Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 27 January 2018 / 11 Shevat 5778

The Power of a Whisper

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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“For what great nation has G-d close to it, as the L-rd our Gd is to us whenever we call to Him?” (Devarim 4:7)

Regarding this verse our Sages relate that although G-d appears as if He were far beyond our reach, in truth there is none so close. G-d resides beyond this world and beyond all galaxies, beyond the abode of even the angels. In the highest Heavenly realm lies G-d’s Throne of Glory, and how far away G-d seems from us! But in fact there is none as close as He is. How close? A person enters the Synagogue, prays in a mere whisper, and G-d is there listening. (Based on the Talmud Yerushalmi, Berachot 9:1)

Ramchal explains that one should strive to see himself as if he were literally standing before G-d, exchanging words with Him as with a friend. When one truly senses that G-d is “right there with him,” listening to words that emanate from his heart, he makes Gd a real part of his life and gains a best friend. When we approach G-d in prayer and ask for help we must realize that He is there, ready to listen to all of the details. Why? Because He cares.

Through prayer one can be said to fulfill the verse from Tehillim (16:8), “I have placed G-d before me always.” (Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch) Many communities display this verse, or the phrase, “Know before Whom you stand” (Berachot 28b), in the Synagogue above the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark). These words are not mere decorations, but are there to remind us that the Divine Presence resides in the Synagogue (see Berachot 6a-b; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 13, Hilchot Beit HaKnesset). The Synagogue is “G-d’s home”, a remnant of the Holy Temple where Jews traveled to encounter the Divine. Our Sages go so far as to say, “When one prays in a Synagogue in this world it is as if he prayed in the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple.” (Yalkut Shimoni, Yechezkel 351)

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