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It is an appreciation of the munificence of creation.638
It is an aspiration for personal spiritual fulfillment.639
It is an aspiration for personal spiritual transformation.640
It is reflection.641
It is an exercise in humility, contemplation, and loss of selfhood.642
Man prays for the sake of the Divine (Hasidic).643
It is ritual.644
And independent of Divine contraction or decontraction, man quests for spiritual heights.645 It is man’s attempt to achieve a sense of unity with the Divine.646
Out of the midst of the personal experience of God’s hidden face one faces God as if His face were not hidden from one.
Do we stand overcome before the hidden face of God as the tragic hero of the Greeks before faceless Fate? No, rather even now we contend [like Job] with God, with the Lord of Being Himself whom once we, not our fathers only, chose for our Lord. We do not accept the world as it is but rather struggle for its redemption, and in this struggle appeal for help to our Lord, who on His part is once more, and still. One who hides. In this condition we await His voice, and whether it comes out of the storm or the stillness that follows it. And although His coming manifestation may resemble no earlier one, we shall nevertheless recognize again our cruel and merciful God.
Tefillah is multifaceted and multileveled. Its efficacy is but one of many important components, and that aspect as well is not precluded,649 although it is often limited, by our formulation.650
Study and Tefillah
Study and tefillah have intersecting goals and components.
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638 See ibid., p. 5. “To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments.”
Cf. Bleich, With Perfect Faith, p. 238. “According to kabbalistic teaching . . . Man, through prayer and good deeds, causes the divine influence to produce a state of harmony and balance within the sefirot which, in turn, enables divine grace to flow throughout creation by providing the necessary channels for the manifestation of divine goodness and beneficence.”
639 See Heschel, Man’s Quest for God, p. 13. “Prayer is a spiritual source in itself. .. . But prayer goes beyond the scope of emotion; it is the approach of the human to the transcendent.”
640 See also Berkovits, “Prayer,” in Stitskin, Studies in Torah Judaism, p. 157.
641 See Schulweis, Evil and the Morality of God, p. 139. “Prayer is not only ‘poetry believed in’ (Santayana), it is poetry acted upon.”
642 See Jacobs, Hasidic Prayer, p. 32. “The Hasidic ideal then is contemplative prayer in which the Hasid practices self-annihilation.”
Cf. ibid., pp. 17, 31.
643 See ibid., p. 28. “.. . there is no reason to doubt that the basic doctrine of prayer for the sake of the Shekhinah is an authentic doctrine of the Baal Shem Tbv.” Cf. ibid,, pp. 23-24, 29.
644 See also Soloveitchik on “prayer equals sacrifice” in “Redemption, Prayer and Talmud Torah,” pp. 71-72.
645 See Heschel, Man’s Quest for God, p. 70, citing J. T. Berachot 4:4, 8b; and Jacob Levy, Neuhebraeisches und Chaldaeisches Woerterbuch. vol. 4, p. 368b. “A third-century scholar avers that it is improper to call upon the person who acts as the reader of prayers for the congregation by saying, Come and pray; we must rather use the words, Come, karev . . . â€”bring us close to Him!”
646 See Rivka Schatz’s elaboration on the doctrine of the Baal Shem Tov, as cited in Jacobs, Hasidic Prayer, p. 17.
647 See Berkovits, “Prayer,” in Stitskin, Studies in Torah Judaism, p. 92.
648 Buber, At the Turning (New York: Farrar, Straus & Young, 1952), pp. 61 ff..
649 See Jacobs, Hasidic Prayer, p. 21. “The logical conclusion of the Hasidic doctrine [of loss of self in prayer] would have been to reject all petitionary prayer as a hindrance to the attainment of self-annihilation. But such a solution was not open to Hasidim who believed, like their contemporaries, that the traditional liturgy, which contains numerous petitionary prayers, was divinely inspired and divinely ordained.
“The quietistic and radical way out of this dilemma generally adopted by the early Hasidim is that petitionary prayer is not, in fact, a request to satisfy man’s needs but to satisfy His own [God’s] needs.”
Cf. ibid., pp. 23-33.
650 See Frankl, The Will to Meaning: Faundations and Applications of Logotheraphy, p. 145, as quoted in Tradition 19, no. 4 (Winter 1981):330. “I would say that God is not dead but silent. Silent, however, he has been all along. This ‘living’ God has been a ‘hidden’ God all along. You must not expect him to answer your call. If you probe the depth of the sea. you send off sound waves and wait for the echo from the bottom of the sea. If God exists, however, he is infinite, and you wait for an echo in vain. The fact that no answer comes back to you is proof that your call has reached the addressee, the infinite.”
As Gordis, A Faith for Moderns, p. 270, notes: “One medieval thinker went as far as to declare that there is only one true prayer: ‘May it be Thy will that Thy will be done.’ ”
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