At Handmaker, rabbis probe purpose of prayer

(L-R) Rabbis Yossie Shemtov, Thomas Louchheim and Robert Eisen take part in the Handmaker panel May 6. [Nanci Levy)
Hazel Rappeport and her daughter, Sharon Rappeport, attend the rabbis’ lecture at Handmaker May 6. (Nanci Levy)

Some 65 people attended Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging’s  third annual three-rabbi panel lecture on Sunday, May 6, on “What is the Purpose of Prayer?”

Rabbi Yossie Shemtov of Chabad Tucson said our connection to G-d is through prayer, and that davening (praying) before reciting the Shema is like dating, and the Shema is the connection, says Nanci Levy, community outreach coordinator at Handmaker.

Rabbi Thomas Louchheim of Congregation Or Chadash talked about the difference between public prayer, which provides us with a sense of community and of G-d’s presence, and personal payer, which is more about what is happening in the present moment.

Rabbi Robert Eisen of Congregation Anshei Israel believes prayer is more effective when it is shared. For him, prayer is a way to pause and make himself listen to G-d, to pay attention to signs from G-d, and to help establish a bond with G-d.

“We were all relieved to hear from Rabbi Eisen that it is OK to fall asleep during services,” adds Levy. “He said that rabbis are supposed to comfort their congregants, and if you fall asleep, you must be really comfortable.”