Big G-d and Little Me
Essays 2019 / Prayer
A vast desert stretches endlessly before him, the same scenery stretches in all directions for miles. His forehead shines with perspiration, and his parched mouth yearns for a drink of water. He slowly drags one foot in front of another, drawing on energy he didn’t know he had. He had been on a voyage when he was separated from his group, and now, after two despairingly lonely days, with only the light brown sand, and the occasional cactus to keep him company, he is giving up hope. “G-D, please,” he begs, gazing upwards towards heaven, “Help me find my way, my group, help me get out of this desert. I don’t know how much longer I can survive this.” For a few more hours, he continues to trudge through the sand, pleading to G-D to help him. As he began to doubt G-D had even heard his desperate prayers, he noticed, in the distance, the rooftops of some houses. Civilization! Mustering his remaining strength, he ran to the village. Entering the center of the village, he noticed a commotion. Turning to the first person he met, he asked what had happened. “A group of travelers just came to our village a few hours ago. They had been traveling through the desert when a group of bandits attacked them. They were beaten and robbed of everything.” The lost traveler was shocked! He realized this was his group! The group he had been separated from! He had been spared from terrible tragedy! “Thank you, G-D,” he whispers. “It seems like You heard my prayers after all.”
Many times, people find themselves in what they deem a terrible situation. They feel they are alone, left to battle their terrible demons by themselves. They become so preoccupied with this struggle that it begins to overtake their lives, preventing rational reason from intervening. They feel there is not a single person in this world who understands what they are going through or can help them through their problems. According to a survey taken of 2,000 Americans, 72 percent said that they feel alone, and around 300 million people worldwide are said to suffer from depression. If only they understood that they are not alone.
Many times, what people fail to realize when they are overtaken by despair, is that there is always Someone who they can turn to. There is Someone who is running the show, and who has bestowed this specific challenge for a reason, along with the strength to overcome it. He created us, and continues to keep us in existence, in the exact way He wants us to be. He places us in a situation to help us accomplish a goal, G-d’s goal. Which means that we are a crucial part of the bigger plan of the world. We also have the ability to speak to the One who’s deciding what’s going to happen! And as it turns out, many times, the challenge that seems completely bad actually turns out to be a gift, even if it’s not at all obvious at first.
- Always Creating
Everything in this world is being recreated every single second by G-d. Should G-d cease to renew creation for even just a second, our world would revert back to nothingness. G-d, who is infinite, is keeping our finite world in existence. It is like throwing a rock up in the air. In order to keep it in the air, you must continue throwing it up. If you would stop, the rock would fall, and no longer be up in the air. It is going completely against the nature of the rock, and of gravity to stay up in the air. The same is true of the world. We are like the rock, and G-d the thrower. The fact that the world is in existence completely defies its nature of reverting back to nothingness. Yet G-d is “throwing the rock” and keeping creation intact.
- Creating with intention
The Frierdiker Rebbe, Reb Yosef Yitzchak, once gave over a teaching that his father had taught him. He said “every leaf is a created being with Divine vitality which G-d created with a specific intent and role in the ultimate purpose of creation.” Meaning that there isn’t a single thing in this world that wasn’t created with intention. This means that G-d needs each and every one of us in this world. He continues to keep us in existence because each one of us, individually, is necessary to accomplish something. And we are created exactly the way we need to be in order to accomplish it. Wherever we may find ourselves and whatever our challenges may be, they are all part of the mission and purpose of the creation of the world. One might wonder why G-d would bother to keep things in existence. Why does He even need this world with good and evil? Why does He bother keeping us here? It is because He needs us in the world to reveal Godliness, and we each accomplish that through our individual roles and challenges in our lives. Since G-d is making the effort to keep us in existence, He’s going to make us in the exact way that we need to be in order to fulfill our specific mission. Therefore anything that happens to us is not coincidental. It is to help us reach our final goal.
- Obviously, we’re here for a reason- to complete our mission.
When you encounter a difficult situation, you should remember that it is directly from G-d, customized exactly for you, to help you fulfill your mission. You needn’t feel alone, since G-d is with you, creating your circumstances so that you can accomplish something important.
Divine Providence Meditation: When encountering a difficult situation- don’t despair! G-d gave it to you, and He will get you through it! He only gives you what you have the strength to get through.
