PRAYING FROM YOUR BUMPER CAR
Â are all moving around in this world, as if we were bumper cars. In the amusement park, riding around on the bumper cars, it feels like you are driving. It feels like other people are driving, and they bump into you, and you need to dodge them. But when you look up, you see that you, and everyone around you, are just wired to the ceiling. And once the amusement park attendant flips the switch, your bumper car slows down to a halt, together with whoever is in your bumper-car world. Even though it looks like we are driving and moving around, we are all running on G-d’s Electricity. An electrifying thought.
No one minds praying once a day, getting an opportunity to ask G-d for what we want in life. But three times a day can be a bother. A repetitive prayer, with laws where to pray and how. This is the reason behind praying without kavana: looking at prayer as an opportunity to ask. Jewish Prayer is not about asking. Our Rabbis call Jewish prayer “avodah shebalev” – labor of the heart.Â What is this labor?
It is looking up from your bumper car and realizing that you, and everything around you,Â are wired. That everyone in your life, every single one in his bumper car is wired. Constantly. Three times a day. If your mind wanders while praying, it is because you are, for those moments, oblivious to this “wired” concept, of Ein Od Milvado, that reality is nothing but G-d . You are focusing too much on what you see,Â Bumper Cars. Before walking up three steps to speak to G-d, don’t think Bumper Cars. Think Electricity Poles: Ein Od Milvado. You will have much more Kavvana. Try it next time you “labor” in your Heart.
Internalizing the Electric concept is intense labor. All the Bumper Cars make so much noise. If you look up too long, you get bumped so hard your yarmulka goes flying. So instead of looking up, people get busy driving, dodging, bumping back.Â They put the Yarmulka in the pocket and forget that they are all wired Up Above. Our Rabbis teach that while praying, one should lower his gaze to the ground, and focus his heart to the Heavens. (Yevamot 105b) This means that when you pray for the things you see in your world (Bumper Cars), keep your heart directed toward Heaven (Electric Poles), knowing that G-d up there is powering what is going on down here.
In our religion, Zecher Leyitziyat Mitzrayim, to commemorate the Exodus, is a central concept. So many mitzvot, Kiddush, Shabbat, Sukkot, Sukkah, the whole Pesah, Teffilin each day, Kriat Shmah three times a day, Peter Hamor, Pidyon HaBen, etc., all remind us of it. Why? Why is it so important to remind ourselves of the Exodus, recognizing its centrality in Jewish thought?
Question 2. Why did G-d bring all the Ten Plagues on Egypt? Why didn’t He just wipe them clean with one Plague, one heavy blow, like the Plague of the Firstborn?
The Ten Plagues came to show the Jewish People, the Egyptians and all Humanity, forever and ever, that G-d was, is, and will always be in control of every detail of Creation. Water, fire, animals, from the celestial being in the heavens to the dust of the fields. Life and Death. G-d doesn’t miss a beat. Everything is wired. The Rebbe from Pasishche would say, “If you do not believe that the dirt that is under your feet was put there by G-d intentionally, you are a kofer (scoffer) in Hashgacha Pratit (belief that G-d runs every detail)! You do not believe that G-d has EVERYTHING wired!”
The Midrashim tell us that every one of the Plagues was meted out “measure for measure”. The Egyptians were punished with precision. To the Jew in Egyptian slavery, it seemed as if G-d did not notice his pain or wasn’t in charge of details. G-d brought the Ten Plagues to show us otherwise. To show humanity that ×× ×™ ×”’ , I am G-d. I was right there, giving the Egyptian the electric, as he chose to bump you with his Bumper Car.
The Egyptians would take the Jews out to the fields, slaughter animals, and barbeque. The Jew, starving and worn out, could not taste the food; he could only smell it. He had broken, bleeding limbs, no sleep, and kidnapped children . He probably was so down trodden that when he got home, he did not even think of complaining about not being part of the Egyptian’s barbeque.Â Still, the Midrash tells us that G-d paid this one back, as well. He commanded the JewsÂ to sacrifice the Korban Pesah, before leaving Egypt. ×•×›×œ ×‘×Ÿ × ×›×¨ ×œ× ×™××›×œ ×‘×•, and no barbequed lamb for the Egyptians. They could smell it, clean up afterwards, but could not eat.Â To teach us that even what we smell is taken into account by G-d. When the Yishmaelim brought Yosef down to Egypt , although he deserved to be sold as a slave for mistreating his brothers, he did not deserve to suffer the bad smell of Yishmaeli tar, the common Yishmaeli merchandise; rather, G-d sent him strange Yishmaelim, perfume merchants. Even what Yosef smelled on his way down to Egypt was calculated precisely. Even the smells were wired.
In the Plague of the Firstborn, the Egyptians put their firstborn sons to sleep between Jewish firstborns, believing that G-d might miss a few Egyptian firstborns that way. But G-d does not get confused, or make mistakes. The Egyptian firstborns died at the midnight plague,Â even if they were between two Jewish firstborns, while the Jewish firstborns woke up fresh in the morning.
Zecher LeYitziat Mitzrayim is the fundamental reminder, the most powerful metaphor (even more then Bumper Cars and Electric Poles), that G-d has everything wired. This is why, before our Amidah prayers, we think Exodus. To get us into Ein Od Milvado mode. G-d said, if you cannot learn Torah all day, then wear Tefillin all day, and I will consider it as if you are learning Torah all day. Why? Because when you wear Tefillin, you are wired to Zecher Leyitziat Mitzrayim. And when you are an Exodus Jew, you are wired to the belief that G-d has all of us, and all of Creation, electrified. And that is second best to learning Torah.
This is the only way to pray, to pray three times a day. To live Ein Od Milvado. To look up from our Bumper Cars and realize that we are all wired.