How to Pray with Love and Fear of HaSham?
Last class we learned about ELKM, who created the six Days with wisdom.
As it is said, “At the head of the events, ELKM created the Heavens and the earth.”
Hence, the Rabbis said, He created the world using His Head, or the Wisdom in His Head.”
What sort of Wisdom?
We’ve said: Binah, deriving one item from the other,” down to minute details. It refers to logical process of deriving one argument from another. The law is split to endless minutae, and so is the law of the Torah. But there is another facet: What is Evolution if not deriving one creature from another? Indeed, ELKM created the six Days using the Evolution as a manifest of His Binah!
How can this knowledge about ELKM and His Wisdom help us in daily life?
The answer is: In Prayer. How?
What should we do to help our prayer?
Tradition says that to render a prayer effectiveness, the person should
(1) aim his heart and mind to the fact that he is fulfilling a mitzva, of serving G-d, like the offering service in the Holy Temple
(2) aim his heart and mind to understand the Hebrew words that he is saying.
(3) But the prayer won’t go up, tradition says, unless the person says it with Love and Fear of G-
Without those two particular emotions (midot) the prayer would “stay down in the room”, unable to ascend. The two emotions are the ‘engine’ that propels the prayer upwards to G-d’s ears.
What sort of prayer we talk about?
For a prayer that comes out of a heart in distress, like when facing a bad situation, there are no rules. That person may say and pray whatever is on his heart, regardless where he stands and whether or not he prays individually or in a congregation. Such a prayer is not a “service,” but a sincere expression of seeking help.
Such was, for instance, Noah’s silent prayer on Mount Moriah after the Flood. Standing by his burnt offering, he unloaded his heart’s frustrations before G-d. Without saying a word, he watched the pillar of smoke that ascended straight up to the sky, and he thought: Please, G-d, hear my frustrations and answer them. I’m afraid that by starting a new civilization, my children and their descendants will err again and sin before you, and the Flood will return! Promise me that next time you will be more patient with them!
But there is another type of prayer, offered by a congregation, as a service to Hashem. You meet in a prayer hall, dressed up, accompanied with your families, and there is a written text in a prayer book that you are about to recite – may it be a selected psalm song, or a beautiful poem composed by a congregant; there is a choir and music, which you would certainly enjoy very much and even feel spiritually elevated.
The question is: how much of that prayer would ascend to G-d’s ears?
It is said about the Besht, the founder of Hassidism, that once he refused to enter a certain famous synagogue. He just stood at the door with his disciples, opened it and immediately pulled back and closed it! When the disciples wondered about this he said “I couldn’t enter the hall since its air was full of prayers hanging there. They are stuck here instead of ascending to G-d!
What the Besht meant was that the prayers lacked the emotions of Love and Fear of G-d, therefore they stayed bound to earth.
Indeed, in the last week’s parsha, Vayeze, we read about the angles going up and down on Jacob’s ladder dream. One interpretation is that those angles carry Man’s prayers upward, and they deliver G-d’s response coming down. The angels would not do their task unless the prayer is accompanied by Love and Fear of G-d, as Jacob himself said when he woke up: How awesome, norah, is this place! In the Hebrew it says: How Fearful is this place! Of course, he did not fear of G-d’s punishment, but rather as G-d‘s servant.
How to install Love and Fear of G-d?
Given that feeling of Love and Fear of G-d is crucial for a prayer to go up, the question is, how can a person induce it in his heart on a daily basis? After all, each one of us is engaged all day long with mundane issues, like fighting for our livelihood, for our health, for our families and friends and our country, how then could we switch from a busy, daily life into the mode of Love and Fear of Hashem? That transition is difficult.
The RMBM way
That question is dealt by the RMBM who says (at the very beginning of his book Yad Hachazaka). He says: There are three primary commandments that supersede all others.
1: To know Hashem and His Names as it says “I Am YHVH your ELKM (The Lord your G-d) Who took you out of Egypt Land.”
This commandment which is at the top of Moses’ Tablets, is the ‘other side’ of IDOLATRY. The Second Commandment on the top lists all the idols, whom we should worship not, whereas the first one presents G-d whom we should know and worship.
