Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rosh Chodesh Elul - Thoughts about Prayer

Rabbi Simcha Lefkowitz is the spiritual leader of Congregation Anshei Chesed of Hewlett, New York. A talmid chacham (Torah scholar) and caring individual, he is an inspirational rabbi and a sought-after speaker.
On his recent trip to Jerusalem, Rabbi Lefkowitz spoke to my camera about prayer and our attitude towards what we request and what we receive. Watch it here:
Rabbi Lefkowitz explained that once upon a time, Jewish people used to pray while lifting up their palms up to the sky. Although Sephardi Jews still open their palms when they say, "You open You Hand and satisfy the needs of living things...", Jews stopped praying with their palms open to the heavens when the non-Jews began praying in that way.
Rabbi Lefkowitz quoted HaRav Yaakov Kamenetzky, ztz'l, his grandfather-in-law on this issue. Reb Yaakov noted that when you pray with your palms open to Heaven, you are telling G-d, "I'd like you to answer my prayers, and whatever you give me, I will accept." Today people don't want to accept what Hashem wants to give us. We want what we want!

Closing Our Hands to One Another
Rabbi Lefkowitz also noted that instead of shaking hands and pledging friendship to one's fellow, a new fad in America is to bump closed fists. Rabbi Lefkowitz interprets this to mean, "I offer you nothing, and I pledge nothing to you." This is not the Jewish way. The Jewish people are a nation that cares for its brothers and opens its arms to help one another.
Rabbi Lefkowitz reminds us that whether we pray with open or closed palms, we must remember that we can pray for whatever we wish, but ultimately, The Holy One gives us what we need.
Chodesh Tov. May you have a meaningful and positive Elul.

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