Thursday, July 9, 2015

To pray or not to pray?

This is an article that I have been wanting to write for a very long time now. This article is inspired by a portion (why pray?) of a book called, “Living a Joyous Life” by Rav David Aaron. He has a great gift of explaining things that are quite complex in a way that simple people, like me, can understand them. I would really recommend reading this book to anyone living (or wanting to live) a Jewish life. A good friend of mine and a mentor has also been a great inspiration to this article too.

There is no question that if we want a relationship with HASHEM, then we need to communicate with Him. But the understanding of prayer in Christianity is far different than that of what it is in Judaism. Even the English word “pray” comes from the Latin word “precari” which means, “to beg” which is what many people think about prayer. Because of this western concept of prayer, there has been many confusions regarding the topic, even in the Jewish culture.

The Jewish “L’hitpallel” has nothing to do with begging HASHEM to change His mind. L’hitpallel is a reflexive verb, and it means to do something to yourself, not to HASHEM. When you are praying, your question should not be, is HASHEM listening to my prayers?” Rather, you should ask yourself, “am I listening to my prayers?” Does what I hear impact me? Have I changed? (Living a Joyous Life pg 114)

Basically, we do not demand that HASHEM move from where He is to come to where we are. Rather, we need to pick ourselves up and move to where HASHEM is, to be in line with His instructions.

Just like a radio works, there are many different radio stations with different frequencies. All the different frequencies are there floating around by the radio, but what station plays is the one who’s frequency the radio is tuned into. If you are in tune with HASHEM, then that is what you are going to “hear” so to speak. But if you tuned into a different frequency, then you are going to “hear” something else. L’hitpallel is how we tune into HASHEM.

We do not demand from HASHEM, just as a radio cannot demand what the radio station must play, but rather tunes into the radio station so that it can broadcast what is already being played. What station are you tuning into?

The Jewish faith is a faith of actions based on the Torah. It is not a passive faith of just believing something to be true, but rather it is actively living in truth, DOING what is right.

So to come back to the title of this article, “to pray or not to pray,” or correctly translated, “to beg or not to beg,” we should not beg. Rather, we should search within ourselves and change whatever needs to be changed so that we can be in line with the Will of HASHEM. May we all actively seek to be perfectly in tune with the frequency of HASHEM.