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Sunday, 18 January 2015

Is your life looking up or down?

Daf Yomi Yevamos 105

“I can’t seem to pray properly,” Yankel said to me, “I ask G-d for my needs and my prayers don’t get answered.”
“When you pray, do you feel you’re connecting with G-d?” I inquired.
“Not really,” replied Yankel, “I guess if there was a better connection, my prayers might get answered.”

Rabbi Hiya and Rabbi Shimon bar Rebbe were sitting discussing Torah. 
One opened and said: One who prays should direct his eyes downward, as the verse states, “May my eyes and heart be there for all days.”  Rashi explains that downwards means towards the Land of Israel, where the Divine Presence is most powerful.
The other rabbi demurred: One’s eyes should be directed upwards, for another verse states, “Let us lift up our hearts with hands to Heaven.”

Just then, Rabbi Ishmael the son of Rabbi Yossi arrived.  He asked them, “What topic are you dealing with?”
 “Prayer,” they responded.
He said to them, “This is what Father taught: When one prays, he should direct his eyes below and his heart above thereby fulfilling both of these verses.” 

Many of us pray just to keep up with the Joneses.   The neighbour has a nicer house, a nicer car, fancier clothes, more extravagant vacations.  And whether we consciously realize it or not, often our prayers are about what we feel is lacking in our lives, simply because we see others with more materialism in theirs. 

Rabbi Ishmael would call this attitude ‘praying with your eyes above and your heart below’ meaning that your eyes are always looking up to the guy who has more than you and so your heart is constantly sunken.   Consequently, you pray to G-d for more ‘stuff’ and no matter what He gives you in life, it’s never enough.  And so you feel like your prayers go unanswered because there are always people around that you could ‘look up to’ in terms of their material wealth.

Rabbi Ishmael advises us to switch that paradigm.  How about you direct your eyes downwards to the people around you that you are not noticing – the many, many more who have way less than you?  When you begin to realize how fortunate and blessed you truly are, suddenly your heart is elated!  Now you can pray with your eyes below and your heart directed above!

And that’s the way to develop a deep and meaningful relationship with the Almighty.  Prayer is about connecting with our Father in Heaven.  He doesn’t need your prayers.  He provides us with prayer as a forum to connect with Him.  The more you appreciate what He has given you in life, the more connected you will feel with Him and the more you will start to feel that your prayers are being answered.

Turn your eyes downwards and look around you.   The Almighty has blessed you in every part of your life!  Doesn’t your heart now feel elated?  May you merit appreciating everything G-d has done for you and forging a deep and meaningful relationship with Him! 

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