As I wrote these lines in July 2015, CUPE, the union for administrative workers for the City of London, was on strike. Every morning on my drive to Shull, I saw striking workers on the picket line. As I pulled into the Shull parking lot I could see the long lines of trucks held up by strikers. It was all peaceful. The strikers walked the line with their large placards and the truck drivers waited patiently.
I wondered why no one loses patience with the process and despite the loss of time everyone seems to cooperate. I asked about it one morning and learned that the truck drivers want to support the strike because they too work for the city and their contract will soon be up for negotiation. When that time comes, the agreement reached with the CUPE union today will serve as a precedent for them. If the CUPE strike results in better terms for their union, the standard for all unions will be raised. They are willing to support the strikers today because in the long run it helps them too.
When I heard that I knew that there was a lesson in here for us all, which might in fact be why it is observable from our Shull windows every day as we pray. We arrive to Shull at 7:00 AM, usually before coffee. The brain is hardly awake at that hour and we are hard pressed to remember why we pray. But as the prayers begin, the brain kicks into gear and we remember why we are there. Our hardships and challenges spring to mind almost as if unbidden, and we pray to G-d for relief.
Then we glance out the window and remember at once that it is not enough to pray for ourselves. If we take care of our needs without supporting others in their time of need, it reflects badly on us. Just like the drivers contribute time and patience to the CUPE strike because it strengthens their position when it is their turn to negotiate so must we pray for the needs of others because it strengthens our position when we negotiate for ourselves.
Our sages taught that when we pray for others, our needs are answered first. When G-d sees our concern for His children, it arouses His love for us and He responds well to our requests. One can only imagine G-d’s response when we arrive before His throne and selfishly think only of ourselves.
With Rosh Hashanah before us and the dawning of a new year, we have much to pray for. Let us remember that we are not the only one with needs. Look around the Shull and look around the world. Take note of the needs or others and pray for them too.
On Rosh Hashanah our contract with G-d is up for negotiation and on Yom Kippur it is signed. When we stand together, each supporting the other, our union is strong and our contracts will be healthy. Let our prayers ascend to G-d with concern for one another and awareness of each other’s plights. May G-d look down and see our united posture and may He in turn bless us, together as one, with a happy sweet New Year.