Lacking or Desire
There is an important comment by Rashi in the second story of Creation that is used as one of the most important ideas about prayer: “Now all the trees of the field were not yet on the earth and all the herb of the field had not yet sprouted, for God, the Lord, had not sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to work the soil.” (Genesis 2:5) Rashi explains the verse: “There was no one to recognize the benefit of the rains. When Adam came and knew that rain was necessary for the world, he prayed for them and they fell.”
I was recently studying Da’at Tefillah, one of the best works on prayer, and I read how the author derived from Rashi’s comment that we must pray as “Lackers,” people who have a need. “Adam recognized that the creation lacked rain, and therefore prayed for it.” His approach, primarily based on the Maharal, is that we must always approach God in prayer as “beggars,” who are lacking in everything, most of all, we lack the opportunity to live in a perfected creation, unified in God.
The Da’at Tefillah is not alone in the way he reads this Rashi. His reading of this Rashi is the same as all I have heard and read my entire life. However, I cannot find the word “lacking” anywhere in Rashi’s comment! In fact, I only see Rashi describing the first step as “recognizing the benefit of rain.” I believe that Rashi is offering an entirely different approach to prayer, that of Desire:
Rashi describes a person who recognizes that more blessing and Divine Sustenance is available. The person appreciates the potential, promise and benefit of the “good,” and uses prayer to express his desire (also known as “Nefesh, or soul,) for that potential good! In this form of prayer we do not approach God as “Lackers,” but as “Desirers.” We say to God: “We see that there is more. We see that it is good. We desire that good.”
Whenever I hear someone urging us to repent, I hear a stress on what we lack. Rashi’s approach to Teshuva is to express our desire for more; to live at a higher level, to attach even more to God.
The first question we are asked by the Heavenly Tribunal is, “Tzipita L’shua?” “Did you wait for the Redemption?” The “Lacker” waits for Redemption by focusing on a world that is lacking. He waits in his need. The “Desirer” does not sit and wait in his need; he works hard to fulfill a desire for a better and more complete world. Rashi’s form of Service is to connect with our Nefesh, our passionate desire for more, and express that desire in our prayer.
I use the Nine Days to express my desire to live in a redeemed world in which my soul can live at its highest level. I offer my desire, not my lackings, to God, with hope and confidence. It is thus that my prayers are considered as Offerings on the Altar.
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