Dear Rabbi Fried,
We had a discussion in our class in religious school if it’s right to ask G-d to help us with everyday activities, like getting to school safely, doing well on a test, getting a summer job or getting over a common cold. Some kids felt it’s improper; G-d has bigger things to worry about. They feel that somebody should only pray for things like someone seriously ill, the people in the South that just lost their homes or to protect the Jews of Israel from terrorists. Our side of the class thought that it’s OK to ask G-d for anything, but we didn’t know how to answer the others who said it’s disrespectful to go to a great King for little things. Is there a correct answer for this or should everyone just do what they think is right?
Megan, Jessica and Jaden
Dear Megan, Jessica and Jaden,
The great Tzaddikim, pious Jews of old, were known to constantly beseech G-d’s intervention in every aspect of their lives. One writes that this is what sets aside the Jewish nation; that we are constantly praying for success in all we do.
Your friends are correct in their claim that the subjects of a great King would not approach him for what seem to be trivial matters. (I once approached a very powerful, wealthy Jew in the Metroplex to use his influence to take care of a relatively small issue. His response was: “Rabbi, you don’t use a cannon to kill a mosquito.”)
Judaism, however, sides with you guys when it comes to approaching G-d. This is based on a couple of ideas. Firstly, from G-d’s perspective there’s no difference between a big or small matter. The level of G-d’s interaction is the same whether it’s to cure a common cold or a more serious illness. Nachmanides, in his classic commentary to the Torah, (12th century Spain) says there’s no difference, from G-d’s perspective, between splitting the sea and curing a cold. It’s only from our perception that it seems different, since for us one action is outside the laws of nature and one is working within. Nachamanides explains that “nature” is simply what G-d has allowed us to get used to; miracles are events we’re not used to, but for G-d Himself miracles and nature are all the same.
Secondly, Judaism believes that G-d already is involved in the small events of our lives. This is a corollary of the first idea: Nachmanides writes that it is the very foundation of our Torah that all that transpire in our lives, big or small, is the Hand of G-d.
Since even the relatively small, insignificant things in our lives transpire with G-d’s involvement, it would certainly follow that there’s nothing disrespectful in asking Him to have success in those very matters. On the contrary, by praying for success you are showing the Al-mighty that you believe in His involvement, that G-d’s Hand is with you throughout your daily activities. There is no greater honor to G-d than that!
Another, deeper aspect of this is based upon our relationship with G-d as Jews. G-d told the Jewish people before receiving the Torah “You are children to the Lord your G-d.” We, as Jews, are to have a loving relationship with G-d like children. A love relationship is built on the small things, not on large gifts. Imagine a great a powerful king sitting on his throne, protected by his honor guards, with world leaders standing in line to ask the king’s favor. Just then a small boy walks by the guards and through the crowd of dignitaries and asks the king for a lollypop; the king doesn’t rebuke the boy; instead he smiles, hands him the candy and gives him a hug. Who is that boy? How dare he bother the king for a measly lollypop? Nobody asks that question because, obviously, he’s the king’s son!
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at email@example.com.
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Dear Rabbi Fried,