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12/30/2022 01:43:03 PM


Dear mitpallelim: A thought on tefillah:

Many years ago, when I was in high school, we studied the Book of Mishlei (Proverbs.) Among the many verses that we had to learn by heart was lekh ‘el nemalah `atsel, re’eh drekheha va-hakham, “go to the ant, you lazy guy, see its ways, and become wise.” (6:6)

I never fully understood that verse, until one day, many years later, as I was waiting with my son for the #4a bus in Jerusalem, and was watching with fascination how hundreds of ants were working in unison, carrying loads: bigger than their bodies, apparently on their way to build their home.

Indeed, our sources tell us of qualities we can learn from animals, such as modesty from cats, `arayot from doves, etc.

The mishnah, at the beginning of Tractate Bava Qamma, uses a strange Hebrew noun, “mav`eh.” The Talmud explains that it refers to a human being, for it comes from a word that means to request, or even to pray. The famous Israeli “spiritual mashgiach,” Rav Shlomo Wolpe, in his classic mussar work `alei shur, points out that prayer is the one activity that distinguishes a human from an animal. Animals can fight among themselves, animals can play, animals can build houses, animals can live organized social lives, etc., etc. But only a human being can, so to speak, talk to HaShem face to face, using the word ‘attah,”you.”

Let us all take advantage of our unique place in creation, and try to increase our concentration in tefillah.

And may we all have a healthy and happy secular New year.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Menahem White

Sat, December 2 2023 19 Kislev 5784