The Way of G-d
Part 4: "Divine Service"
Ch. 5: "Prayer"
What we'd said so far about prayer raises a thorny issue. If we're really
enjoined by G-d to pray that every day's needs be fulfilled, then we're
obviously forced to be very involved in the world. After all, we'd have to
be aware of just what's needed, in what order and quantity, and of all the
intricacies of the day. But that would seem to detract from our need to
serve G-d and grow in our souls, which is so fundamental to our existence.
So let's explore how the two don't actually contradict each other. In the
process we'll underscore an important Torah principle touching on how we're
to be apart *from* the world while a part *of* it.
We're taught that G-d granted mankind reason and understanding enough to
function in the world, and that He charged us to do just that in full. But
G-d also expects us to do that as humans, with all the corresponding very
earthly things that go along with that, rather than as angels. For we're
*meant* to be earthly, and for some very good spiritual reasons (see 1:3:4,
1:4:4, and 2:2:1 above).
But there's always the danger that we might become too earthly, too
comfortable with the world and forgetful of our mission. So G-d has us do
things to avoid that.
(In fact, the Ba'al Shem Tov offered a wonderful parable for just that
dilemma. He relates that there was once a king who had an only son whom the
king wanted to be sure would be ready for his eventual royal duties. So the
king had his son sent far, far away from the palace in order to fend for
himself way out in the provinces. At first the prince dreaded the idea, he
was deeply saddened by his surroundings when he got there, and raged against
his fate. But then he started to acclimate to things and to find himself
very much at home, and he eventually became completely distracted from the
splendor of his past. Somehow or another he recalled his upbringing at a
certain point, and he yearned to be with his father the king again, and to
resume his own royal duties.
It's we -- actually our souls -- who are the prince, the Ba'al Shem Tov
said, which is the moral of the story. We were taken from our Father's
palace when we were born and placed in the outer provinces that are this
world in order to ready ourselves on all levels for our royal mission. The
important thing, he said, was to not feel too "at home" here, but rather to
do what we have to do and to never lose sight of home and the King.)
One of the things G-d has us do in order to avoid over-concern with the
world is to draw close to Him first in the thick of it all. And we do that
by moving aside for the while from the terrible noise, praying to Him for
help with everything we have to do, and following through on it. That way wecan be very busy with and very much in the world on the one hand, while
attached to and consciously dependent upon G-d at the same time on the other.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org.