This past week I shared a beautiful book with our preschoolers called The Perfect Prayer by Donald Rossoff. The story tells of a queen who needed a prayer and she turns to her three advisors to help her find the perfect prayer that “will open us to God.”
The first friend says the sound of the prayer should be “shhhh” with your finger held to your lips. It is the sound asking us to listen. The second friend said the sound should be “mmmmmm” — the sound of thinking. The third friend holds out both hands and says “ahhh,” the sound of wonder and awe.
And now the queen must choose but as any teacher of students young or old, this is the moment to stop and say, “Which would you choose?” Their answers are priceless, thoughtful and meaningful. More than the words, it is the look on their faces as they say, “Shhhh or mmmmmm or ahhhh.” I ask you to stop, think about your answer and then think what answer the children said.
Not surprisingly, “shhhh” was not big on the list but there were a few who told me that you have to be quiet to talk to God and you have to listen really hard. “Mmmmmm” came in second and from those children who are always asking questions and wanting to know what and why about the world and about God. “Ahhhh” was the top choice as it should be for young children for whom everything in the world is new and wonderful.
The queen comes up with the perfect answer, the perfect prayer. She chooses all: “Shhhhhmmmmmmahhhh – Shema!” This beautiful book closes with wonderful notes on the Shema — “it is not a prayer to God. It is a declarative statement about God, about us, and about the connections binding us with God and with each other.”
We connect with the past, the present and the future. As I sing this prayer with our children who come from many different families and faiths, the feeling that God is sitting on the floor with our future gives hope for the world.
As you say the Shema, think about the sounds in this prayer. No matter how we think about God and prayer in our lives, the messages in listening, thinking and feeling wonder are so important to express.
Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady,
Laura Seymour is the director of camping services for the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.