By Rabbi Shemtov
I am frequently asked if prayer is a crutch. There is a prevalent misconception that people turn to G-d when things are bad and wish to contract out their troubles to a Higher Power, instead of taking personal responsibility.
Nothing can be further from the truth.
In this week’s Torah portion (when this article will be published) we continue the narrative of Exodus, with a focus on the famous Ten Plagues. Every school child is fascinated by the “creativity” of such an elaborate punishment being meted out to the perpetrators of such gross injustice. But while the plagues were certainly the fulfillment of G-d’s promise to Abraham that the nation who will afflict his descendants will be punished, this is not the entire story.
In every dialogue between Moses and Pharaoh regarding the plagues a specific divine message is consistently communicated: I am doing this so that you shall know I am G-d.
When Moses first approached Pharoah with G-d’s command to release the Israelites, Pharaoh brazenly asked “Who is this G-d you speak of?” The zeitgeist of Egypt, the superpower of civilization at the time, was that Pharaoh controls the forces of nature. Pharoah challenged the very notion that there could be a power greater than himself.
The ten plagues were designed to destroy this misguided mindset and set the record straight for humanity. G-d controls every detail of reality and can do with it as He pleases.
But the message is more profound. Water turned into blood for seven days, not only to prove that G-d can change water, but mainly to illustrate that natural water with its ability to bring life to plants, animals and humans only does so because of G-d’s blessing.
The lengthy process of the ten plagues prepared the Jewish people and the world for the revelation at Sinai and our subsequent mission to reveal the divine in every detail of reality. Torah and Mitzvot inform us how to put creation in sync with its creator.
In contemporary terms the message is clear. In order to make a living one must work. But the financial success of any endeavor one may undertake depends on G-d alone. True, one cannot sit in the synagogue, pray for sustenance and expect a million dollars to just appear in the bank account. But the natural pathway to financial success one chooses to follow must be in sync with G-d’s desires in order to be truly successful.
Prayer is the opportunity we have three times a day to be mindful of the fact that everything is orchestrated by G-d. The more we remember this, the easier it is for us to withstand the temptation of considering ourselves the masterminds of our success.
Carve out some more time for daily prayer and seek to be mindful of this important message routinely.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to reach out to me at Rabbi@JewishVailAZ.com, or visit our website at WWW.JewishVailAZ.com.
Rabbi Yisroel Shemtov grew up in Brooklyn, NY. After finishing Yeshiva, Rabbi Shemtov went on to becoming or-dained at the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, New Jersey. Rabbi Shemtov has served as a student Rabbi in communities across the world. Including in Bulgaria, Wyoming, South Dakota and California where he has led educational and holiday programs. He has taught children through Torah Tutors, an online Jewish studies plat-form.