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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash


When a minyan gathers and prays each morning, noon or evening, we follow a set of scripted words and choreography. These daily prayer experiences give participants the opportunity to thank, bless and to remember, but also, importantly, to build community.

Parshat Chayei Sarah is about many things; the journey of Eliezer to Abraham's homeland to find Isaac a mate, and the purchase of land for Sarah's grave. But Chayei Sarah is also about unscripted prayer; prayer from the heart. Twice in Parshat Chayei Sarah, we learn about prayer that comes from the heart, first when Eliezer, Abraham's servant, prays in his heart when Rebecca meets his kindness test and then again, when Isaac famously wanders and meditates in the field at the end of the day as Rebecca and Eliezer approach his home.

Perhaps Isaac was practicing Hitbodedut, the practice of going out each and every day and talking to God. With the practice of Hitbodedut, individuals can argue, confess, joke and unburden themselves privately to God, whether it is on a path in the woods, a corner of a room or by the sea. Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav initiated the practice of Hitbodedut, going out to the fields and talking with HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

This poem is not about Hitbodedut, but I did want to have the opportunity to speak to you about the practice. Rather, this poem is about seeing things closely, which is a practice that I believe precedes prayer and Hitbodedut. To notice the miracles around us opens up our hearts to prayer.

As someone who tries to use a lens of a camera in order to notice, this poem is about the art of noticing and its connection to prayer from the heart.


I hope that you might try the practice of seeing and the practice of conversing with God, Hitbodedut. You can see more about it at the bottom of this page.


The Prayer

While walking

look down

onto city sidewalks,

or forest paths,

a field at twilight.

Whether it is the cold of winter or the rebirth of spring

or the green profusion of summer

there are miracles as you walk.

Pay heed to the tiniest of things;

the cracks in the sidewalk,

the skeletons of leaves,

the puddles that mirror the sky

the footprints of those who walked an hour before you

the patterns of cracking ice,

the ants going about their business.

Look down and you will see worlds.

Let your eyes see.

Just notice.

From your eyes

to your heart,

to thought

to words

that is the essence of prayer.

When you go out into the world,

look up;

see what exists above eye level;

the randomness of clouds in the sky,

the symmetry of rooflines,

the slant of the sun on the trees,

the trails of planes that neatly cut the sky in half.

Trees bending in the wind,

spatters of rain,

hundreds of swallows flying as one.

You need not look far.

Just notice.

From your eyes

to your heart

to thought

to words

and that is heart of prayer.

When you go out into the world,

look around you,

to the right,

to the left;

see the world through eyes open;

the red berries on the bushes when leaves have fallen,

windows that open to people's homes and lives,

scooters and bikes and walkers and runners,

children walking to school,


the varieties of bark on the trees

and the wonderful diversity of people.

You need not look far;

you need just to open your eyes

and notice.

Look now

for what you see today may not be there tomorrow.

Look and savor.

Look and remember.

From your eyes

to your heart

to thought

to words

that is the poetry of prayer.

Be as Isaac

wander quietly, gently in the field,

early morning,

high noon,

as the sun sets golden.

Whatever that field might be for you,

discover the subtleties,

the secrets in plain site.

Take the time to see

To weigh and ponder.

To wonder.

From your eyes,

to your heart,

to thought,

to words.

That is prayer,

and all the rest is commentary.


אֲנִי֩ טֶ֨רֶם אֲכַלֶּ֜ה לְדַבֵּ֣ר אֶל־לִבִּ֗י וְהִנֵּ֨ה רִבְקָ֤ה יֹצֵאת֙ וְכַדָּ֣הּ עַל־שִׁכְמָ֔הּ וַתֵּ֥רֶד הָעַ֖יְנָה וַתִּשְׁאָ֑ב וָאֹמַ֥ר אֵלֶ֖יהָ הַשְׁקִ֥ינִי נָֽא׃

I had scarcely finished praying in my heart, when Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder, and went down to the spring and drew. And I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’

Genesis 24:25

וַיֵּצֵ֥א יִצְחָ֛ק לָשׂ֥וּחַ בַּשָּׂדֶ֖ה לִפְנ֣וֹת עָ֑רֶב וַיִּשָּׂ֤א עֵינָיו֙ וַיַּ֔רְא וְהִנֵּ֥ה גְמַלִּ֖ים בָּאִֽים׃

And Isaac went out walking*walking Meaning of Heb. lasuaḥ uncertain; others “to meditate.” in the field toward evening and, looking up, he saw camels approaching.

Genesis 24:64


About Hitbodedut

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