PRAYER (pps.176-183)

hard cover page 183

bond or contact between the human intellect and the Active Intellect.

Samson Raphael Hirsch writes that “to ask for something, is only a minor section of tefillah.661 Shem Tov ibn Falquera rejects the concept of a reacting God, negating this aspect in toto, and calling the idea that God is moved by human petition “false.”662

Prayer is also religion’s most problematic child.

We return to our initial point of departure: If petitionary prayer is efficacious throughout all time periods of Jewish history, given that we accept God as all-powerful and all-merciful why have the innocent suffered so greatly? Why were the desperate prayers on behalf of the innocents trapped by the Nazi cutthroats not answered? Surely none can argue that there were not more than a few innocents among the six million victims.

The greater the absoluteness of the claim of the efficacy of petitionary prayer, the more severe and intractable the unrelenting core challenge of theodicy 1001s to the entire structure of religious belief. The thrust of the Maimonidean position on prayer must therefore be sustained.664

——————- NOTES ——————-

660 Ibid. pp. 238-239.

661 Hirsch, Horeb, sec. 618, p. 472.

662 See commentary of Shem Tov on Maimonides, Guide 3:28. “And it is necessary that the mass-man should believe that God is moved by human petitions and rituals of propition. Though this belief is false, strictly speaking it is necessary for the existence of society.” As cited in Agus, The Evolution of Jewish Thought, p. 196 (see his notes on p. 429 for full citation).

663 Stitskin, Studies in Torah Judaism, p. 87.

664 See Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Judaism, Human Values, and the Jewish State (Harvard University Press 1992) Chapter: “Of Prayer” In particular, see p. 35:
“By understanding prayer as a worshipful stance and not as an attempt to bring about God’s intervention in His natural order, we are able to solve a problem which arises in religious education regarding prayer: why does not prayer-at times, even the prayer of the saintly and the just— evoke a response?…”

“…The essence of the Yom Kippur experience is the consciousness of becoming purified before God and the awareness of the uniqueness of man’s position before Him, even though man in himself is as nought. However, popular religiosity was unable to bear this sublimity of faith, and embellished this essential liturgy…”

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