by Chana Krasny — third in a series
Excerpts from the transcript continue after the audio player
We are continuing to explore the foundations of prayer and what we must understand before we pray, in order to have the chizuk and the strength of the proper kavanos.
In a sefer by Rabbi Mordechai Potash, there is an excellent discussion of all of the reasons why prayer is so important. He also goes through the tefillos point by point, similar to Rabbi Miller’s sefer, Praise My Soul, explains, possuk by possuk, what one should be thinking when saying the words in tefilla, illuminating the reason why we pray and why it’s so important...
Tefillah is our proof of our fear of Hashem
It’s important to know and understand the words you are saying in the tefillah. Rabbi Potash, in Chapter One, discusses the importance of prayer, and the reasons why thanking Hashem through prayer is so powerful. According to the Ramban, the function of all of the mitzvos is to bring us to firm belief in Hashem and to thank Him for creating us.
“Rotzeh Hashem es yurei’ov -- Hashem takes pleasure in those who fear Him.” Hashem gets pleasure when recognize Him, and trust solely in Him. Tefillah is our proof of our fear of Hashem, and we understand that He is the Master of all matters.
Therefore, the use of the siddur is really a means of learning, and it’s the study of the fundamentals of Torah ideology. Rabbi Miller explained that in addition to the merit of prayer, the understanding of the siddur itself is a major objective, because if you possess this, you possess everything...
Prayer exerts a purposeful, powerful impact on us, because Chazal explain that our thoughts follow our words; we’re not born with the understanding of the truth. Our eyes, with which we see things going on in the physical atmosphere, is always tricking us into thinking that these physical things have power. The physical world is simply a thought of the Ribbono shel Olam, a culmination of His kindliness, but retains no power in and of itself.
The idea that anything physical in itself has power is the definition of avodah zarah. Avodah zarah is a way to deny the existence of Hashem. Any behavior, statement or action we take that denies the existence of Hashem is an element of avodah zorah.
So tefillah, in contrast, is the true proclamation, the announcement and the understanding, that Hashem exists, and it is a continual tool that teaches us the right way to think. If we base our day and the rest of our behaviours and conversations on what we’ve learned in tefillah, we are sure to have a map that will guide us to the destination that we really want to reach.