Friday, January 23, 2015

The Desire for Acceptance

"May the words of my mouth be acceptable to You."
- Hebrew prayer recited before
we begin the central standing prayer, known as the Amidah

We ask God to accept our prayers even before we say them. We ask people to accept us even before we meet them.

In our daily lives, we seek to be seen and heard. We want to matter. Like a child who reaches her hands upward signaling that she wants to be held, we, as adults, long for that attentive act of unconditional love. The fear of rejection begins as a child and carries a lifelong sentence of perfection performance.

I am the second child of my parents' offspring. I am constantly struggling for my premiere place in the world, even as I accept my birth order in my nuclear family. I want to claim my gold position in everything else, and so I work harder to achieve and to get noticed for these same successes. I was the first female in my family to get a higher degree and the top student in my classes from public school to rabbinical school. I was the first cousin who traveled to Israel on scholarship as a college student, and getting to be Queen Esther in the Yiddish fifth grade school play made all my other cousins jealous.

In Judaism, the "bechor," the first born (usually the male heir), has numerous privileges and responsibilities. God’s favor rested on their first fruits, their first offerings.

And yet, as in the biblical Cain and Abel, we learn that to be first was not always a good thing. The rejection of Cain’s offering to God began the saga of sibling rivalry and culminated in the first post-creation murder. The early Genesis stories confound us further by giving the second born lineage over the first-born: Abel over Cain; Isaac over Ishmael; Jacob over Esau.

To be accepted is to be acknowledged for our uniqueness no matter our birth order or status in life. When God accepts our prayer offerings, the Holy One relies on the authenticity of our heart’s desires -- not on the embellishments that surrounds them.

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