PRAYER (pps.176-183)

hard cover page 181

We must bear in mind that all such religious acts as reading the Law, praying, and the performance of other precepts, serve exclusively as the means of causing us to occupy and fill our mind with the precepts of God, and free it from worldly business; for we are thus, as it were, in communication with God.

Intellectual redemption through study of Torah resembles in its structure, the redemption through prayer.

When tefillah and talmud Torah (study of Torah) unite in one redemptive experience, prayer becomes avodah she-balev (offering of the heart).

As the real-time consciousness of God continues to contract, study and ritual become more important.654 In turn, the ritualistic/purely spiritualistic aspect of tefillah assumes an increasingly greater importance relative to the petitionary aspects of tefillah. Finally, within the “communication” realm of prayer, the “praise of God” aspect and the “expression of humility” aspect655 assume an increasing importance relative to the literal efficacy aspect.656

Difficulties and Limitations

The difficult question, which theologians call the problem of the efficacy of prayer, actually includes a whole complex of issues. Does man have a right to intrude his own petty desires and limited objectives upon the will of the Almighty? Does the infinite wisdom of God stand in need of the instruction of man?

Although it is the most fundamental and most universal form of religious expression, prayer is fraught with theological difficulties. Ostensibly, prayer is an attempt on the part of man to effect a change in God’s conduct vis-Ã -vis man. God has afflicted man

——————- NOTES ——————-

651 Maimonides, Guide 3:51.

652 Soloveitchik, “Redemption, Prayer and Talmud Torah,” p. 69.

653 Ibid., p. 70.

654 See Lamm, Faith and Doubt, p. 29. “God is especially immanent in Torah, and the study of Torah is therefore a means of achieving an encounter with the divine Presence. (Lamm, The Study of Torah Lishmah in the Works of Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin, chap. vi.) . . . Torah, as such, is far more than a document of the divine legislation; it is in itself, mystically, an aspect of God, and hence the student’s cognitive activity on Torah serves the higher end of binding him to God. (Ibid., chap. vii.)”
Cf. ibid., p. 29. “For R. Hayyim [of Volozhin], every religious performance-prayer, Torah, the mitzvot—is an effort to bring God out of His selfcontained and impersonal Absoluteness into His Relatedness, by which alone man can achieve a personal relationship with Him. . . . whether Torah or tefillah is the more effective method depends entirely upon the personality of the individual in question.”

655 Both tefillah and karbanot (the Temple sacrifices) are avodah (service); they are both expressions of dependence/humility.

656 See T B. Shabbat 1 la. “Scholars like R. Shimon bar Yohai . . . whose sole occupation was study of the Torah, would not interrupt their studies in order to pray.” As noted in Jacobs, Hasidic Prayer, p. 18.

657 Gordis, A Faith for Moderns, p. 258.
Cf. Omar Khayyam:
The moving Finger writes, and, having writ,
Moves on; nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.


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