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Bush Trumps G-d

Imagine you had a meeting with the President of the United States and you were told that you can ask him for WHATEVER you want. A tax break, a parking permit anywhere in the U.S., twenty million dollars, a senior position in his cabinet [in MY cabinet I have crackers, soup nuts and salt. I hope he has really good stuff in his cabinet!] etc. etc. You are told in advance that he might grant your requests and he might not, but he will definitely give what you ask for serious consideration. How you would prepare!! You would put a great deal of thought into your wardrobe. What is appropriate dress for a meeting with the President? [For me personally the question is misleading because I don't think any type of dress would be appropriate. Maybe a dress is good for my wife and daughter but I think I would go with the pants. If, however I were meeting the President of Scotland I might wear a dress.] When the meeting actually took place you would be sooo focused. It would also be exciting. You would remember it for the rest of your life. I met the President of the United States!!!!!!!!

Where am I going with this? The suspense builds...... O.K. Here is the point that I want to bring out.

Prayer. G-d. Master of the universe. Can grant any request. Yet it is not so thrilling for us. For many the experience of prayer is flat out boring. Some people wear shorts and a t-shirt for the meeting. The quicker - the better. Like root canal. Is G-d no less powerful than Mr. Bush? Can Mr. Bush heal the sick, help a barren women conceive or enable a blind man to see [we are all blind without the Divine gift of sight]?

Just a thought.

I think the problem is that people are bored during prayer. Baruch Hashem, many people do not have pressing problems. However, this leads to being bored during davening. (There is so much to daven for, that is what is so ironic) Reform and Conservative believe they have solved this problem by completely changing the traditional teffilos (adding bands, etc...) but they dont adhere to Halacha. Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn believes that Orthodoxy should always look to keep fresh our traditions but how do you do that in a halachically acceptable way? I personally don't know.

funny, i actually did meet president bush... i think the problem is that we are not mechanech the youth properly towards tefilla. this wasn't just where i went to school- almost everyone i know at every day school had a miserable time davening in the morning. teachers walked around doing more shushing than praying. attendance was taken, so it was always a game about how to get around it. those of us from ramaz, i have 5 words: "i was in hashkama minyan". although there needs to be shushing and attendance, too much discipline and not enough enthusiam kills the experience. if you even daven at all once you're out of school, it's sapped of all energy, and accompanied by the negative associations from your youth. i don't know how to fix it, but i know that the key it making it enjoyable, or at least a nice experience for children and teenagers- then when they are older, they will keep it up.

If you were meeting the president every day, three times a day, then I think it would be hard to get the same level of anticipation. But I think that for most of us, our prayer on Yom Kippur (for example) is much closer to the ideal.

However, meeting Hashem is different from meeting the president in another way. The president has the power only to perform a certain subset of physical actions. You might be nervous about which way he will decide. But you basically know ahead of time what you have to offer and what the range of possible responses is.

It is different with Hashem. Every aspect of your being is "up for discussion". You must account for everything you are doing or have done, and for every facet of your personality.

When you realize this, it is hard not to approach prayer with a degree of trepidation.

The biggest mystery to me is prayer. I don't think it is boring, I am just unsure of what to say.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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