Forms of Prayer: Conversation 6
Hannah Geiss asked: Every morning in my school, we say Perek (Chapter) 20 of Tehillim (Psalms) and then go through a list of about 50 names of wounded soldiers and sick people to ask for their refuah (healing). Do you think it is effective
at all? It’s hard for me to believe that saying dozens of names of people I never met is helpful… But is it? I asked Chana if it is difficult for her to believe that she can bring merit to a total stranger. Chana responded: What’s at the root of my question is the fact that G-d cares at all about us, our prayers etc. When I asked a rabbi how to resolve the paradox between a G-d who is everything, and a G-d who is almost affected by our actions, the answer I got was that there are several levels of G-d: one, Hashem beAtsmuto, Who is everything, and everything is Him, and Who does not care at all about our actions; and another “level” of G-d, i.e. Elokim, Adoshem…where He chose to be affected by us and our actions, by the process of Tsimtsum. (The Kabbalistic Concept of Withdrawal)
Yet, this still means that Hashem beAtsmuto chose to create the possibility of being touched by our actions and prayers. How can that be?
Moreover, how must one understand the existence of several levels of G-d?
Rabbi Weinberg: I understand your question to be based on the principle that God cares about what we do. God’s care will empower our prayer and we can actually help someone else with our prayers. However, why would God choose to care about our actions?
Congratulations! You have achieved the necessary clarity for effective prayer: You understand that we cannot separate our prayers from our understanding of our relationship with the Creator.
We must begin this discussion by differentiating between Purpose and Reason. We know that the purpose of creation was for God to do good to another. Which reason motivated this purpose? That lies in the realm of Kabbalah – Jewish Mysticism. I prefer to focus on the former for the purposes of this conversation about prayer.
The only good that the Absolutely Perfect God will give will be a perfect good – which is attachment to the Perfect Good: God. The creation of man was the creation of a relationship so that man could attach to his Source. A relationship demands that what we do matters to the other party. In order for us to attach to God, we must be empowered to make a difference and to make meaningful choices. God did not choose to be affected by man: He chose to allow His Creation to be affected by our choices. The empowerment extends to our prayers as well. The power of our prayer is a reflection of the power of our choices. We empower our prayer by becoming deliberate choosers. We take responsibility for all our actions, for others and Creation, and we are then granted more power to influence the world.
Prayer is a reflection of the power of our choices. Choosers are powerful Prayors!