#BlogElul 18: Pray
I think this takes us back to Einstein’s question whether the Universe is a friendly place. Right now in shul we are reading Moses’ last exhortations to the people of Israel before he leaves them, and there’s a lot of threatening of all the bad things that will happen if they don’t do what G-d expects of them. There’s also a lot of gratitude for the good things G-d has done for them already and will do for them in the future.
Moses tells us in so many words that G-d loves us and will take care of us if we do what we are told. I guess this means the Universe is a friendly place, and there is somebody to talk and pray to … if we believe the words that we read.
Since the Enlightenment, we’ve been suspicious of authority. That’s not a bad thing, in general. There are lots of words out there and we should be careful which ones we allow into our mental space. I don’t know how much credence I give to the stories in the Torah, whether I believe that Moses was a historical figure (although I think he probably was), whether the Exodus really happened, whether 600,000 people stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and heard the voice of G-d. I don’t know whether it’s all just self-delusion or what.
But the funny thing is, just like in Pascal’s wager, it really doesn’t matter. I’m not doing this to score points with some heavenly scorekeeper, or to get into heaven, or whatever. I’m looking to think thoughts that serve me, that improve the quality of my life and allow me to achieve my goals while I’m on this Earth.
Conversing with the Universe, especially using the old, beautiful poetry of my people, makes me happy and helps bring peace into my turbulent life. It’s a form of meditation. So, why not do it? It doesn’t cost me anything, and I don’t see that not doing it would enhance my life in any way. I don’t know whether there is anyone on the other end of the line, but in the end, it’s about my conversation with myself.
What do you think, do we need a rock-solid belief in order to pray? Or does it not really matter whether anyone is listening?