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What's With Praying To A King?

What's With Praying To A King?



My teacher is giving us girls a royal hassle over the way we do the silent standing prayer—the Amidah. She screams at us, "How could you be staring all over the place, fidgeting and passing notes when standing before the King of kings of kings and making your requests?"

Okay, nothing wrong with that logic, but none of us have ever stood in front of a king, never mind a king of kings of kings. All I see is a wall, or the backside of the girl in front of me. How do I work with this?


I love this sort of question. I can so much relate. Kings have been out of style since we guillotined then a few hundred years ago. So, for myself, I had to come up with another set of imagery. And here it is:

Imagine you are in the middle of an intense dramatic scene, like rain pouring outside, a sick person shivering in bed under a thin blanket, a voice screaming, howling, persistent banging on the door, shaking the entire building, glass shattering...

..and then you yell, "Cut!"

The lights go up, the cameras are off, you turn to the director's chair and say, "I don't like the way this scene is going. How about we try…"

Next step: Imagine this was a big name director. Someone who had directed the stars and won a few Emmies doing it. And nevertheless, he wants to hear from his actors, and he often rewrites the script according to their suggestions.

So now perhaps you'll talk a little different. After all, you're more than a little bit in awe of him. You feel really privileged that he's listening to what you have to say. So you carefully balance every word you say and how you say it.

Now what if the director was also the producer–the guy who hires and fires? You're even more careful, right?

And now, really let go of your imagination and visualize that this is a 3D animation. You're just an animated character, and this director could change anything or make anything happen. Now you're getting to the real idea of what we mean when we call G‑d a king: A power so awesome, His creative decisions determine whether you exist, how you exist and the past, present of future of your existence. Yet, through some magical technology, this particular animated character can talk to her animator and make suggestions.

Sounds wild, right? Yet that's exactly what we do in prayer. We cut out of the drama, take three steps and address the Director. The Infinite and Omnipotent Mastermind Director-Producer-Animator of the entire universe (which is what's meant by calling Him a king, right?). And He listens to our suggestions, very carefully. What an opportunity! And we do it three times a day!

Try it out. Let me know how it goes.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Joy St Petersburg, Fl June 25, 2011

Shabbos Dinner Boy this is great! I just stated I felt so disconnected sometimes until I click to Rav Freeman's invite to enjoy KaballahTunes
and lo and behold I scroll down and there it is "THE CONNECTION"!
I pray I will be invited to Shabbos dinner some time soon. Reply

Eliezer Eliahu Cohen dan hills, israel February 10, 2011

the desire is what counts... it is what we need to build on... Our desire to unite with G-d...
Rav Zvi, as usual, a masterful job with the writing, insight and love... Reply

chaim l. berkeley, california November 30, 2010

workin' on it I just finished saying 40 pages of prayer and no doubt it is called avodah (work) for a reason. Reply

Lael Brooklyn August 31, 2017
in response to chaim l.:

Meaningful work. The pleasure is all ours, and the glory to Hashem Reply

Don Shapiro Cedar Crest, NM November 26, 2010

Where I pray... Dear Annonymous,
At this time, I pray anywhere the Shechinah (Divine presence) moves me! (LOL) Frankly, I currently do not belong to any congregations, but I am inspired daily by Torah and Mussar (Jewish ethics) study, with lots of support from, (Rabbi Tzvi Freeman), Rabbi Tzvi Miller, Riverton Mussar, the Mussar Institute, and Rabbi Yaaov Feldman... and others.
And you? Reply

Anonymous rancho mirage, ca. November 26, 2010

WOW That is so cool that you learned how to do the Amidah at school, I had to teach myself. I once fell over a chair (at home) at the place where one walks three steps back. I tried very hard NOT to laugh. Through all the mishaps, I learned and have come to love this particular part of my prayer. My mind (usually) behaves, but when it doesn't , I remember I am standing before The Creator of all exsistence thus King of all , above all , beyond all kings, Blessed be His Name. Reply

Shmuel Chicago, IL November 17, 2010

King If I'm going to imagine I'm a animated character in the presence of the director-producer-animator, I may as well imagine that I'm a lowly subject in the presence of a king whose word is law. I have no personal experience of either to which I can relate. Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2010

AH-HA! "And nevertheless, he wants to hear from his actors, and he often rewrites the script according to their suggestions."

You know, I never got it before, but this makes sense to me. I cannot relate to a king (we can get rid of them in the US every four years and it's really Congress and Senate that decide what happens,) but I can relate to a larger than life director who sometimes has a temper in whose hands our careers and reputations are made or broken.

Your ripple effect is like a tidal wave, Rabbi! Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2010

Amidah Amazing. So many takes.

I especially like that of Don Shapiro in Albuquerque.

I attended High Holy Day services there once.

And another time I was at Chabad services on Shabbos morning.

And another time the Chabad rabbi and rebbitsin were kind enough to invite me to Shabbos dinner at their home.

I no longer have occasion to visit N.M. but have many happy memories of the community there.

Where do you pray, "Don Shapiro"? Reply

Aunt Laya Tzfat, Israel November 12, 2010

GREAT post!!! Life changing. I'm printing this and sharing at the Shabbar table and beyond. Thank you so much. Reply

Mr. A. Langer Green Bay, Wisconsin November 12, 2010

No One Knows Everything It isn't easy to realize what the king hagadol, hagibor, vhanorah (great, mighty, and awesome) can do for us.
Yes he can for us what he did for our forefathers, however to conceptulize the many descriptions of greatness seems almost ung-dly. I mean if it is quantified than it is possible something else is greater.
So many people find themselves working faithfuly for a reward of unknown greatness.
Rabbi Chanan Feld OB"M said "Go-d loves/wants consistency so he can reward you commensurately. Remembering that can help one see beyond their daled amos (immediate proximity) and make requests and plans. Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2010

Magnificent ! I read the question and thought " I love this girl ". Then i read your reaction :" I love this question. "
Kudos Rabbi Tzvi. She will be able to relate. Hopefully she will share it with her classmates in order to remove the blank wall or backside of the one in front.
I love their teacher. Part of a faculty that students get exposed to for a semblance of a standard population of human profiles. So out of touch. But it forced this young lady to question. Therein lies the key. The teacher's job is to force the student to think. As such it is not only a teacher's job. The student has to take their responsibility for learning. This youngster is doing it in spades. Reply

Malka Stern November 11, 2010

Finally! Someone (you) gave a good parable people today can relate to!

Keep it up. Reply

Don Shapiro Albuquerque, NM/USA November 11, 2010

Praying to the King Dear Rabbi Freeman,
I'm not a kid or a girl, but as a 67 yer old baal teshuva (returnee to Judaism) Jewish guy, I loved your suggestion. Synchronistically, or whatever, I it so happened that I spent the past two hours learning how to pray and medtitate the Amidah, from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's book on Jewish Meditation. His advice plus your imaginitative technique made my day! Thank G-d! Reply

Anonymous Houston, TX November 11, 2010

Say what? Why not just be aware that this is G-d we are talking to?

What could be simpler...more obvious...or more awesome???

What's with all the shtick?

Just talk to G-d....with love and awe. Reply

Cuauhtémoc Vite guadalajara, jalisco, méxico November 11, 2010

Excellent! B"H

A beautiful and educational analogy! Reply

Daniel November 11, 2010

I think the teacher is getting the students to pray in the wrong way
she should not be screaming at the kids. I am 24 years old and I am still upset by things my elementary school teacher screamed at me. Reply

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