Shabbat Parashat Vayetze
November 29, 2014 – 7 Kislev 5775
The Talmud teaches us to pray three times a day, and suggests that each of our three daily prayers were instituted by one of our three patriarchs. Our patriarch Abraham is said to have instituted shacharit – the morning prayer. The Torah tells us that “Abraham rose early in the morning, to the place where he had stood before God.” (Genesis 19:27)
Why did the Torah tell us that Abraham stood? Perhaps it was to remind us that standing before God is not just a physical state. Perhaps it was to suggest to us that when we stand in prayer, particularly in the morning, we are making a spiritual stand.
Our Sages taught us that each one of our three daily prayers has a unique character.
And so, in the morning, we stand before God to remind ourselves that the actions we take throughout the day should reflect our spiritual stand.
But,our afternoon prayer, Mincha, as inspired by Isaac, is of a more meditative nature. It invites us to examine our day and to open our hearts to God.
And Maariv, the evening prayer, as inspired by Jacob, takes on the most spontaneous form of all. As the Torah tells us in our weekly Torah portion of Vayetze: “[Jacob] chanced upon the place and stayed overnight, for it became suddenly night.” (Genesis 28:11).
In the evening, as darkness envelops our world, we may be able to experience more clearly a flash of inspiration, a moment of uplifting vision, a sense of God’s immanent presence in our lives, as Jacob did. And, it is this kind of inspiration that we seek as we open our hearts to prayer in the evening.
For me, the wisdom of our Torah, encouraging us to pray three times a day, is particularly heightened this week because of the juxtaposition of Thanksgiving with an acute awareness of the tensions our society is currently experiencing around issues of racial stereotyping and discrimination.
A spiritual stand each morning, reenforced by two additional moments of prayer during the day, reminds us to be thankful for the good, mindful of the blessings in life, but yet open to the on-going work of tikkun olam[repairing the world] that is yet to be fully accomplished.
Grateful for the gift of Torah, and aware of the work that is yet to be done, let us enjoy this Shabbat to the fullest. May this Shabbat encourage us to dig deeper into the wells of our tradition to find the strength, the inspiration, and the best path forward in the complex world of today.
Rabbi Gilah Dror
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