Naso: Does G-d Pray?

An insight into the Gemara in Brachot that talks about whether G-d prays, found in the weekly reading.

Rabbi S. Weiss,

Rabbi S Weiss.JPG
Rabbi S Weiss.JPG
Arutz 7

Does G-d pray? Now, our first inclination to this strange question might be to say, “No!” After all, G-d is perfect, lacking nothing; for what could he possibly pray? Yet the Gemara in Brachot says that Hashem does indeed pray! And what is His prayer? “May My attribute of mercy overcome My attribute of anger, & may I judge humanity with
Love is the key.
an extra measure of tolerance (lifnim m’shurat ha-din).”

This will help us answer 2 problems from this week’s Sedra. The first deals with the Nazir, a halakhically defined recluse. He becomes a “holy man,” pushing society away by abstaining from wine, avoiding contact with the dead & allowing his hair to grow long. He will thus become estranged from others since he looks odd, cannot join in for drinks at parties & cannot even attend family funerals. Without these “distractions,” he will now be free to devote himself entirely to G-d.

And yet, says Rambam, he must bring an offering at the end of his N’zirut  abstention period to atone for the sin of separating himself from the community. His intent may have been noble – he wanted to be holy - but why didn’t he engage in self-discipline & self-control in order to reach his goal? He should have gathered his courage to perfect his soul among the nation, not by secluding himself on a man-made island of isolation beyond the waters of temptation. The Gemara describes G-d as praying for just that, to teach us to do the same.

And then we have the Birkat Kohanim, the priestly blessing. . As beautiful as this blessing is, why is it not bestowed upon us by Hashem Himself? Why must it be routed through the conduit of human beings, if it clearly emanates from Heaven? The fact that the word “Hashem” is the only word common to all 3 parts of the bracha indicates that G-d is the one true source of all blessing; so why involve the Kohanim at all?

But here, too, Hashem’s prayer helps us understand. If we want to receive Hashem’s approval & blessing, we  must learn to function in a G-dly manner. And that begins by working on our Midot, our behavioral code; by overriding our inclination to anger & heightening our sense of compassion. And we do this by relating to other human beings & judging them with more tolerance & patience. This is why we connect to the Kohen & why the "pre-bracha" for Birkat Kohanim ends with the word, “b’ahava – with love.” Love is the key.

If G-d prays, as the Gemara says, to whom does He pray? The answer, of course, is to Himself! And while we certainly pray to G-d, at least a part of our prayer must also be directed at ourselves, as we ask Hashem to give us the will & the strength to raise ourselves up, to overcome our negative tendencies & to engage & interface with others in a holy, empathetic fashion.

Sometimes the old cliches are the truest: G-d helps those who help themselves.



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