Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Request vs. Thank You Card

I rarely feel comfortable asking for things in prayer. I keep requests to the big major things that are already mentioned in the siddur's Hebrew; I thank, I would ask for others, but for myself, not so much. 

My morahs would constantly urge us to ask, ask for anything and everything, even for a new rug, which I thought was kind of stupid. I once objected to this, based on this story: 

The Talmud there continues with an incident with Rabi Chanina ben Dosa. His wife complained that she was no longer able to stand such abject poverty. She asked him to pray that Hashem should provide for them. His prayers were miraculously answered a hand from heaven presented him with a golden table leg.

His wife then saw in a dream that in the World to Come, the righteous would be eating from a three-legged golden table whereas she and her husband would only have a two-legged golden table. Upon hearing this dream and realizing the enormous 'price-tag' that was attached to this gift, he prayed that it should be taken back. The heavenly hand reappeared and returned the gift to the heavens. (via, Yisroel Ciner)

If asking just takes away from your zechusim, I put to the morah, why should one ask? She was silent for a moment and then said, triumphantly, to then add in the prayer that one's request won't take away from one's zechusim


As I grappled with that thought, while watching so many weep into siddurim at various holy sites, shul, and on public transportation, many of them obviously asking, I felt ever more a freak. 

Then slowly ideas began to stitch together:

Point 1: Hashem does that which is good for us. 

Point 2: In times of hardship, we are reminded that humans are mere flies on the painting; they cannot comprehend the larger, universal picture. 

Ergo, we do not know what is good for us. And if we do not know what is good for us, how can we ask? 


Not a week after I had this epiphany I heard this shiur by Esther Wein, completely validating my hypothesis.
Via Image Source
To add a mashal: Hurricane Sandy zapped the power at 9 p.m. At 5 a.m., there was a loud beeping. "Ah," Ta said, "the alarm company said this might happen. We have to find the key for the alarm box and deactivate it from there." 

By "we," it is usually just me, and it was me who waded into the two feet of freezing water in the dark basement, since I was the only one with knee-high rain boots. Ear plugs ensured the shrill beeping didn't kill off any hearing cells. I sloshed repeatedly down there, waving a flashlight, trying a multitude of keys dug up around the house, but I couldn't get that dang box open. I even tried to yank it free with brute force, when aggravation got the best of me.

After nearly six hours of "beep, beep, beep (pause) beep, beep, beep," and my umpteenth trip into the watery abyss, I suddenly realized that the klaxon wasn't occurring anywhere near the alarm box. I curiously headed towards the origin of the racket, which was squealing through a smoke detector. I tentatively pushed a button, a battery popped out, and it shut up. Blissful silence.

Sometimes, we are so sure we know what would be good for us, we don't even realize that our salvation is coming from another direction.     

So I thank. With joyful abandon. But I won't ask so fast, because how could a mere mortal me know how, what, or why?

Rabbi Yaacov Haber expounded on the concept of thanks, that a segulah (not all segulas are created equal) for success is in, when saying Modim, acknowledging that all comes from God. All. The good, bad, and indifferent.    


Mystery Woman said...

I don't know... I'm not sure I like you're take. Hashem is our Father. We can ask for anything...we can pray for anything. We can unburden our hearts. Yes, He knows what is best for us - and if it's not what's best, we won't get what we ask. But I don't think that should stop us from asking. There's something so comforting in talking to Hashem...telling him what's in our heart...and asking Him for whatever we need - whether or not we get it.

Sporadic Intelligence said...

I'm with you Princess. I never connected davening all together, why ask if Hashem is doing what's best for us anyway (besides for the thanking part) but then I read (three guess who) about tefilah from R' Akiva Tatz, who delves into the concept of self, ratzon, and tefilah.

He basically says you are who you are at your core and that's not changing, so Hashem will give you everything according to that.

He suggests this exercise: Any request that you have, ask yourself why you have that particular request, and you'll get to your ulterior motive (I want that job so I can make a lot of money, I want to make a lot of money to support my family, I want to support my family because they are all I really have, they are all I really have because I'm otherwise a selfish terrible person...) when you get to the end of that, you have reached your ratzon, your ultimate desire, raison detre, and that you can not change - so why bother davening, because Hashem will do what's best for you anyway.

He says you're davening to change your ratzon, to change who you are, because only when that it changed can anything else be different in effect.

There's a lot more, but that it in a very small nutshell. Read it, listen to it. I haven't davened the same way since.

tesyaa said...

I have heard from renowned rabbis whom I respect that is is appropriate to ask for whatever one needs.

Princess Lea said...

MW: Unburdening one's heart doesn't automatically equate to asking. There are many aspects to davening.

It is said one has parents so we can better understand the concept of the Eibishter. Is a father to child relationship based strictly on asking?

Let me clarify again that it is not as though I don't ask for anything. I do. I just don't like getting too specific unless the situation calls for it.

SI: Wait a sec, light bulb! Who was it that I heard from the davening itself changes you, which in essence changes your future? Who was it? Maybe Rabbi Reisman?

Was this in his book or in an online-accessible shiur? I would be happy to get the book.

Tesyaa: I was not questioning the "appropriateness" of asking. I was putting forth my own personal struggle with the issue.

One should also clarify the difference between needs and wants. Is a new rug a need? Or a want?

Anonymous said...

Does the following agree with you?

Princess Lea said...

Anon: The article is not exactly addressing my point. I already believe that Hashem is involved in the seemingly petty minutia of our lives. I don't believe there is such a thing as a petty request. Heck, I once davened that Hashem make sure our faulty car alarm would not go off on a Friday night lest ruin the neighbors' sleep.

That is not what I am saying.

Perhaps my point can be better explained. When my parents saw fit to refuse me a toy or some such when I was a child, all I could think of was the unfairness of it. Now I see it for what it was, not deprivation, or punishment, but their way of raising me, not to spoil me, knowing what I needed as opposed to what I thought I needed.

I am no longer a child, so I can see what exactly the thinking process was when I was little. Now I may be an adult, so my relationship with them has changed. Now I accept that their choices were in my benefit, and I can thank them for it.

I want to be able to get to that level with Hashem as well.