Thursday, June 20, 2019

Behalotecha - It's the Feeling that Counts

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Behalotecha - It's the Feelings that Count:  There is a great story in the Talmud (Berachot 34a) about a time when someone in the study hall of Rabbi Eliezer led the prayers very quickly and the students complained he should go slower.  
Rabbi Eliezer said to them, "don't you know the part in this week’s Parshah of Behalotecha, when Moses prayed to God on behalf of his sister Miriam? All he said was 'God please heal her.'  A quick prayer sufficed, the same with the prayers today."  
Another time, someone else led services, but was very slow and the students complained again to Rabbi Eliezer that this one should go faster.  
However, Rabbi Eliezer in this case reminded the students, "Moses was on Mt. Sinai for forty days and nights, don't worry, however long it is, it won't be that long!"
The lesson here is twofold.  First, our prayers may be long or short, but if they have kavannah, if they have intention, then they may very well be sufficient.  But second and even more important, is having the discernment, the thoughtfulness, to recognize that sometimes situations are different and require different approaches.  
We know this is the case in our story from Rabbi Eliezer's words and actions.  Who was it that Rabbi Eliezer had in mind with what he said?  The person leading services and that person's standing in the community.  Could you imagine how it would feel if the rabbi in either story had criticized the prayer-leader, taking the side of the other students against that person?  How humiliating!  Rabbi Eliezer, however, is able to quickly and cleverly teach a valid lesson to his complaining students (about kavannah in prayer) while at the same time subtly teaching them the lesson of respect for other people, also.  
I hope we can be equally sensitive to Rabbi Eliezer's lessons about how to pray and how to treat people.  
Shabbat Shalom!

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