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Home » Beshalach, Featured

Beshalach: Prayer – The Interface Of Love

Submitted by on January 29, 2012 – 4:08 amNo Comment | 1,751 views

An Age Old Question

Prayer is the oddest phenomenon. Human beings plead with G-d, who already knows what they want, who already considered and rejected their request before they ever made it and who made this decision for the very best reasons. And yet we ask an unchanging G-d to reconsider and change His mind!

Still prayer cannot entirely ridiculous if the wisest and saintliest have engaged in it for generations.  They must have had a reason, but pray tell us, what might it have been?

Standing on A Rock

G-d, in His instruction to Moses on how to produce water for the Jews in the desert, shared a thought that forms the basis of our approach to prayer. G-d told Moses, “Behold I stand there before you on the rock and you shall strike the rock and water shall flow from it.” (1)

This passage is curious. What does it mean that Moses will find G-d standing on a rock; does G-d not fill all space? How can G-d possibly be in one place more than another?

The Chassidic Masters (2) understood this phrase differently. They spoke of standing in the context of concentrating or focusing. During the course of a day our minds wander from one fragmented thought to another. We have so many tasks and projects, so many encounters and conversations, so many meetings and action items that our mind literally never rests.

Then along comes an encounter of such magnitude and grandiosity as to stop us dead in our tracks. We might see a bright smile in a child’s face or the deep love in a beloved’s eyes or receive an unexpected kindness from a stranger and time stands still. Our constant brain chatter fades into silence and we focus exclusively on the matter at hand. These moments rock our world. They bring everything to a grinding halt and we are left standing still.

This was the kind of standing that G-d did for Moses on the rock. At any given moment G-d is engaged in an infinite number of concerns. He must at once consider the whole of the world and every detail in it. Before deciding on big things like weather patterns and natural disasters or small things like when we might receive a raise or when our faucets might spring a leak, G-d must consider its ramifications on every other human and species including animal, bird and plant. He must consider the ramifications of earth events on other galaxies. He must provide for an untold number of details every single second.

When deciding what is right for me G-d considers a billion other questions that transcend my narrow interests. But there comes a time when G-d sets everything aside and looks exclusively at me. He considers the question of my life on the pure basis of my needs. This occurs every time I pray. I mean truly pray.

The Amidah Prayer

I am sure you, dear reader, are familiar with the daily prayer called Amidah. This is where we stand upright, face the general direction of Jerusalem and pray silently. Amidah means to stand. As the Chassidic Masters interpreted the word it means that everything in our life grinds to a halt and we stand or concentrate only on our relationship with G-d. We pray quietly because at this moment no one else exists; it is just G-d and me. In fact, even the dimension of myself that responds to strains of my own prayer fades away. My entire existence folds into the quintessential me that wrapped up with G-d, the rock of Israel. (3)

G-d is our rock. He is our strength and foundation. But to G-d, we, His children, are the bedrock of His creation. We are the reason He created the world – so that we might study His torah in this world and fulfill His commandments along the way. We are His reason for creation. Thus we, the Jewish people, are the rock of the world. (4)

When we stand before G-d during the Amidah, all other considerations should fade from consciousness. We ought still the background chatter of our mind and zero in on G-d till He fills the entire scope of our vision. He should be all that exists for us at that time. There is no meditation, reflection, introspection or comprehension. There is only silent murmuring. There is only the experience of being; the essential bond between G-d and human. At this time G-d becomes our rock.

At this time we also become G-d’s rock. When we set everything aside for G-d, G-d responds by setting everything aside for us. He sets aside His infinite number of concerns and focuses exclusively and directly on us. He stops rushing along and moving about. He stands or focuses on His rock, us the bedrock of creation. This is what G-d meant when He told Moses, “Behold, I shall stand on the rock.” It did not mean He will be present on the rock and nowhere else. It was a poetic way of saying I will focus exclusively on my people, the rock of my creation. (5)

When Blessings Abound

You might have noticed that during the Amidah we ask for health, sustenance and a host of blessings. It is precisely when we are conjoined with G-d that we think of our needs because our needs are the tools we require to fulfill His mandate for us. Prayer is the perfect time to beseech G-d for our needs because at this time G-d is focused on us in response. At this time of bonding, G-d considers the question of our needs from the unique perspective of our interests, ignoring all other considerations and deciding in our favor.

Granting our request doesn’t denote a change in G-d because both choices were perfectly known and equally available to Him before our prayer. It is a matter of choosing an option and when we pray He chooses to consider our requests from a favorable perspective and decide accordingly. (6)

This is what G-d meant when He told Moses, “Behold I will stand on the rock and you shall strike the rock.” Strike while the iron is hot, while opportunity lives. Tap into the intense flow of love brought to the fore by our momentous bond and you will see “water flow from the rock.”

Water is a metaphor for the flow of blessing. Abundant blessing, anything you ask for, can be granted at this time because it flows from the rock, our focus on G-d as the rock of our world and G-d’s focus on us,  the rock of His creation.

This is the secret of prayer and the reason the Amidah is considered the highest and holiest point of the prayer experience.

May our prayers be accepted on high and may all our wishes be granted for the good. Amen.

Footnotes

  1. Exodus 17: 6.
  2. Kedushas Levi ibid.
  3. This is in concert with the statement of our sages (Brachos 6:b) there is no standing like the standing of prayer.
  4. The reference to G-d as our rock is from Psalms 19: 14. The reference to Israel as a rock is from Samuel II 23: 3. Admittedly the literal reference in Samuel II is to G-d, the rock of Israel, but Kedushas Levi claims poetic license in rearranging the meaning of the words to refer to Israel as the rock of G-d’s creation. In fact, Kedushas Levi takes the word Tzur, rock, out of its literal meaning and translates it as form from the Hebrew word Tzurah. Effectively he states that Jews are the image G-d envisioned when first contemplating the endeavor of creation and they are still engraved on the panels of His throne. This follows the statement of our sages, (Bereishs Rabbah  as quoted by Rabbeinu Bacheye in Genesis chapter 1) “With whom did He consult? With the souls of righteous of Israel.” As Chabad Chassidism understands this statement it means that G-d envisioned the pleasure He would derive from the good deeds of the righteous and created the world on that basis.
  5. Of course this doesn’t mean that others are made to suffer for the benefit we receive. It simply means that G-d will put other systems into place to ensure that others are not made to suffer any fallout from our benefit. In other words, the most efficient way to ensure the global well being would have been to deny our request, but considering His immense love for us He chooses to go the extra distance, grant our request and arrange separately the wellbeing of all others.
  6. When we say that G-d unchanging we mean that nothing new can be added to Him that is not already part of Him. In this case both options were available to Him upfront. He chose to consider our request from a global perspective before we prayed. Once we pray and tune into our relationship of love He chooses to look at the other option that was before Him all along.
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