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G‑d Plans and Man Demands


Thank you for joining us for Lesson Two of With All My Heart, “G‑d Plans and Man Demands: Understanding the Mechanics of Prayer.”

In this lesson, we examined two understandings about the efficacy of prayers of petition.

First, we learned that prayer enables us to tap into blessings that are already ours. For on the Jewish New Year, G‑d allots a specific measure of kindness for each person. But this kindness, in its raw divine state, remains excessively distant from the kind of goodness we appreciate in this world. It must pass through a long chain-like series of descents and contractions to be converted into material goodness. Prayer, we are taught, is a key tool that stimulates this conversion process.

In the second understanding, we learned that prayer can trigger a new divine will by bypassing the chain-like spiritual system to reach G‑d Himself, Who transcends the spiritual order. Whereas Heaven’s default decisions are largely merit-based, undiscriminating mercy prevails in G‑d Himself as He transcends His spiritual system. When we brush aside our natural instincts to focus on relating to G‑d and internalizing our dependence on Him in prayer, G‑d responds in kind: He brushes aside His default merit-based system of granting blessings, and focuses on relating directly with us from His transcendent self.

Finally, we noted that prayers for material blessings are also requests for G‑d to reveal Himself within the context of our human experiences through His responses to our prayers. Our prayers for our needs, then, are a part of our desire to have a genuine relationship with G‑d.

I look forward to discussing the structure of Jewish liturgy next week in “It’s All Hebrew to Me: Making Sense of Liturgy, One Step at a Time.”

Good luck with the Exercise of the Week!

Rabbi Yitzchok Kahan

 

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