Sunday, October 14, 2012

Were Humans Created to Daven?

There is a fascinating verse in chapter 2 of Genesis 

ה וְכֹל שִׂיחַ הַשָּׂדֶה, טֶרֶם יִהְיֶה בָאָרֶץ, וְכָל-עֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה, טֶרֶם יִצְמָח:
כִּי לֹא הִמְטִיר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, עַל-הָאָרֶץ, וְאָדָם אַיִן, לַעֲבֹד אֶת-הָאֲדָמָה
No shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up; for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground;
No the verse highlights the fact that there is a need for humankind to realize the need to work the land and be partners in the creative nature of the planet.  One friend pointed be to a commentator  Rabbi David Kimhi (the Radak), who noticed a similar piece of language (as do others – Rashbam and the Hizkuni) in chapter 24 where we find Isaac wandering near Beier-lahai-roi on the cusp of meeting his wife for the first time:

סג וַיֵּצֵא יִצְחָק לָשׂוּחַ בַּשָּׂדֶה, לִפְנוֹת עָרֶב; וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא, וְהִנֵּה גְמַלִּים בָּאִים.
And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide; and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, there were camels coming.

Rashi jumps on this verse on Genesis 24:63 to say it is the language of tefilla - and was the perhaps first recorded instance of someone davening mincha.  

I am rather blown away by the idea that in chapter 2, Hashem not only wants man to till the ground, but that the underlying method is for tefilla to move people to act and thus our dependence of rain.  There have been many discussions about why the Torah begins with creation – aside from the obvious, I think it offers the readers a relationship with nature that could be lost otherwise if it was based solely on a covenant of experience or genetics.  Nature is truly what surrounds us and while the Torah and Judaism present a matrix for which we can comprehend the world, tefilla is our language which we can really experience it.  For me, this may be even what we were created to do – to daven for rain and make sure that the cycles of nature are working. 

One final point, now that we have begun to ask for rain please bear in mind that for all that the meteorologist and weather can predict the weather – they still can’t really tell us why it rains and when.  I wish I could be as wrong in my job as the local weather people and still get a paycheck!  Let me stick to the davening.  

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