Vayikra: How Many Times Could You Ask?

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This week’s lesson is dedicated in loving memory of Rabbi Mordechai Gurary, Rov of Chevras Shas – Beis Mordechai, Crown Heights, NY. Yartzeit 3 Nissan, 5780.

By his family.

During the central prayer in Jewish tradition, the Amidah, we ask G-d for health, wealth and happiness. But why is it recited three times a day? Can't I suffice with once a day? And what if I lack nothing--What am I praying for?

True Prayer is About Connection

Our sages said: “Prayers were established in the place of sacrifices.” In the absence of the Holy Temple, when we cannot—and must not—offer sacrifices, the sages enacted prayer services to replace the offerings of the Temple. The morning prayers represent the Tamid offering of the morning, and the afternoon prayers represent the Tamid of the afternoon.

Accordingly, there must be a correlation between the meaning of sacrifices and the meaning of prayer. The Hebrew word for sacrifices, korban, comes from the word kiruv, which means closeness. The offering draws the person closer to G-d. This is also the idea of prayer. Although we ask G-d to provide us with our needs, such as wisdom, health, and sustenance, the true purpose of prayer is to develop a closer relationship with G-d than we had a day earlier.

The Tamid offering (which corresponds with the daily prayers) was a Burnt Offering; the entire animal was burned on the altar. This teaches us that true closeness to G-d is only possible when we approach Him not for personal gain but for the sake of cleaving to Him, just as in the Burnt Offering, where the owners didn’t receive a portion for themselves and didn’t even have the benefit of giving a portion to the priests. Instead, the entire sacrifice was offered to G-d.

By way of example: if you invest in a relationship for certain benefits, whether money, honor, and so on, it is not a genuine relationship. You are concerned only with your own welfare, and moreover—you are exploiting the other person for your own goals. A true bond is only possible when it is not about your personal benefit but about a genuine desire to be close to the individual. For example, a parent’s relationship with a child isn’t about earning the child’s respect or ensuring his support during the parent’s old age. The connection is innate; it’s a connection of love.

The same is true of our spiritual worship that is modeled after the Tamid offering. Our connection to G-d must be like a Burnt Offering. It’s not about the benefit we will receive from observing Torah and its commandments. Rather, it is an expression of our innate desire to cleave to G-d.

True, through prayer we channel G-d’s blessings for all our needs. Nonetheless, we approach the prayer itself as an opportunity to become closer to G-d—to be like a Burnt Offering, wholly for G-d.

It Is Relevant During Hardship as Well

Torah states regarding the Tamid, “Offer one sheep in the morning, and the second sheep in the evening.”

You might assume that being a Burnt Offering—serving G-d in the most altruistic form—is only possible in the “morning,” when you in a state of illumination, i.e., when you are spiritually content, living according to Torah and its commandments, and when you are materially content, free of concerns and definitely free of hardship. At that stage, you will be able to make the decision to cleave to G-d and be like a Burnt Offering. 

However, during the “evening,” when you feel that your situation is not as good as it should be—and that may indeed be the case—how could you pray to G-d as a Burnt Offering, ignoring your personal benefit for the sake of cleaving to G-d? Your first responsibility is to provide for yourself, your wife and children; only then will you have the freedom to worship G-d in an altruistic fashion.

This is the lesson from these verses—the Tamid offering must be offered both in the morning and at night. “Offer one sheep in the morning, and the second sheep in the evening.” The word tamid means constant; this must be our constant pursuit no matter our situation, whether in times of morning and illumination, or times of evening and darkness.

12 Tammuz 1984

(Toras Menachem 5744 vol. 4 pg. 1180)

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