week’s portion starts the third Book of the Torah. This Book deals primarily
with sacrificial offerings.
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.
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?
order for us to understand prayer, we must first understand what we accomplish
by bringing a sacrificial offering.
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.
are several ways in which prayer fulfills this role.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.