Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ELOHAY NETZOR: Praying for our own good behavior?

The Amida, technically, ends with the nineteenth and last blessing: Sim Shalom (see our explanation here). But before we finish, there is another prayer "Elohay, netzor..." which is a late addition to the Amida: A private prayer composed by Mor bar Rabina (approx. 500 ACE).
In this prayer, he asked God: "save my tongue from evil, and my lips from falsehood". speaking evil (lashon hara) and deception, are considered by the rabbis the source of most conflicts between man and man.
Then it says: "May I behave with humbleness and patience" and "May I keep my composure and calm",  for example, if someone would offend or aggravate him.

What is so unique about this prayer? In the Amida, we ask God to grant us things we want or need: health, wisdom, livelihood. In this prayer, however, we ask God for something we have not asked in the Amida. We ask God's help with our character and behavior. We request God to help us and inspire us to do good and, and assist us, preventing us from doing evil.

Perhaps, because of this fine line between what is up to us to do and what is up to God's help, this prayer is not part of the official Amida. Because, formally our behavior depends on us. We are endowed with freedom of choice to make moral choices.

When saying this prayer, therefore, remember, that we are not asking God to control our lives. That is our responsibility! We ask for His help and inspiration, to reach the best of our potential and behave with integrity.