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Talking Points

Friday, 26 February, 2016 - 12:49 pm

We are all familiar with the concept of talking points. Especially at this election season we have seen candidates and spokespeople state their talking points and then “lather, rinse and repeat as many times as needed.” Regardless of what questions or challenges are thrown their way, “this is my story and I’m sticking to it” is the approach.

A story is told of a farmer who traveled to a Rebbe in the old country with a list of requests written out by his wife. He was admitted to the Rebbe’s room and on cue, he whipped out his list and started reading. “The cows should give milk, the crops should be good, the poritz (nobleman) should be nice, the children should be healthy, and on and on. The Rebbe was trying to get a word in edgewise to ask him about his davening and learning, but the farmer would have no part of it. He spoke his piece and read his list and then looked up at the Rebbe and checked out.

This week I visited a new section on the prison complex where they house inmates who require some segregation from the “general population.” As soon as I sat down with them, one of them whipped out a list and started reading his complaints and issues with the prison with regards to his religious needs. While I certainly see advocating for the Jewish needs of the inmates as part of my role, I also think that prayer, study and inspiration are integral as well. It felt much like the story of the farmer or the political talking points.

This got me thinking about whether we are all like this sometimes with Hashem. Do we see prayer, whether structured or freestyle, as our opportunity to state our list of requests to the “Big ATM in the Sky?” It is a chance to articulate our needs and wants and that’s it? Or is there more to those moments of communication with the Divine?

Tefilah actually has many dimensions. While requesting is one of those dimensions, it must be accompanied by gratitude to Hashem, praise of Hashem and appreciation for what Hashem has given us. Furthermore Tefilah is a time for self-introspection and bonding with Hashem.

So let’s not get caught up in the talking points while ignoring the other vital aspects of our relationship with Hashem.

The Grand Purim Party committee has voted and this year’s theme is: Purim in Outer Space. Stay tuned for exciting details!!

In the meantime happy Adar and Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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