It would be so much easier if this prompt (as I read it, by my rules) were about all of my well-intended actions - to write, to call, to make, to do - all of those things that I mean to do, but can't get myself together enough to actually, you know, do.
There are squirrels. Many, many squir--
But as I sit before my keyboard, three days behind the writing of this, with the brisket in the oven and the actual date that we will all consume the brisket still up in the air, and the invite list still as nailed down as cotton candy on a stick, and all of my music spread out on the dining room table, waiting for me to trace out the words in darker ink so that I can see them while singing in the choir in four ohmygodfour hours, and this is it - Elul is almost over and I am so not ready...
I think intendis a much harder, much richer thing than all of my squirrels put together.
Intend is all about my heart, and if I have learned only one thing in my life, it is this: the longest journey I've ever taken is the one that goes from my head to my heart.
All that other stuff, all that distracted, ADHD forgetfulness, all of that may be symptomatic of this, but it is only a pale echo of the spiritual principle of intend.
There is a psalm, a really horrible psalm, all smitey and teeth-gnashy and eat the babies of the enemies kind of psalm. I would not set it to music and sing it as a lullaby. But within it, there is a verse, hidden in its simple glory and profound grace: Ani tefillah. It is often translated as "I am a prayerful person."
No. Okay - maybe. Who am I to judge anyone's translation of Hebrew. But here's how I would do it (how I actually hear it): I am prayer.
I am prayer. I am a prayer. Either way - it is the intention, the mindful action, that I live my life as a prayer to God. That I enter the world raw and vulnerable and open, cracked wide. All my borders, every boundary, open.
Even in my doubt. Even in my struggle. My anger and pain - I am a prayer. My joy is a dance in the palm of God's hand. My anger a song of praise. Whatever the words - the keva of my siddur, the stilted, flowery English of the machzor - they are not the prayer. I am. The words of my heart, the ones that I whisper in the dark or sing out under a sky of scarlet and gold, the ones I am too afraid to voice - but find a way even so, this is my prayer, this my intent.
As I walk these last steps towards the new year, towards the gate and the hope of redemption, may I never forget that every breath is a blessing, every word that I speak is a prayer. Ani tefillah.