Between his travels around the world, Rabbi Mordecai Schreiber is set to publish his latest book, Why People Pray, later this month. He is guest blogging here all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPeople.
As a retired rabbi and long-time author, I accepted an invitation to serve as rabbi and discussion facilitator on cruise ships. For twelve years I sailed the Seven Seas and visited about a hundred and islands on and off of every continent. Wherever I was, visiting houses of worship and observing people of all faiths at prayer drew my attention.
There is a common presumption today that religion is on the decline and that less and less people pray. I found the opposite to be true. In the former Soviet Union, in mainland China, in the Muslim and in the Buddhist worlds, and throughout Latin America, I witnessed large numbers of people pouring their hearts out in prayer. I found myself asking why? Why is it that in an era dominated by science and technology, steeped in materialism, where people are seeking instant gratification, so many people continue to ask for help and reassurance from a transcendental force that remains elusive and unknown?
I grew up in a time and place where Jews hardly ever set a foot inside a synagogue: Haifa in the 1940s and ‘50s, in what became Israel. In the opening part of his book The Source, James Michener describes how, upon arrival in Haifa harbor, one sees a Baha’i temple as well as churches and mosques, but no synagogues. As a child, I was not taught how to pray. But since Haifa happened to be a microcosm of world religions, and since, from a young age, I was deeply interested in my people’s past, I found my own way to pray. Later, when I went to the United States to study journalism, my interest shifted to religion, and I became a rabbi and a student of religions.
I was always intrigued by prayer and by questions such as, “Is anyone listening?” “Does prayer make a difference?” and so on. And there were always aspects of formal prayer that troubled me, such as asking God to punish my adversaries, or praying for personal gain. I always felt that much of formal prayer had become antiquated and did not keep up with our changing world. Most of all, I have always been aware of the failure of prayer to bring people of different cultures and creeds together, but rather seemed to drive a wedge between different belief systems.
Rabbi, author, educator, writer, translator, publisher, Biblical scholar, and founder of Schreiber Translations, Rabbi Mordecai Schreiber has sailed the Seven Seas as a spiritual leader aboard cruise ships, with over fifty books published under his penname, Morry Sofer. He is touring through the Jewish Book Council for the 2016 – 2017 season as a JBC Network author.
Rabbi, author, educator, writer, translator, publisher, Biblical scholar, and founder of Schreiber Translations, Rabbi Mordecai Schreiber has sailed the seven seas as a spiritual leader aboard cruise ships. With over 50 books published under the penname Morry Sofer and his own, his latest two books are Explaining the Holocaust and The Man Who Knew God: Decoding Jeremiah.
Mordecai Schreiber is available to be booked for speaking engagements through Read On. Click here for more information.