Superman Is a Marathon Prayer Master
School days! It was first grade in public school 163, and there I sat, drawing a grounded bird, with all those boring books on the desk and ahead of me more of the same, year after year. I wanted so badly to fly out the window, and all I could do was gaze at the sky when the teacher didn’t see.
Let’s skip all that stuff and fast forward fifty-odd years, five and a half thousand miles away. I walked around on my front porch in the Negev, talking to G-d, looking at the big sky and the stars, talking into the wind whooshing in from the Mediterranean. At that moment I felt sure I could surf on the wind and get all the secrets from Creation to now.
For that dizzying moment I believed I could fly but the next moment…ugh. What if I couldn’t keep it up; I sensed that one fleeting thought of emuna couldn’t hack it; I could lose concentration and crash. And so, the magical moment passed.
But get this! Three of my boys believed they could fly too. Time and again, it was amazing! Two jumped out of a moving airplane with only a flimsy parachute. One jumped off a cliff in Nepal with only a bungee rope. Two boys on two separate occasions dive-bombed into the sky, two and a half miles above the earth, and flew in the sky like a Superman. For all the 60 seconds in free fall their belief held steady and never did they crash.
Okay, they had a parachute. Still I wouldn’t have done it, even if they pushed me out of the plane by force. But some people have no parachute and they fly anyway: Rabbi Abuchatzeira did it in Egypt, and the holy Baal Shem Tov flew across a river without even a rope.
So, there I was when the Breslevers dropped me under a tree in the desert and told me to talk for an hour. If you’re not a seasoned marathon prayer master, you’re gonna think twice before you even stand for the 18-blessing prayer in the siddur, let alone a whole hour of personal prayer. But if you are a seasoned marathon prayer master, you can talk to G-d for 24 hours straight without batting an eyelash (In Forest Fields, p. 345). It’s like jumping into the sky and you don’t know how long you can take the fear without a heart attack and you can’t just stop before the end.
The thing about that marathon 6-hour hitbodedut is you get a category-5 157- miles-per-hour hurricane of answers-from-Heaven so fast you don’t even notice them until you dry yourself off, change your clothes and get a chance to think about what just happened.
To illustrate: on the fast of Tisha b’Av I couldn’t eat or cook for anyone anyway; no one wanted to talk; everyone was miserable. I had no dishes to wash, I couldn’t wash the clothes, and I doubted I could write a story without coffee, so there was nothing to do but talk to G-d. I focused on my son who was still crying from heartbreak over his divorce.
So, I started walking wherever my feet would take me, talking to HaShem all the while.
When I got tired of that I stood still, and then I sat down, and then lay down on the couch, and kept on talking, giving thanks for my own divorce long ago, and all my stupid mistakes, and my son, and the arguments, and then his divorce, and what a mess it all was. Please don’t ask me to fix it because I couldn’t in a million years. Then I sat on the swing outside. Show me how, G-d, and I’ll fix it. After a while I really got into it, though I can’t remember what I said. It’s like jogging long distance; it’s hard in the beginning, and then you hit a stride and don’t feel the pain because you just keep going.
And after Tisha b’Av nothing happened, so I forgot about it.
A month passed. Soon it was going to be Yom Kippur, another great day for hitbodedut…Then I remembered Tisha b’Av, and realized that somewhere in between the two days my son had gotten engaged to a fantastic girl and the wedding was coming up soon, but when did that first meeting happen? I checked my emails and what I found there blew my mind.
It happened 18 days after six hours of prayer on Tisha b’Av. And since that next epic 6-hour prayer session on Yom Kippur, the miracles are blowing in so furious I can't write fast enough to keep up. It feels like a miracle tsunami!