Why Pray?

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Why Pray?

Contact Rabbi Spero at 862-9546 or


This week’s portion starts the third Book of the Torah. This Book deals primarily with sacrificial offerings.

Until the Messiah comes and redeems us, we do not have a means with which to bring offerings, but we do have another way to connect with G-d. The Talmud explains, in Brochos 26b, that prayer is in place of the sacrificial offerings.

What is prayer? Is it something we say when we want things to go our way, for example, “G-d, if the Nasdaq stops falling, I’ll be good, I promise”, or is there something more to it?

In order for us to understand prayer, we must first understand what we accomplish by bringing a sacrificial offering.

The main purpose of a sacrifice is to bring the person closer to G-d (the word for sacrifice in Hebrew is “korban”, which means “to make close” ) and to strengthen the connection. This is also the role of prayer.

There are several ways in which prayer fulfills this role.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains in his classical work “Horev” that in our Divine Service there are two aspects which work in tandem. There is the external aspect, which is manifest by doing physical mitzvos such as eating kosher, eating matzah, sitting in the Sukkah, etc., and there is the internal aspect, which involves learning Torah, belief in G-d, and prayer.

The internal aspect serves as a preparation and as a foundation for the external one. In other words, prayer is compared to the mind, while the physical acts of performing the mitzvos are compared to the body.

Another aspect of prayer is the idea of relating as a child to a father. In a healthy parent-child relationship, the parent expects the child not to demand, but to ask for certain things. This reinforces the bond between them. When we ask G-d for certain things we are acknowledging Him as the source of all things. It is a misconception that blessings start off with “Blessed are you G-d”. Rather, the correct translation is “G-d who is the source of all blessing”.

Three other aspects which with we can relate to G-d while praying are praising, prioritization, and gratitude. This is the structure of the daily amidah.

Why do we praise G-d? Does He need our praise? When we praise G-d, we are in fact reinforcing for ourselves the concept that it is in His path that we try to walk, and why that is worthwhile. For example, when we say the third blessing of the amidah, atah kadosh You who are special, we are saying it to remind ourselves that G-d is special because He sanctifies. And we too can sanctify the physical whether it be through eating or any other physical activity.

What is prioritization? The middle part of the amidah when we make a whole litany of requests from G-d: wisdom, forgiveness for our sins, health, a source of income, the reuniting of all Jews, the return to Israel, the Messiah, etc. These requests help us understand what is important, and what our priorities and goals should be.

And the final part of the amidah is gratitude. This is one of the pillars of our relationship with G-d, that we appreciate all that he has done and continues to do for us.

It is important to note that a person can turn to G-d at any time, and for any occasion, for he is truly our Father who desires to hear from us.


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