. Meditation and prayer have always been a part of his daily ritual. However, it wasn’t until his wife, Ami, passed away that he began to write them all down. He told us when he first lost his wife to a tragic accident he felt empty. His days were devoid of prayers and meditations because he needed to use all of his energy to get through the day. Then, as he continued to deal with his grief, he found that writing his prayers helped him heal. After about a year of writing, he had so many prayers that he decided to make a website to share them. Many people have been touched by his prayers, and he told us that he gets requests through his website for new prayers to help with difficult situations that people are facing in their lives. He loves writing for people who need it. He told us that it is his way of doing tikkun olam, which is the Jewish concept of healing the world. By providing people with prayers to help them through difficult situations like infertility or the loss of a loved one, he feels like he is helping to make the world a better place.
Alden’s prayers really speak to me. The first one that I read was the one on the birth of a child that he sent us when Adina was born, which you can read on his website. This prayer was so touching that it made me cry tears of happiness. A lot of his prayers touch me like that. Unlike poetry, which I never seem to understand, Alden’s prayers are concrete. There may be symbolism but I don’t have to understand it to understand the prayer. To understand one of Alden’s prayers, you have to understand emotion. It is the emotion that I can connect to either because I have experienced the emotion myself or because I can empathize with someone who has.
This year, Alden has worked to put his prayers for hope and healing into a book. Since this book was published he has created a companion for the Haggadah, which is what we read at the Passover seder. We are now the proud owners of both, which he signed. I have already read a few from the Haggadah companion, and they are amazing.
Prayer is an interesting thing. In Judaism, the prayers for each part of the daily services is set. The expectation is that these are the prayers you will say throughout the day to speak to/honor Hashem. However, Judaism supports the use of personal prayer at all times. Whenever you are thankful for something or having trouble with something else, a prayer from the heart is very appropriate. While Jewish prayers are traditionally in Hebrew, there is nothing wrong with saying a personal prayer in your native tongue. Connecting with Hashem is the most important part of prayer. That is what I think makes Alden’s prayers so special. He is helping people find the words to connect with Hashem through personal prayer when they may not be able to find the words themselves. He is helping people connect with Hashem which is definitely a mitzvah!
Alden’s website for his prayers and meditations is called To Bend Light. He explained at the book launch that he thinks of of light as that connection with Hashem. When someone prays, he said that he visualizes that the light from Hashem is bent toward that person, and blessing and comfort from Hashem are directed at the person. He hopes that his prayers help people to bend the light toward themselves in good times and bad. Isn’t that an amazing image?
Alden’s book Jewish Prayers for Hope and Healing and his Haggadah Companion are both available for purchase if you are interested. Last night at the launch he told everyone that he is working on two more books and eight more companions. I can’t wait to see what these new prayers are like!
Until next time…
A few pictures from the book launch courtesy of Facebook!