Sunday, December 17th, 2017

Praying with Peanut
Zalman Velvel
If I told you this story, you wouldn’t believe me, so unbelievable it was.
I wrote it down so when you saw the words on paper, you would at least try to believe me. There is a power when words are placed on paper, and this story needed that extra power to be able to enter your consciousness as believable.
It is true, I swear it.
It happened on an ordinary morning, like any other. I was putting on my tfillin, preparing to go outside and pray as I walked around our pond. My dog, Peanut, sat in front of me, wagging his tail, watching intently as I attached the first tfillin box to my left biceps and wrapped the leather strap down my arm, followed by placing the second box on my forehead with straps hanging down. Peanut knew that after I put on tfillin, followed by tallit, my prayer shawl, it was time to go out.
I would walk around, whispering prayers to myself, while he did what dogs do when then are unencumbered by a leash and an impatient master making demands on them: he would anoint our property with his own special Nature’s marking mechanism. Then he would smell anything and everything, sometimes tasting the more exotic nuances, and getting sick when he made a mistake.
How do I describe Peanut, so you can picture him?
Well, he’s a miniature dachshund, peanut brown with large white spotted areas. He stands ten inches off the ground, with four little feet that are half his height. He has a long pointy snout, floppy ears, and a bark meant for a dog twice his size, not one that is 18 pounds dripping wet from a torrential Florida rain.
Peanut is quite intelligent, but excitable, and when he gets excited, his bladder embarrasses his intelligence by letting loose. If he gets excited inside the house, I have to get the paper towels and Windex and clean up after him, but thank goodness, it’s on the tile floor in my office, not the living room carpet.
Other than occasional bladder problems, Peanut is the perfect writer’s dog. He is content to hang around me for hours on end, chewing on a dog bone, or sleeping, sometimes lying at my feet, sometimes on them. Sometimes he gives my feet a little doggy lick, and I smile and shoe him away. Peanut has been “fixed,” not my idea, something my wife did after too many embarrassing moments of him doing the “leg dance” with our grandchildren.
I guess I have to describe myself now, so you can picture that, too, since there’s only two characters in this story – no, that’s not right. There are three characters, but the third character is too much of a character to call a character, and we’ll get to that.
I’m 58, soon to be 59, and I have a longish gray beard topped off by a full head of brown hair, with practically no grey, something that causes some people to assume I color my hair, which I don’t. Once I did color my beard, and I looked ten years younger, and felt twenty years stupider.
After much embarrassment, I opted for the wiser, but older gray look and let the beard coloring wash out. I’m of average height, a shade under six feet tall, and stocky, but okay with it, as okay as someone can be in a culture that worships youth and beauty. I believe I carry my stockiness well because of the exercise I forced upon myself for almost half a century.
I try to spend half of my twelve hour work day writing in the early morning until almost noon, and the other half of the work day keeping my businesses on an even keel until my thirty-something children can take them over. I complain  that I would much prefer to spend the whole day writing, but in my heart of hearts I know that is not true. There is something that happens during the six hours of harsh commercial reality, and the subsequent selfishness and materialism it arouses, that motivates me to sit down and write for six hours the following morning.
I don’t know if that description of myself was of any help to you. I would have preferred to have skipped it, but I had to give it at least a try before I resumed telling the story, speaking of which:
I completed the wrapping of the tfillin, and then opened up my folded prayer shawl, which is size KG, which stands for Kohane Gadole, or the equivalent of XXL in English. It is huge and covers me from the top of my head, around my shoulders, and down most of the upper half of body. When I pull it down over my eyes, during intense prayer, it creates a private tent where I can communicate in privacy with the Almighty. I donned the tallit and now that I was completely dressed in my prayer garments, I opened the side door of my office, whereby Peanut went rushing out, as is his habit.
Peanut becomes a barking fool when he is let out unleashed, and this time was no different. What he barks at, only God knows. It could be the leftover scent from a raccoon, a fox, or a stray cat, but whatever it is, only Peanut is aware of it. I can barely smell myself in the morning, let alone what was walking around our house many hours before during the night.
I started my prayers the same way I start them every day, by telling God that I love Him, and then thanking Him for everything that I have, all the blessings … and the problems. You may believe it is foolish to thank God for your problems, but a life without challenges means only two things to me: endless boredom, or death. I have discovered when I think seriously about both of those subjects, they appear to be much the same thing.
There is one more sentence I utter when starting my prayers, and that is, “Thank You God for the greatest gift in the world – life itself.”
I realize full well that God did not have to create any of us, including little old stocky me, but He did it because He wanted some other moderately intelligent life forms to love. And he gave these life forms free will, the choice, to love Him back or not. If you look around today and watch the way some people live their lives, it is obvious why I chose the words “moderately” intelligent to describe the human species, and it is also obvious that many of our fellow “moderately” intelligent life forms have chosen not to love God back, instead, pursuing their own desires above all else.
Please realize this is my opinion on the subject, and is not taken from anything God has written down.
It is also useful at this point to discuss the voice of God. Here is what I have to say about that – I have never heard it. I have met a few others who claim they have, each and every one of them more than a little meshuganah, or crazy, but, up to this point in my life, I have not shared that experience.
I would love to hear God, and even better, to talk to Him in a normal two sided conversation in my prayers, rather than the strictly one-sided version I have been using. I would like to ask God things like: What do You want from me? Is there anything special I can do for You? What should my purpose be in life? Is there a heaven and hell? Which of the books that You have been credited with co-authoring is the one true and correct book – the Torah, New Testament, Koran, Book of Mormon, Confucius, Buddha, Hindu, etc.?
And how is my Dad doing, wherever he is now, and how are my other relatives that are no longer with us?
It has been brought down by some Jewish sages of the past that God’s voice is too powerful to hear, as God’s appearance is too wondrous to see, and listening or seeing God would drive our human senses to distraction and destruction. Our sages have surmised that is the reason prayer has been one-sided, as protection to our puny senses. I don’t know if that is true or not, and given the choice of seeing and hearing God, and then becoming blind and deaf, or not seeing Him, and keeping my sight and hearing, I might prefer a one-sided conversation.
Well, on this particular morning, I was interrupted in my one-sided prayers by the sounds of an animal in pain. I looked around, and there was Peanut, lying down on the grass, his paws covering his ears. He was looking up, pathetically, and wailing. I went over to him and looked down.
“Peanut, are you okay?”
He didn’t look at me. Instead, he closed his eyes, and wailed louder.
“Peanut! What’s wrong?!”
© Copyright 2012 by Zalman Velvel Inc.
You may print this story for yourself, but not make copies without author's permission.

Über den Author: stuv