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If God Knows All, Why Do We Pray?
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How do we create our world through Tefilah
Well, you know, a number of years ago I was giving the kids Cheerios; on the back of the box is a 3D Cheerios Bumblebee. Now, I look at the back of the box and I just see this, this stolid picture. Well, it says, you have got to press the back of the box against your face and slowly move it away while staring straight ahead.
Well, you know, I paid for this Cheerios and I want to get my money’s worth, so I put the box right up to my face and slowly move it away; and, ah, I didn’t get it, and then I put the box up to my face and slowly moved it away; and ah, I didn’t get it, and then the third time I slowly moved the box from my face and stared ahead. Unbelievable! I saw a 3D Bumblebee. At that point the kids were very disturbed, “why is Baba trying to stuff their box into his nose.” But, it was worth the experience.
See, what this experience helps us appreciate is something that a famous Philosopher by the name of Immanuel Kant; Kant asked a simple question, do we see reality as it is or do we see reality as it is perceived by us? Is our brain like a camera that is just objectively looking at what is? Or is our brain receiving raw data through our eyes, our nose, our ears, our mouth, and we take that raw data and our minds organize it and we see the world as we see it?
Well, that is actually how our tradition in its deeper teaching explain, that we actually are participating, we are partners in the creation of the world. Because, the world is as you see it. It is a function of how you interact with reality. Reality is, was, and always will be and reality doesn’t change. But your perception of reality can change. And the question is, “is your perception of reality accurately allowing reality into your life?” There is a really amazing teaching from kabbalistic text called “The ZOHAR”.
The ZOHAR teaches that when Jacob was on his way to Egypt to reunite with his son, HaShem says to Jacob, “Jacob, don’t worry, Joseph will close your eyes.” Very bizarre verse! What could that possibly mean? The ZOHAR asks, why does the Jewish Law teaches that when someone passes away we have to close their eyes. And the ZOHAR says, because the texture, the colours, and the shapes of this world are in our eyes, and so to allow the deceased to see the new world, they have to close their eyes to this world.” What is the ZOHAR saying? Is the ZOHAR teaching us that this world is an illusion? No! The ZOHAR is telling us that this world is a perception.
There is a very fundamental principle that our Mystical Masters teach us. The Ba’al Shem Tov brings us up in Parshat Yitro; ki ha’olam hazeh tzorach gevohah– This world is of great heavenly need, ki ein melech b’lo am – because there is no King without a Nation.” The Maharal in his drashot, in his explanations on the torah also says, im am ein kan – If there is no nation, melech ein kan, there is no King. Ki ein melechb’lo am – Because there can be no King without a nation.
If HaShem is going to be King, He needs a Kingdom that freely chooses to acknowledge Him as a King. I mean, I could understand that with the President of the United States, if that nation doesn’t vote him in and accept his power, then he is no President. But, HaShem Almighty needs us? No, HaShem doesn’t need us to rule the world, but HaShem needs us to be manifested in the world as a King. The difference between a Ruler and a King is that a Ruler dictates without the will of the people, but the King, the people choose to acknowledge.
In other words, for us to feel God’s presence in this world, as the ruling power, we need to choose to believe that HaShem is the ruling power. And we need to choose to affirm our religions to the will of God as King. In fact, that is what it says in Isaiah chapter 43, verse 12: “You are my witnesses, and I am HaShem.” The Midrash, the old tradition teaches us, “If you are my witnesses, I am HaShem; but if you are not my witnesses, I am not HaShem.” What could that possibly mean? Why would HaShem depend on our testimony? He is King, He was King, and He will always be King. Well, that’s true, HaShem runs the universe. But, unless we recognize that HaShem runs the universe, we won’t experience the universe that is guided by HaShem.
What you believe:
Let me bring it down a little bit more. You see, basically what you believe is what you receive. Habakkuk 2:4, the verse teaches tzaddik b’emunato yichiyeh – The tzaddik lives in his FAITH.” Your faith in HaShem creates the context the world you live in. It’s kind of like a person who is colour blind, even though the world is full of colours, the world he lives in has no colour, it’s colourless.
You see, HaShem is, was, and always will be HaShem. He is really even more. And he is ever present. But, if you don’t open your eyes to HaShem’s presence in your life, then you forfeit the greatest gift that is waiting for you to acknowledge, waiting for you to accept.
The Rabbis in the Talmud, tractate Berachot, page 33b, teach us:
Hakol bidai shamayim - All is in the hands of God
Chutz m’yirat shamayim - except for yirah of God”
What does yirah mean? Yirah has been translated as fear, or reverence, respect. But, what is the root of the word yirah? Yud, resh, aleph, hey – how do we translate that word normally? The root yirah translates to SIGHT, right? Lirot means to see. And, really our choice is to see and acknowledge HaShem in our lives.
And the more we think and talk and act in ways that affirm HaShem is the ruling power in our lives, the more we will witness in literal experience God’s providence in our lives. You can choose to live in a world of chaos or you can choose to live in a world of order. In reality, everything is perfectly in order. But if you don’t acknowledge that, if you don’t live a life that affirms that, then you are living in a world that blocks out the presence and the hashgacha, the providence of God.
Right now in this room, there is Japanese music playing, but why don’t you hear it and why don’t I hear it? Because, we don’t have a radio turned on and tuned in to the station. But, if we did have a radio and we tuned it in to Radio Japan, our room would be filled with that Japanese music. It is here, but it is not in the world that we experience.
Now, imagine you turned on a radio and you didn’t really quite tune it in properly to Radio Japan, so you get all this horrible sounds; or maybe you’ve tuned in but not perfectly, so you are getting like some sound but you are getting some noise, a little static here a little static there, and then you tune it in and then you get it. Well, that’s the power of Tefilah. That right here, right now, HaShem is present and guiding us and giving us blessing, but if we don’t turn on and tune in, and we’re are living in a world that we see, we feel, and we experience, we will not reveal the presence of HaShem.
People often ask me, why in Tefilah do we have to praise God so much? What is the good thing? Why does He need to be praised so much? God doesn’t need praise! We need to praise HaShem! The more we affirm the greatness of HaShem, the wisdom HaShem, the guiding hand of HaShem in our lives, the more we will literally experience all that in the world that we create.
The building blocks of our world are what we think, what we say, and what we do. And the more our thoughts and our speech and actions affirm and bear testimony that HaShem is in our lives, the more we will literally experience HaShem in our lives again. HaShem is in our lives, but will you know that, will you experience that, and will you see that in the everyday?
So, Tefilah is not prayer; prayer is trying to get God to change His mind to think like me. But, Tefilah is to get us to want what HaShem wants. Tefilah is to change our mind and align it with what HaShem had in mind for us. And the power of Tefilah is the more we want what HaShem wants and the more we can receive what HaShem wants. And the power of Tefilah is literally we create a world filled with providence, because the more we believe, the more we receive.
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