Habit or Intention? The Week's End, May 17, 2024
May 17th 2024

"And when you will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, offer it that it may be accepted (lirtzonchem)"(22:29).

Rashi, the 11th century sage interprets the word "lirtzonchem" for our Torah portion Emor as having a double meaning. He explains, God will only accept our offering/gratitude if we offer it with full "knowledge and intention".

While habit (keva) is central to Jewish practice and ritual, Rabbi Shimon implores us in Pirkei Avot2:13, that we learn between Pesach and Shavuot, that when we pray we must not "make your prayer something automatic (keva)", but rather do it with intention (kavana).

The Jerusalemite rabbi Tamar Elad-Applebaum understands prayer to be an opportunity for "disciplined dreaming". In commenting on Rabbi Shimon's statement, she explains that "when we pray, we dream of the highest form of existence that can be, ask that it come to be, and pray, and seek to partner (with God) in that coming to be". She reads his statement about rote prayer as "defiling the power of prayer". 

As we count the Omer (24th day today and 224 days since October 7th) and make our way to Shavuot, let's seize this opportunity to imagine and pray for a transformed world and find our opportunity to partner with Hashem in seeing our highest of dreams come to fruition.