Vayakhel

What unsaid things do you carry in your heart? What is stopping you from saying these things? What would help you to find the words and express those unsaid things?

This week in our Wednesday text study class with the 4th -6th graders we looked at the text,“Adonai S’fatai tiftach ufi yagid tehilatecha,” “God, open my lips that my mouth may declare your prayers of praise.”  This verse comes from Psalms and is the introductory line that we sing before starting the Amidah, the silent prayer, the central prayer for which we always stand, that is at the core of our liturgy.

Why does this text invoke the lips and mouth, and not the heart? After all, isn’t it opening our hearts in that moment that brings meaning to the words? Isn’t it bringing our own intentions to the prayer that we need help doing? If the words are right there, and we are not creating them ourselves, why do we need to ask for help to say them?

In contrast, in this week’s Torah portion Vayahkel, about building the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) the text uses the word “lev” quite a lot. Different usages of the word are used to describe the people’s generosity, their craftsmanship skills, and their motivation for donating materials with which to build the Mishkan. The literal translations include: a giving heart, lifting the heart, and wisdom of the heart.

Perhaps the Torah is describing the internal experience and motivation, and the Psalms text is asking for assistance translating experience into words.

Isn’t it in our most transcendent moments, when we are moved, touched or emotionally overwhelmed by life’s experience when words falter? Isn’t it in those moments when we are so filled with joy, anger, vulnerability, or fear that we feel dumbstruck?

Perhaps the Torah portion is reminding us that spiritual moments emanate from the heart, and the Psalms text is acknowledging the complexity of trying to express or name those moments. Perhaps it is in our prayers that we remind ourselves that despite the dexterity of our language, the truly important things to say, those that are the most meaningful, the most profound and emanate from the deepest parts of ourselves are the hardest to express.

What unsaid things do you carry in your heart? What is stopping you from saying these things? What would help you to find the words and express those unsaid things?

 

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