In a moment of extreme foolishness I recently attempted to pay a credit card bill online through my computer. People of my generation should avoid such risky and dangerous behavior. The computer arrogantly demanded a password in order to log into my account. It also condescendingly informed me that I already had a password and that I should really type it in to get started paying my bill.
I have no recollection whatsoever of ever having that password and I certainly cannot remember what that password was. So, I again foolishly attempted to create a new password, which would then facilitate my entry into the hallowed halls of my credit card account. However, my computer repeatedly informed me that I had a password and that I should use that password to login to the account. And, it was very reticent to allow me to create a new password since I had not as yet use up the old one.
In any event, I eventually despaired of dealing with the matter and resorted to the time honored method of actually talking to a human being and arranging the payment of my bill in that fashion. Of course there is a certain waiting time that is mandatory today when attempting to talk to a human being on the other side of the phone line. It is as though companies that service millions of customers shudder at the thought that a representative of the company should be available in a relatively few minutes to provide what is euphemistically called customer service.
Be that as it may, I was able to successfully pay my bill with the help of the human being on the other side of the line, but I realized that I was still absolutely bereft of a password.
Passwords are supposed to prevent hackers and other nefarious individuals from invading one’s privacy or, worse still, stealing information and money electronically. And, as is being proven daily by the hackers amongst us, passwords are not the panacea that prevents identity and monetary theft. But they are important.
And this led me to think about the passwords that are central to prayer in Jewish life. The different names/appellations used in referring to God in our prayers are really different passwords to allow our hopes and commitments to enter the different sections of the portals of Heaven. Like all passwords that exist in our physical world, these passwords must also be accurate and correct.
The fixed order of prayer in Judaism often times may appear to be repetitive and not overly inspiring. Nevertheless, this fixed order of prayer established by Ezra and the Men of the Great Assembly, two and a half millennia ago, remains the correct and exclusive password to the Heavenly domain.
Jewish history is abundantly clear that attempting to change the password to fit all sorts of passing fancies and temporary social and political correctness fails to achieve its goal.
Simply put, the wrong password will never get you to your account, no matter how elegant and emotionally inspiring that password may be. Thinking of the texts of Jewish prayer in terms of being accurate and necessary passwords will help make the moments of prayer that one participates in more vital, important and real.
The password that I type on my computer keyboard, and that appears on the computer, has a physicality to it. Our computer screen gives us the illusion of reality though in effect nothing physical is present on it. We have become accustomed to treating what appears on our computer screens as being real, even though it really is ephemeral and transitory.
Much of religious belief falls into those categories as well. To the believing Jew, these transitory words, actions and ritual symbols encompass true reality. They allow us to enter realms of the spirit and the soul that are not visible to human eyes, yet in our hearts and minds we know that they exist and we wish to enter therein.
The moments of truly committed prayer properly executed may not be constant in our lives but when they do occur we feel the surge of holiness and communication with the infinite and with our Creator. That is the connective power of having the right password and the right domain. And having these passwords as part of our spiritual arsenal allows us to, so to speak, pay our bills on time in Heaven, as we accomplish it on earth as well. So, let us all resolve to remember our passwords and use them regularly.