pallel, which means "to seek justice."...">

Growing Each Day by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski

Tevet 1
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Pinchas arose and wrought judgment, and so the plague was checked (Psalms 106:30).

The word tefillah, or "prayer," has its origin in the word pallel, which means "to seek justice." Prayer should therefore be an activity whereby one seeks justice. The first recorded prayer in Jewish history is that of the Patriarch Abraham. He sought justice for the people of Sodom and pleaded with God to spare them (Genesis 18:23-33). Thus, when we pray, whether for ourselves or for others, it should be with the understanding that we are seeking justice.

How, then, can we ask of God to grant our various requests? Are we deserving of this? Do we deserve them? Are they within the realm of justice?

Two answers come to mind. If, as part of our prayers, we admit the wrongs we have done, sincerely regret them, and commit ourselves not to repeat them, then we may indeed be deserving. We therefore do not make our requests on the basis of what we are, but on the basis of what we will be. Second, if we extend ourselves by forgiving people who have offended us and acting with kindness toward them, then God's acting accordingly toward us can in itself be considered justice.

Thus, teshuvah (the process of regret and return) and gemilas chasadim (acts of kindness) are the foundations of prayer.

Today I shall...

try to do teshuvah, and to act toward others in a way that I wish God to act toward me.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

 

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