First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/vayikra-selfless-self-prayer/
Netziv Leviticus: Vayikra
“Let everyone try and find that as a result of daily prayer he adds something new to his life, something with which nothing can be compared.” -Mahatma Gandhi
Jewish liturgy is often written in the plural form. We should have others in mind in our prayers. Therefore, one might develop feelings of guilt if one were to pray for oneself. How selfish would that be?
The Book of Leviticus presents us with a variety of sacrifices that are brought in the Tabernacle and were subsequently offered in the Temple of Jerusalem.
The Netziv on Leviticus 1:2 explains, as do most Rabbinic commentators, that prayer is a substitute for the sacrifices that were offered. However, he adds, that just as the penitent brings his own sacrifice, so it is with prayer. It is always most effective and appropriate when the person seeking divine assistance prays for himself.
However, there are sacrifices that the spiritual leadership brings on behalf of the people. According to the Netziv, this parallels the ability of a person who doesn’t know how to pray to ask the community leadership to pray on his behalf.
We should develop our prayer abilities, and for those of us feeling deficient in that area – find someone who can help us in that department.
To the beginning of the Uruguayan school and work year. Feel free to join us at the synagogue for community prayer.
To Betty and Wolf Gruenberg on their wonderful hosting. May all their prayers be answered.