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with tefillah. The theodicy dilemma has always contained within itself, as one of several subthemes, the dilemma between the efficacy of prayer and evil befalling the innocent.
Tefillah: Structure and Purpose
Tefillah contains a plethora of elements-not all in consonance with each other.
The direct question would be as follows: If we are currently in a state of severely contracted real-time Divine consciousness, what is the purpose of tefillah? The direct answer would be twofold: (1) tefillah is first a cry that our words be heard in the here-and-now, and (2) most aspects of tefillah do not require a here-and-now Divine consciousness, as will be elaborated in the balance of this section.
Regarding the aspects which require a here-and-now Divine consciousness, the individual’s cry must be that his tefillah pierce the veils of time and consciousness, that the gates of prayer be opened;618 it entreats the Divine to manifest His consciousness in the here-and-now.619
Open for me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter and praise the Lord.
May the Lord cause His face
to shine upon thee
and be gracious unto thee,
May the Lord lift His face to thee
and give unto you peace.
God’s receptivity (or lack thereof) to prayer also finds echo in Hasidic621 and kabbalistic literature.622 “The mystical classic, the Zohar, points out that when the heavenly gates are closed to prayers couched in words, they remain open to prayers couched in tears (Terumah).”623
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618 See Midrash Psalms 17: “My children, return to me as long as the gates of prayer are open.” As cited by Berkovits, in Stitskin, Studies in Torah Judaism, p. 159. See Nachmanides on Exodus 2:25 as translated in Ramban, Commentary on Exodus, vol. 2, p. 25. “. . . it was only on account of the cry [of Israel in Egypt] that He and His mercies accepted their prayer.”
619 See Berkovits, in Stitskin, Studies in Torah Judaism, pp. 96, 102, 156.
620 These are the second and third of the Divinely ordained Priestly Blessings.
621 R. Menahem Mendel of Vitebsk is reported as saying that in his prayers he was like a miserable beggar who seeks entrance to the king’s palace but is thrown out again and again, yet persists in trying to gain entrance to the king. As cited in Jacobs. Hasidic Prayer, p. 98.
622 See also Berkovits, in Stitskin. Studies in Torah Judaism, p. 92, and his citations on the discussion of “the closing of the gates of prayer.”
623 Gordis, A Faith for Moderns, p. 271.
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