2: To love Hashem, as it is said “And you shall love Hashem your G-d, ELKM with all your heart and being…”
- To fear Hashem, as it is said “you shall fear YHVH your G-d, ELKM.”
The RMBM continues:
“And what is the way to love and fear Hashem?
Whenever a person examines Hashem’s deeds and his wonderous creatures and realizes from them His Wisdom that is unlimited, immediately he would love Hashem and praise Him and aspires to know His Names…and whenever the person takes these things to his heart he would immediately retract back with fear and awe, recognizing how small and insignificant creature he himself is…
“Thus, I’ll show you some of His great deeds in nature, so that they can open up the door to those who understand and bring them to love Hashsm, as the sages said about love, that
out of observing nature and its creatures one comes to recognize the One who said let it be and created the world…”
Here the RMBM advises Man to come to love and fear HaShem by examining nature, its creatures and the wisdom of HaShem embedded in these creatures, as told in Genesis Chapter One.
Let’s note that the RMBM does not mention the Torah as a manifest of G-d’s wisdom, but rather watching nature and its creatures!
Let’s also note that we, flesh and blood, can never comprehend G-d’s Wisdom,
which is above our ability to comprehend, yet we can and should understand His wisdom as manifested in nature, in CREATOR.
In the Siddur
In fact, our prayer book is set up according to the RMBM’s way.
First, we recite psalms that describe G-d’s power and wisdom in creating the world and sustaining it,
then we move in the siddur to the shama, which is an expression of loving Hashem,
then the siddur takes us to the Amidah prayer, which is said in fear, according to the RMBM.
Yet there is a problem here, recognized by many people today.
The psalm that we chant according to the siddur, as wonderful as they are,
may not impress us anymore as they have done to the previous generations, and may fail to incite in us love and fear of Hasham.
We may not anymore be impressed anymore by the mere sight of a starry sky,
or by the cedar of Lebanon. Our knowledge of Nature and the cosmos goes much
beyond that level. For us, we may be more impressed by G-d’s wisdom as manifested in
the structure of the DNA, One in the Black Holes and in Quantum physics.
One way for us to be impressed by G-d’s wisdom is to think about the story of CREATION as presented in the miraculous Genesis Chapter One.
First, we are impressed by the very fact that the story of Genesis in the Torah does match so
well, the narrative told by science. How could Moses know all that? Isn’t this a proof of the truthfulness of his revelation? This fact by itself may bring a person to believe in G-d and appreciate His wisdom.
Then we can watch the story itself and see G-d’s wisdom and the evidence of a plan by which He built nature.
Thus, at the end of the First Day, ELKM declared that “it was good.” This, we’ve said, fits well the streaming lava that crusted at the end of the first stage, allowing the waters of the next stage to accumulate on it.
We should also note how rare it is for a planet to accumulate an ocean of water in it. So far we’ve not found any other planet, in any galaxy, that horrors on it such a vast ocean of flowing water. Life needs fluid water, and can’t develop in freezing waters. How extraordinary it is, then, that our planet passed – exactly at the stage – in a segment of space that is full of watery comets, thereby bombarding our planet for million years till it developed a gushy, deep ocean on it! Isn’t this fact a manifestation of G-d’s wisdom, more impressive than the cedar of Lebanon?
We are may be impressed by the appearance of granite island and their sloppy shores on Day Three that allowed the mono cellular stromatolites to settle in shallow water and enjoy the abandons of sunshine, so that they could perform photosynthesis and release oxygen to the air,
Changing the atmosphere into blue. Both the vegetation and the blue atmosphere were crucial for the development of mobile life afterwards. Isn’t it a manifestation of ELKM’s wisdom and plan?
When we think about all this, and also the wisdom inherent in each creature,
like the DNA, the fascinating structure of the protein molecules, and so on.
We may be impressed seeing how well does each creature fit its habitat, realizing that random mutations and natural selection offered by Darvin DOES NOT EXPAIN THE EVOLUTION. It would simply take too long time, longer than the life of the Universe, for the evolution to move on according to Darvin.
Thinking about the vast evidence of intelligent design in nature, coupled with the miraculous Genesis Chapter One, should incite in us the feeling , midots, of loving HaShem and fearing Him – meaning standing in awe.
Devoting some time to this meditation prior to our prayers, would render them the power to ascend up and reach the Heavenly Court.