Don’t Like Me? Pray For Me

Torah Observations
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I think it was Ned Flanders from The Simpson’s who in an episode (if not multiple episodes) did something outrageous to Homer Simpson or his property and his reaction was to gather his two sons and pray for Homer and the his family.

This idea was used in a comedy series because it’s so unnatural, and as I recall learning how the process of laughter works, one of the triggers for someone to burst out laughing is for them to witness or experience something unnatural. Think of slapstick comedy or videos of animals and babies doing just about anything, and you’ll get an idea of what I mean. That scene was quite comical when I saw the episode, but apparently not as farfetched as one might think.

It’s been said that if someone bears a grudge toward another, one of the best antidotes in handling one’s anger toward another is to pray for the person we resent. If you want to get technical, the idea is to pray for everything you want in your life (health, wealth, life partner, G-d fearing children, etc.).

I felt the need to explore this concept a bit further and see if I can pinpoint why something so unnatural can not only be so healing, but just as beneficial to us, as to them.

This past week, we are commanded by Hashem to be a holy nation, as the parsha goes on to list many of the 613 mitzvot. When I think about all of the successful people out there, whether it be the most righteous, creative, wealthy, athletic, etc, it’s usually the ones who overcame challenging and dare I say “unnatural” circumstances. The funds and organizations that bring help and services to so many others in different areas, are almost always started, funded, and worked on by those who have gone through similar pain in that given area.

I happen to love basketball, and the playoffs is the most exciting time of the year for any basketball fan. If you watch virtually any game nowadays, you are going to see nothing short of excitement when a player sinks a shot, or a team wins a game. Standing ovations, high fives, flashing lights and more. It all seems so glamorous when you watch it. Yet, a recent broadcast brought things into perspective for me. It was noted that what you see in a Game 7 is the absolute tail end, the last few hours if you will, of months and years of often boring yet grueling drills, practices, diets, early rising, loss of leisure time, etc. The players who are at the top of their game, are the ones that put in the most blood, sweat and tears when nobody was looking. Ironically, that is not what the fans are privy to see. But it is vital and necessary in order for these players to rise to the occasion, which is the fruits of their labor that we do get to witness.

How does that tie in with praying for someone who we resent? Well for one, it takes sweat and tears (possibly blood too) to master it. But if we need a reason to convince us that the journey is worth embarking on, there is really only one question we need to ask ourselves: What do I want?

If I want the drama that comes with hating others, and I enjoy spending my time plotting my revenge, then anger and rage are where it’s at for me. But if I really, and I mean REALLY want the pain to end, the anger to go away, and the individual, group, or institution to simply stop doing what hurts, then how can anything BUT prayer be at the top of my to do list (note it’s not always the ONLY thing, but a vital part to whatever else may be necessary)?

If Reuven resents Shimon for slighting him (or worse), then by Reuven praying for Shimon and his family, friends, community, and those in his life, he is pretty much covering anyone and everyone who may have contributed to Shimon’s anger, which he eventually took out on Reuven. If all sources of Shimon’s anger are now gone, Shimon has no reason to cause further pain to Reuven. Prayer is often the only thing that we as imperfect human beings can do to help that part of the process occur, as we are not in the business of saving the world. At this point, I would place a disclaimer that all of the above should not discount the fact that we pray for the destruction of Amalek. Amalek = evil. And an evil person / nation by definition is out to destroy, with virtually no caring bone in their body. But the ones who do not fall into that category are usually the ones that we interact with on a day to day basis, and those are the ones that need help. It’s been said that “hurt people, hurt people.” If Hashem heals them, they will stop hurting. I have recently taken on the practice to not only pray for those who need a refuah, but to pray for those treating them and their wellbeing (a doctor who is having a family crisis may not be at his best when treating someone I love. If those in the doctor’s life are feeling good, more often than not, so will the doctor). I think it’s safe to say that we all do our respective jobs better when we feel good. Again, it’s a simple concept, but not easy.

If there is just one thing to be taken away from this, it would be that whether we like it or not, we need each other. We need to socialize, interact, negotiate, assist, and accept help from others. Wouldn’t we want those in our lives including our doctors, coworkers, students, rabbis, teachers, store owners, cashiers, contractors, etc, to be in their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual right minds and tip top shape, ESPECIALLY when we need their services and expertise?

May Hashem help us go against the flow of nature which is normally what a holy nation must do to maintain their kedusha. In doing so, may each and every one of us rise to the occasion and become the superstars that Hashem meant for us to become when He commanded us to be Kedoshim, and in so doing, be the champions of our (and those around us) lives.

 By Ariel Natan Dori