Here’s a multiple-choice quiz:
When you’re reading the Shemoneh Esrei (the Standing Prayer), what thoughts should be going through your mind?
A) What are the Atlanta Braves going to do this year?
B) When’s the Stock Market going to start shooting up again?
C) I love my fellow Jew like myself.
Which did you guess as the right answer? Would you believe B, the Stock Market?
I hope not. The correct answer is C. When we pray, we’re supposed to concentrate on loving our fellow Jews like ourselves.
What in the world is that supposed to mean?
To appreciate this, we have to examine the phrasing of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer. Upon close inspection, we discover that all of its supplications are phrased in the plural. Asking G-d for wisdom (in the fourth blessing), we cry: “Endow us graciously from Yourself with wisdom, insight, and discernment.” Asking G-d for help in returning closer to Him (fifth blessing), we beseech: “Bring us back, our Father, to Your Torah, and bring us near, our King, to Your service, and influence us to return in perfect repentance before You.” Asking G-d for forgiveness (sixth blessing), we beg: “Forgive us, our Father, for we have erred; pardon us, our King, for we have willfully sinned…” (Artscroll translation, emphasis added). Read over the other blessings and you’ll see that this is how all of our supplications are worded.
What is the reason for this plethora of plurals? Are we merely being polite employing the royal “we”?
The true reason for wording all of our entreaties in the Shemoneh Esrei in the plural is more fundamental. We Jews are constantly striving to fulfill the Torah’s dictum (found in our parsha): “You shall love your friend like yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Every good that we want for ourselves, we have to want for our fellow Jews as well. This is what it means to love your fellow like yourself. It’s OK to ask Hashem to make our lives a little sweeter, as long as we ask the same for all our fellow Jews. It’s OK to want to have it good in this world, as long as we want things to be good for everyone else as well.
Why is this so? Why do we have to be so magnanimous with our good wishes? Why must we be so concerned that our fellow Jews enjoy all the same blessings that we do?
As we are approaching the festival of Shavuos celebrating the giving of the Torah, we have to think way back to what the first giving of the Torah was like at Mount Sinai, so long ago. There, our Torah records, the entire Jewish Nation stood at the foot of the mountain like one person with one heart. Surrounded by sand, we recognized that we are joined to our fellow Jews not only by a common origin, but also by a common mission and a common destiny.
Indeed, every Jew has a part to play in fulfilling the ultimate destiny of our people, just as every organ of the body contributes to the healthy growth of the complete individual. The Jewish People, G-d’s Chosen Nation, is like one body, one individual. This is the root of the mitzvah, “You shall love your friend like yourself”.
Enough philosophizing! How do we get started praying like this?
Here’s how: Right before we begin reciting the Shemoneh Esrei, we should pause for a moment and think: “I love every Jew and I want the best for every Jew, and all the prayers that I am about to petition I am requesting for them as much as for myself.” Concentrate on that thought for a moment. If it’s hard to feel sincere, we have to reflect why this is so. Remember, we’re not asking for anything less for ourselves. We’re just praying that everyone else should enjoy the same as us.
If you think about it, this is a very good idea for helping us to focus on our prayers. Still, you may be a little wary. Who thought up this advice? Was it just one of those touchy-feely types who always puts his arm around you and likes to talk about how if everyone would just hug each other there would be no more famine or war or stock-market crashes or sand gnats?
Actually, the author of this advice is the Ari”zal,
the great master of the Kabballa from 16th century Safed. He
recognized that “You shall love your
friend like yourself” must occupy a central position not only on our
bookshelves, but also in our hearts and in our prayers and in our lives. It
is a special potential Jews possess, and the place to begin unleashing that potential is in our prayers. From our lips, it
flows back into our hearts and outward into our lives. May we merit
pondering these points as we pray, and may our prayers be accepted by G-d
and fulfilled in all their aspirations.
to Michael Freedman on your Bar Mitzvah this Shabbos!
Mazal Tov to your proud parents,
Gerald and Lynda, to your grandparents and to your entire family!
may you fulfill all the promise that your family and friends see in you and
that your Creator has endowed in you as you continue growing as a Jewish
adult in Torah,
Mitzvahs and Good Deeds.
Torah, Mitzvahs and Good Deeds.
to Yosefi and Michelle Seltzer on your marriage last week in Atlanta!
Welcome to your new home in Savannah. We’re all thrilled that you chose
Savannah to begin your happily married life. May you merit building a Bayis Ne’eman B’Yisrael—
to Captain David and Evie Gardner and your entire family on the bris
of your new son, Dov Yehuda! May
you merit raising your little soldier to a life filled with Torah, Mitzvahs
and Good Deeds, constantly moving up the ranks in the army of Hashem!
By Popular Demand!
New STEP Four Part Women’s Learning Series
“Anger: The Inner Teacher.”
Presented by Fruma Frost.
Tuesday, May 8th
at 8:00 PM at the JEA.
To get in touch with STEP, call Rabbi Shulman at (912) 303-9591 or Rabbi
Edelstein at (912) 351-0469. E-mail us at STEPKollel@netzero.net
Call us, or we'll call you.
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