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Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

Tefilah: stop being greedy!

Yes, prayer gives us a chance to spell out our needs and hurts. It also humbly acknowledges that we can make all the efforts in the world but we cannot be sure of success because He’s in charge; that Providence is not in our hands unless He puts it there. So we beseech Him.

But Rabbi Dessler says that the whole purpose of all of Judaism is to turn a needy suckling into a generous grownup! I understand that like this: It’s OK for a baby to need and want. Also at later ages, it’s OK to have needs – but not all day long, every day again. We need to resemble our Creator and give too. That should be our main focus.

So, if our prayers are gimme, gimme, gimme, something is off.

But what can we do if all that prayer texts say is: “we want this, we lack that”? Then we should read with different eyes. That’s not all it says.

We should – at times that we are not in great distress – Heaven forbid – focus on the words that say: thank you. Here are some examples.

  • Every Blessing in our Main Prayer ends with a praise of G^d. Focus on these words with gratitude!
  • The Priestly Blessing, focus on how He blessed us and is blessing us already, instead of just: gimme more.
  • In the Second Blessing in our Main Prayer, we acknowledge that He makes us live, heals the sick, promises that death is finite, sends us rain, livelihood and redemption gracefully, lifts up the fallen, and is trust-worthy and unique (like we should be too). It’s not enough to beg Him for healing. First, we need to acknowledge that He is the Healer. (We get healed millions of times before ever getting sick.)
  • In the verse heading off our Main Prayer, we express our wish and hope to praise Him. Don’t make that an idle expectation!
  • Prayer is not to charm G^d – and get from Him. That is what idol worshipers try! G^d is fine and fine with us. We need to change, not G^d. Paying charity before praying should not be like bribery, trying to please G^d. When we give, we increase our worthiness – or better: We give to be our true selves and be giving, generous. We glorify Him, not for Him to feel good but for us to be humble.

Prayer is to relate properly to G^d. That must transform us (To put Him central in our lives, to only put our hope in Him, etc.), not Him. A child doesn’t cry with his parents to make them feel better; a client doesn’t talk to a shrink to inform him; Jews don’t talk to G^d to change His Mind. (G^d doesn’t change His mind by us asking. He doesn’t change, period. Rather, He gives us an opportunity to join Him, to be His co-worker, to ask for good before He does so; to beg against evil before He stops it.)

Make no mistake, Baruch, the first word of most blessings, doesn’t mean “Blessed.” Nor “Thank you.” Rather, it means “Source of all blessing.” You want to eat your apple (to keep the doctor away). You can’t just take from G^d’s world. You make a blessing and then you can. How does that work? The blessing is an acknowledgement. You say: The Source of all blessing are You, Eternal G^d, our Devine Judge, Ruler of the Cosmos, tree fruit Creator. Immediately, G^d says: you can have it, enjoy.

Last but not least, smiling, being happy, is a nice way to show gratefulness. Also during prayer. (Cry when you need to but not during every prayer in your life.) And towards other congregants, a smile also shows generosity. Instead of: gimme me me me first and now.

And once we understand that, we can also fathom that chosen means: to be His intermediary and envoy and giving towards all of His children.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, an almost daily blog contributor to the Times of Israel, and previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit about what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and education contribute to his visions. * If you don't know the Dutch, get an American peek behind the scenes here: https://youtu.be/QMPp6h6r72M * To find less-recent posts on subject XXX among his over 1600 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: https://mmvanzuiden.wordpress.com/. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. Yet, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people who don't deserve that. He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust, and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. * One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. He loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, anti-elitism, anti-bigotry and supremacy, for Zionism, Intersectionality, and non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, empowering therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids non-violently. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's being a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. He lives with his library in Jerusalem. Feel free to contact him. * His writing has been made possible by a (second-generation) Holocaust survivors' allowance from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. * His newest books you may find here: https://www.amazon.com/s?i=stripbooks&rh=p_27%3AMoshe-Mordechai%2FMaurits+van+Zuiden&s=relevancerank&text=Moshe-Mordechai%2FMaurits+van+Zuiden&ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1
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