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WHAT DO YOU SEE WHEN YOU PRAY?

15 November 2018 No Comment

WHAT DO YOU SEE WHEN YOU PRAY?

Rabbi Michael Whitman

Prayer is vital for our three traditions and I am thinking about ways in which our prayers and methods of prayer are similar and different. One aspect of Jewish prayer that even many Jews are not conscious of is visualization. Many of us may not realize that visualization is actually an important part of traditional Jewish prayer. While many of us are familiar with the Jewish requirement that we face Jerusalem when we pray, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan (in his Mishneh Brurah) explains, “a person should think in his heart and his mind (i.e. visualize) that s/he her/himself is standing in Jerusalem in front of the Holy of Holies.” By seeing myself standing in Jerusalem, which Jacob in the Torah calls “The Gateway to Heaven,” we can better focus on the magnitude and intimacy of prayer.

The context of Jacob’s expression, in Genesis 28, gives us the powerful image in Jacob’s dream – a ladder whose foot stands on earth, and whose rungs reach heaven, with angels ascending and descending, and God’s presence at the top. This is where Jacob comments on the effect this image has on him when he states, “How awesome is this place – it is the gateway to heaven.” Clearly, and this is how the rabbis in the Talmud understand this passage, Jacob understand this scene to be a visual acting out of the experience of prayer – connecting heaven and earth through our prayers which rise as angels to come directly before God.

Do you visualize this or any other images when you approach God in prayer? I would be interested to hear how it affects your prayer.

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