However, we don’t have to sit back and just passively watch it all unfold. We have the ability to speak to G-d and ask him to make the good more obvious in our challenges! Prayer has incredible power, almost a superpower. It makes G-d, however infinite and abstract He is, a part of our very personal, everyday life. Prayer gives us the opportunity to communicate with G-d, the creator of the world and everyone in it!
G-D doesn’t need our prayers in order to function. He knows what we need. The answer is, he wants us to interact with Him, to establish a relationship with Him. One way we humans establish a relationship is by giving to others. This giving might be as simple as listening. Imagine two people, one who is in need of something, and the other with the thing the person needs. When a person gives to another in need, they have now established a relationship. With G-D, it is the same. G-D made us needy and incomplete so that we would turn to Him and ask for what we need, thus becoming dependent on the Almighty. We achieve this give and take connection through prayer.
The word prayer means different things to different people. For some, it is going to shul and praying from a prayer book, saying the words that our forefathers and Rabbanim established for us. For others, it is sending up a prayer to G-D when we are in despair, or thanking Him for something that went right. Chassidic teaching encourages prayer and emphasizes the power of prayer. The Alter Rebbe, R’ Schneur Zalman, a very learned person, was once given the choice to go to yeshiva in either Mezritch or Vilna. Upon reaching his decision he explained: “In Vilna they learn how to learn, and in Mezritch, they learn how to daven. I already know how to learn, but I want to know more about davening, so I will go to Mezritch.”
Prayer is our chance to talk to G-D. The Rabbanim have given us a structured way to do this. They constructed the siddur, which has all the tefillos for every day of our lives. They tell us what to say, how to say it, and when. We actually learn how to daven from the way Chana, Shmuel the prophet’s mother, davened. We learn it from her specifically because she asked G-D to do something for her that was completely beyond nature, and her prayers were fulfilled. This example shows us how much we can accomplish through our heartfelt prayers. The Baal Shem Tov brings down the parable of a king, who announced that for one day, he will grant all of his citizens one wish. All the citizens lined up by the palace, eager to make their one precious request. To one the king granted riches, to another he granted honor. Finally, one man came in and made a startling request. Instead of asking for wealth, or happiness, he asked the king to just be able to have a conversation with him! Overjoyed, the king granted him his request, and told his officers to also give this man wealth and honor. The Baal Shem Tov brings this example to show us how much Hashem wants us to want to talk to Him! And we can accomplish this simple request of G-D, Who provides us with life and everything we need, by praying!
In the first book of Torah, Bereishis, it speaks about Noach and the flood. The Lubavitcher Rebbe compares the flood waters to our worries. The waters from below are compared to our worries about physical matters, and the waters from above are compared to our worries about spiritual matters. After warning Noach about the imminent flood, G-D told him to build a teivah, an ark, to protect him and his family. The message to us is that when the “waters”- our worries- start to flood us, we should “build an ark”. Meaning, we should go into the words of prayer and we won’t be as overwhelmed by our problems. This is because when we are praying, we are acknowledging that G-D is the creator of everything, so we become less worried about what’s happening since we know G-D is taking care of us.
Meditation on prayer: When you feel alone- don’t worry! G-d is listening to you. Speak to Him, and tell Him how you’re feeling about the situation you’re in.
Psalm 121 begins with “I lift my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come?” It goes on to say, “My help will come from G-d, Maker of heaven and earth.” It then continues to talk about how G-d is always there for us, and He would not let us fail. This connects to Divine Providence and prayer, both affirmations of G-d’s existence. It is a scenario of how our life should be. Sometimes, we feel lost or alone, completely hopeless. We wonder how we will get past our current situation. Then we realize that G-d is running the show, that He is directing our every step. We know He will help us get through our struggles, and that in the end all will work out.
To help make this a part of our daily lives, a tangible reminder would be to print out a version of psalm 121 in a language in which you understand it best. Write notes about anything that will help you remember that there is always Someone we can turn to, any hour, any day. Then say the psalm, so that you are also praying and connecting to the One, who in the end, is in control of the situation and will give you the best of what you need, perfectly customized just for you.
Shaar Yichud Vemunah Perek Beis
Maamer Tanu Rabanan Ner Chanukah תרמ”ג- Rebbe Rashab
Likkutei Dibburim Vol. 1
ו’ תשרי/ ראש השנה- חלק כ”ט
לקוטי שיחות חלק א- פרשת נח
כתר שם טוב