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Jewish World Review
Dec 29, 2004
/ 17 Teves, 5765
Why is the Divine waiting to hear from you?
Rabbi David Aaron
Rabbi David Aaron's recent piece, "Jews Don't Pray" generated much controversy. In retrospect, the title was confusing. There is no question that Judaism has always held that not only does G-d listen to our prayers, but that asking G-d for the things important to us is a mitzvah (religious duty).
Rabbi Aaron is a talented author who has exposed countless people to the genuine spiritual insights of Jewish tradition. His piece was part of a longer essay that should have been published at one time. Here is the bigger picture.
My last article hit a nerve. I was inundated with feedback from "This is the most inspirational piece I have read. I am going to buy all your books" to "May the earth swallow you up." Please forgive me if my words were unclear and caused confusion. Please let me clarify.
I surely do not believe that l'hispallel means to meditate and talk to yourself as if you could ever make things happen for your self without G-d. Of course, I believe that G-d listens to our prayers and answers but we are not trying to change G-d's mind we are trying to change ourselves.
If you pray in order to change G-d's mind, then, please for G-d's sake, don't pray. We don't want to change G-d's mind. And thank G-d we can't change G-d's mind because G-d has made up His mind long time ago. G-d only and always loves us and seeks to give us the greatest good. As Psalmist praised, "His compassion (unconditional love) is upon all His creatures."
Of course, G-d hears our prayers and answers but He is waiting for us to hear our prayers and mean them. Prayer is not passive, it is proactive. Through prayer we must inspire ourselves to take action and make changes within ourselves, our community and the world. When we change ourselves for the good we let G-d's never-changing love for us and His abundant blessings become manifest in our lives. The more we praise G-d and acknowledge that He is the source of all blessings and truly want those blessings in our lives the more G-d's blessings flow into our lives.
GETTING WHAT YOU PRAY FOR
Judaism describes G-d, metaphorically, as desiring our prayers. In the Book of Genesis (2:5) we discover why. It relates how G-d had yet to bring rain for the vegetation to grow because there was no man to work the field. As the Midrash explains, there was no human being to recognize the goodness of rain and thus to pray for it. In other words, in order for G-d to bring rain, G-d wanted a human being to want the rain.
Examining this concept, the oral tradition describes that an arousal from below precipitates an arousal from above. G-d does not pour His blessings upon us until we arouse ourselves to want to receive those blessings. The same holds true for human relationships: If I give you something that you do not want, you will not enjoy it. Yet the more you want something, the sweeter and more pleasurable it is.
Imagine you want to surprise your friend with a gourmet dinner, so you tell him to come over at 7:00. He thinks, "Hmm, 7:00, that's dinnertime. But I guess he wants to speak to me about something important." On his way over, he thinks that to really be able to focus on what you want to talk about he will need to eat something. He stops off on his way to eat a hamburger and some fries, so he will not be hungry. When he gets to your house, you yell, "Surprise!" and point to the incredible gourmet meal in the dining room. What will your friend do? He will eat the meal so as not to hurt your feelings, but he will not enjoy it because he is not hungry. In the same way, G-d does not give us something unless we truly want it. In fact, G-d orchestrates our life so that we will thirst for His blessings. And, does it ever taste good when we get it because we are so ready for it.
The difficulties in our lives happen because G-d is challenging our will and guiding us to clarify what we want. In essence, G-d is nurturing our will. Everyday, G-d is steering us to want what He wants to give us so that we are ready for and deeply interested in receiving His blessings. G-d is building our will so that we will have a big enough vessel to receive what He has been waiting and wanting to give us.
The story of the Matriarchs is an excellent example of this concept. Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel had problems with fertility and therefore prayed intensely for children. Giving birth to a child is one thing, but giving birth to leaders of a nation requires a refined, expanded will. Therefore, all the waiting, yearning, and praying prepared them for bringing great souls into the world the progenitors of the Jewish nation.
The Matriarchs could not have wanted children simply because their friends had children. They had to clarify why they really wanted children because the children that G-d was ready to give them were so historically significant that they had to have the proper will to receive them. We must constantly ask ourselves, how much do we really want what we ask for, why do we want it, and how ready are we to receive it?
Prayer is an act of personal transformation. G-d wants us to make His will our will; want what He wants to give us. Until we want the abundant blessings that G-d wants to give us, G-d will not give them to us. And He is waiting patiently because it seems that too many of us just want mansions, big jobs, and fancy cars. He has so much more He wants to give us but we need to first want it so that we will take full pleasure in His blessings.
We need to clarify our will daily and become receptive to G-d's blessings. A great example of this process is the story of the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy does not appreciate home. All of a sudden, she is thrown far from her home exiled only to realize that there is no place like home. The only one who can get her home, she learns, is the Wizard of Oz, who lives at the end of the yellow brick road. Along her travels, she finds friends who all need something from the Wizard because he, they believe, can give them everything they want.
Like in every good story, there is the antagonist the wicked witch who challenges and frustrates Dorothy every step of the way. But in the process the witch gives Dorothy the opportunity to determine how much she really wants to go home, and what she is willing to do to get there. Finally, Dorothy gets to the Wizard, who has a balloon that can take her home. She is so excited. But something goes wrong and the Wizard's balloon takes off without Dorothy.
At this point, Glinda the savior shows up. Dorothy is crying her eyes out and Glinda is smiling sweetly. Glinda says to Dorothy, "No problem. All you have to do is click your heels three times and say, 'There's no place like home.'"
As a kid, I got very upset at this point. If I were Dorothy, I would have turned to Glinda and said, "Where have you been all this time? Couldn't you have come a little earlier, like before the flying monkeys? Do you know how much money I will have to spend on therapy to get those monkeys out of my head?"
I later realized that Glinda could not have shown up until Dorothy was ready to say wholeheartedly that there was no place like home. She had to clarify what she wanted and what really mattered.
And sometimes, if we are not ready for what we want and for what we should want G-d lovingly sends us challenges until it becomes clear.
In summary, prayer is not about changing G-d's mind. G-d's mind is steadfast. He only and always loves us and wants to shower us with His blessings. Prayer is about changing our selves. Prayer is about attuning our will to G-d's will and making our selves receptive to receive G-d's loving presence and blessings into our lives. G-d is waiting to hear from us and invite Him into our lives.
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Rabbi David Aaron is the founder and dean of Isralight, an international organization with programming in Israel, New York South Florida, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Toronto. He has taught and inspired thousands of Jews who are seeking meaning in their lives and a positive connection to their Jewish roots.
He is the author of the newly released, The Secret Life of G-d, and also the author of Endless Light, Seeing G-d and Love is my religion. (Click on link to purchase books. Sales help fund JWR.) He lives in the old City of Jerusalem with his wife and their seven children.
© 2004, Rabbi David Aaron