Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Va’eschanan – Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11
In his book Perfect Practice, Doug Lemov makes the case that the adage “practice makes perfect” is wrong. You can hit a thousand buckets of balls on the driving range, but if your swing is flawed you won’t improve your game. The same is true of prayer, as can be seen in Parshas Va’eschanan:
“And I implored to G-d at that time…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 3:23)
This Sabbath’s parsha begins with Moses praying that G-d will change His decree and let him enter the land of Israel. Then Moses exhorts the Israelites to keep G-d’s commandments and sets the example by setting aside Cities of Refuge. Next Moses reviews the Ten Commandments and teaches the people the Shema prayer. Finally Moses urges the people that rather than succumbing to prosperity they should diligently teach their children about the Exodus from Egypt and to follow the Torah.
Shem MiShmuel examines how Moses implored the Almighty, noting there are two sources for prayer: those that originate in your mind and those that originate in you heart. Sometimes you know it is time to pray, like at religious services. Or you feel the need to acknowledge G-d’s kindness or give gratitude for His gifts. In such cases your mind directs your prayer.
Other times, you are beset by troubles or worry. Prayer flows from the depth of your heart, sometimes accompanied by tears.
But while the source may be different, in both cases you must strive to pray with thought and feeling.
Gee thanks, Rabs. How do I magically conjure up emotional power for prayer emanating from my mind? And how do I bring rational thought to prayers welling up from an aching heart?
Shem MiShmuel notes the mind is calculating and rational, inviting neither motion nor sound, while the heart is warm and vibrant, stirring movement and voice. So depending on the catalyst, to bring the other element to your prayer act accordingly. For prayer originating in your mind, allow your body and lips to move, thereby stirring your heart. And for prayers arising from your heart, focus on standing or sitting very still, keeping your lips motionless so as to push the feelings into your mind.
By engaging more of yourself in prayer, you demonstrate to the Creator the fullness and depth of the relationship you want with Him. While G-d always answers your prayers, the more fully you bond the more likely you’ll get the answer you seek.
How do you bring more of yourself to your relationship with G-d? Please comment below.
Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!