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Open Wide and Say Ah!

by Hal Dresner

My wife has convinced me that I should pay more attention to the similarities of religons rather than the differences. Similarities, of course, unite us while differences – well, you can finish the sentence by yourself. Now this search for common ground does not make for funny Jewish-Catholic-Buddhist jokes but it has introduced me one fairly fascinating aspect.

The sound ah with the name God is the same sound in almost all spiritual practices. It appears in Hashem, Allah, Krishna, Jehovah and Ra. In his Yoga Sutra, Patanjali put it quite succinctly: “The word which expresses Him is aum.”

What’s up here? Well, according to Wayne Dyer in his guide to meditation, Getting In The Gap, when repeated as a mantra, the ah sound keeps us in a prolonged state of conscious contact with our Source.

The expression of this name, word or sound means that God brings us in contact with God. In short, it All God, All The Time. Thus, it is no accident that the sound also appears in the words omnipotent, omniscence and omnipresent.

Also, creating the ah sound requires virtually no effort. In fact, when the tongue, teeth, lips and jaw all remain stationary, not touching each other, ah is the only sound we can make. Leave it to God to make it easy to keep in touch.

Now you’re probably ahead of me in thinking that The Lord’s prayer begins “Our Father Who Art..” We Jews also use that holy sound almost every chance we get. For example, in praising Shechinah and Adonai for The Torah and our neshamah, in The Sh’ma, in our prayers for healing (r’fooah sh’laymah) such as “Ana ayl na r’fa na lah” as well as the after-death rituals of shmeera, ta’hara, shiva and kaddish. Plus it is evident in the kavvanah of our holidays of Pesach and Channukah and our simchas such as bar and bat mitvahs and, of course, when we say Amen.

Is this just the appearance of a common vowel? Some kind of tricky wordplay like the Bible Code? On the other hand, is it possible that a proven technology to access The Almighty is right at the tip of our tongues?

My wife says that when her yoga class is told by the instructor to release tension, uninstructed but as one, in symphony, the all go “Ahhhhhhh.”

And, an aside: Wayne Dyer’s technique which is to say the name of God repeatedly is called Japa.

So, here’s a radical idea. Let’s assume that Dyer is on to something big. So let’s forget services, release the rabbi, sell the synagogue and simply gather in the park and chant: Havurah Shir Hadash. I mean, we’re good people; we know right from wrong. Do we really need countless reminders of our chosen-ness and persecution? And can we lose all that talk about the unity and connection of Our People when, in fact, each sect has its own idea about whether to sing, pray or be silent, seated or standing, in English or Hebrew and using which translation of what prayer from which siddur?

And then, just maybe, the other religions would drop their trappings of differentness and we could all join together: One World. One Word. One God.

I know it would please my mah