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November 18, 2012 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Vayetse

At the very beginning of this week’s Torah portion, Jacob goes to an unspecified “place” and has a dream involving angels going up and down a ladder, followed by a Divine revelation (Gen. 28:10-15).

Sarna points out that “It was customary throughout the ancient world, both Near Eastern and classical, for a devotee to sleep in the sacred precincts of a temple in order to induce the deity to reveal its will.  However, the present narrative emphatically dissociates Jacob’s experience from the pagan practice by stressing the totally unplanned nature of his stopover, the complete anonymity of ‘the place’ and the total unexpectedness of the theophany.  Here it is God who takes the initiative in revealing Himself to an amazed Jacob.” (emphasis mine)

In other words, you can’t make God do what you want.  God does what God wants, no matter what prayer techniques you use.  Is this relevant to our lives?

Well, maybe.  On Facebook I notice a bunch of calls for people to say Psalms, arising out of the current war between Israel and Hamas.  Now, if saying Psalms makes you feel better, or makes you feel like you are in solidarity with Israel, by all means do it.

But if you think that by doing so, you can induce the Deity to make the war go more favorably for Israel, be careful. The overall message of the “Jacob’s ladder” story may be that God can’t be controlled or manipulated by God’s worshippers, which to me means that you can’t get God to give you a preferred outcome merely by praying differently.

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One Comment

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  1. Garnel Ironheart / Nov 25 2012 2:04 am

    > In other words, you can’t make God do what you want.

    Well not entirely. The mishnah in Avos tells us to nullify our will before His will so that He will nullify the will of others before our will. Most of the commentators say that “others” really is “His” but the Mishnah didn’t think stating it right out would be respectful.
    No, we can’t tell Him what to do but we can beg and plead and sometimes He listens.

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