There is a classic Jewish story of a learned rabbi and a taxi driver who depart this world at the same time and arrive together at the gates of Heaven. The angel at the gate signals to the taxi driver to enter, then turns to the rabbi and sadly shakes his head. “What is this?” asks the rabbi. “I am a...Read More
How do i make my prayers
effective and meaningful?
כָּל דְבָרֶיךָ יִהְיוּ בְּנַחַת, וְרֹאשְׁךָ כָּפוּף; וְעֵינֶךָ יַבִּיטוּ לְמַטָּה לָאָרֶץ, וְלִבְּךָ לְמַעֲלָה
Speak gently at all times, with your head bowed, your eyes looking down to the ground and your heart focusing on God.
The Talmud (Yevamot 105b) says: Rabbi Ḥiya and Rabbi Shimon bar Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi were sitting outside the house of study, immersed in Torah learning. One of them said: One who prays must direct his gaze downward while praying, as it is stated by God with regard to the Holy Temple:
“And My eyes and My heart shall be there perpetually” (I Kings 9:3), meaning: The Divine Presence rests in Eretz Yisrael, and one must direct his gaze to the sacred land when praying.
And one of them said he must direct his eyes upward, because it is stated: “Let us lift our hearts with our hands toward God in Heaven.” (Lamentations 3:41).
In the meantime, Rabbi Yishmael, son of Rabbi Yosi, came beside them. He said to them: What are you dealing with? They said to him: With prayer, as we are debating the proper posture for prayer. He said to them: My father, Rabbi Yosi, said as follows: One who prays must direct his eyes downward and his heart upward, in order to fulfill both of these verses.
When one prays to God, he is overcome with two conflicting emotions. On the one hand he feels awe and trepidation at the magnitude of His Presence. On the other hand, he is filled with equal love and closeness and the glory of His Creator. Effective and meaningful prayer is the result of reaching a harmonious balance between the two.
Hashem created humans with two eyes to symbolize two sorts of vision; one that looks upward and one that looks downward. Just like with only one eye man lacks perspective and depth, so too the only way to fully understand the world around him is to simultaneously recognize his own frailty with his head bowed in humility and stand with his head held high as he proudly emulates God.
(Adapted from A Letter for the Ages, pages 79.-81)