Thursday, February 27, 2014

Amida (berakha 16) Please, listen (or ignore) my prayer

This is the sixteenth and last berakha of the section called 'requests' (baqashot).
In this berakha we ask HaShem to listen to our prayers, to accept and fulfill our requests. According to the Rabbis, in this berakha we could also include any particular petition that was not specifically covered in the previous twelve berakhot. For example, since there is no berakha that deals with Shiddukh (=finding a spouse) or having children, etc., we could make those request here. 
We ask God to listen to our prayers, knowing that no matter how much we believe we deserve God's attention, or how noble our cause is, etc., there is no guarantee that we will be granted what we have asked for.  HaShem always listens to our prayers, we assert in this Berakha, but sometimes His answer is "NO".

Why? Basically, for the same reason a good parent will not necessarily fulfill all of his children's request.  Many times, a parent would ignore the petition of his children, sometimes, for his children's own benefit.  Imagine you are going for a job interview, and you are eager to get this job, and you pray and beg God to  help you getting this job, if HaShem knows that this job is not good for you, or that there will be a better job, would you want Him to listen to your prayer?
Rabbenu Bahye ibn Paquda (Zaragoza, Spain, 11th Century) quotes in his famous book, "The duties of the Heart", a superb prayer, which I believe encapsulates beautifully the message that HaShem knows better than us what is better for us.  Paraphrasing it with my own words, this Berakha says:  HaShem when I pray to You, when I request something for me or for my loved ones, if YOU believe that the fulfillment of that request is not the best for us, please, do as YOU see fit, and please, ignore my petition. I trust YOUR judgment over my own judgment. I leave it up to YOU. YOU should choose to accept or ignore my request, and I will readily accept YOUR verdict. " 
This should be our state of mind when we ask haShem to listen to our prayers. At the end of the day, if HaShem decides to ignore my request, I know HE loves me, and I know HE knows better.

(heshbon hanefesh, Chapter 3)
"My God, I dare to stand in front of You, not by ignorance of my own little stature and my inadequate knowledge of Your greatness and transcendence, for I know that You are High and Exalted and I'm of too little account, too lowly and small to petition You, to praise and sign hymns to You or to sanctify Your name which is sanctified by the voices of the High and Holy angels. Rather, what gave me the courage to address You is that You have commanded me to pray to You, and You have permitted me to praise Your exalted name according to my limited understanding of You and my limited grasp of Your glory, so that I will express my service to You with humility.
And You know better than me what is best for me, and the ways in which I should be guided. I am therefore informing You of my needs, not so as to call Your attention to them, but so I will become conscious of my great need of You and of my trust in You. So, If I should ask You , out of my ignorance, for something that is not good for me or of no benefit to me, I accept Your choice rather than my choice. And so I leave the fulfillment of all my interests to Your lasting determination and supreme governance, as David said "God, my heart is not haughty, my eyes are not raised high, I do not presume to grasp things too great and mysterious for me. Thus, I have commended myself to You, like a weaned child, who depends entirely on his mother..."  (Tehillim 131:1-2)