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Holy War

Holy War

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“Ohmygod! That man, over there—is he praying? That man is praying!”

“I think so. He said ‘G‑d’! I distinctly heard him say ‘G‑d’!”

It’s a sign of the times that the sight of a person praying is cause for alarm. The expectation being that he is about to launch a terrorist attack or, at best, commit suicide.

Religious people have long protested this prejudice, and rightly so. People who make it a habit to speak to G‑d are not, on the whole, more violent than the general population.

Interestingly enough, however, in Jewish tradition, prayer is an activity with distinctly violent connotations. Our sages point out that the Hebrew verb vayigash (“and he approached”) is employed by the Torah to describe a person entering into battle, as well as one engaging in prayer. Indeed, the use of this word often implies a combination of the two—an approach that is both a plea and a confrontation (as in the case of Judah’s approach to Joseph, which gives the Torah reading of Vayigash its name).

We are speaking, of course, not of the type of violence that is perpetrated with bombs or fists, but of a deeper, more spiritual violence. Prayer, in its truest form, is a confrontation—a confrontation between man and G‑d, and a confrontation between the pure, unsullied self we cherish in the depth of our souls and the self we’ve made of ourselves in our daily lives.

How many times do we say to ourselves in the course of our day, “This isn’t who I am! This isn’t me!” We sense that we are in possession of a better self, a self that does not succumb to the countless compromises, great and small, we make to the “realities” of an imperfect world. But where is this inner self? When do we get to see it? Is it doomed to remain forever locked in some inner chamber of our soul, its voice muted and its influence negligible in our daily lives?

Prayer is when we open the gate that shuts in this inner self, and release it, together with our regular self, into the arena of our heart to confront each other face to face. The battle that ensues is always difficult, often indecisive, sometimes disappointing. But as long as it takes place on a regular basis, we know that that the “spark of G‑dliness” at the core of our soul is alive and well.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Sheiraley agoura, ca via chabadsunnyvale.com December 30, 2011

passion and war How often a Jew cries out "What do You want from me?"
Other people in my life have asked me "Why are you so drawn to Chabad?"
I have no answer because i don't know.
Except that passionate crying out from the deepest inner core of me is what Hashem wants.
But day to day I still cry out "What would You have me do today?"
yesterday's mitzvahs and kind deeds cannot relieve me of the duty today.
Then over the past 3 years I began to think of going to battle. Not against Hashem but with my Creator to help save whatever remnant remains of purity and nobility in this tough world today.
Then what a gift--I began to feel and hear and sense a very soft whispering to my soul. Then from my own mouth and through my hands would come messages to others--not of a sentimental comfort. But real Joy and energizing spirit.
I will continue to fight forces within and without me to hold to this Light Reply

David Chester Petach Tikva, Israel December 28, 2011

NOT VIOLENCE BUT LOVE I somehow cannot agree with this concept of a battle with G-d when praying. We can still be angry with him over the holocaust and want to battle with Him over it, but when we pray it is not in my opinion a fight.

The idea that G-d is always open to our communications and prayers and that these have meaning when we open this line, is not one of marshalling forces for battle but rather in looking up to a spiritual Father for help and guidence. The only battle is within ourselves as to when and how the communication can be arranged and begun! Reply

Bruce Leson Sugar Land, Tx./USA December 26, 2011

A Wonderful Aritlce Holy War

Kislev 30, 5772 · December 26, 2011
By Yanki Tauber

The essence of this article is right on target. The power of prayer should be practiced and at best respected. We all come back to this at sometime in our lives. Reply

Scott Davis s, California July 14, 2011

Mighty In Battle Psalm 24:8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.

1Samuel 17:47 And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear for the battle is the LORD'S and he will give you into our hands.

2 Ch 20:15 for the battle is not yours, but God's.

Psalm 8:2 by the mouth of babes and infants, thou hast founded a bulwark because of thy foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.

I really like Yanki Tauber's approach and insight into what it means to pray, and what is involved in confronting ourselves in seeking the face of the God of Jacob. I have to say a hearty Amen! Reply

Raziela August 27, 2010

confrontation I do ask myself about the real violence mentioned in some of the Psalms, babies dashed and enemies crushed. it jars me every time.

Secondly the Torah is very confrontational to the modern mind. I sometimes battle for hours as a fight ensues between my sensitivities, my modern mind and the part of me that wants to find understanding in the Torah. When I see God as being harsh or playing favourites etc it causes an incredible confrontation within me. Same with the prayers. Sometimes I come to an understanding other times not and I have to keep searching and asking for wisdom.

It's a beautiful process though, getting to know the Torah and G-d and the Jewish role. Coming to understand how our modern mind is often so far from truth. I enjoy a challenge and this is a challenge of growth that will last eternally. easy come, easy go, too much in our modern world is that way, so thank God for the rich experience of challenge within Torah and prayer.


Shabbat Shalom, pray hard Reply

Stephen Meyer Charleston, W.Va. December 29, 2006

Holy war I can apppreciate the use of the word 'confrontation' when it is explained as the confrontation between the soul and the' realities' of living and our ego .The 'struggle' of Israel i gather to mean iswhat each perrson goes thru in praying ,vis a vis, prayer acting as an interface between the inner self and the ego Reply

Anonymous December 27, 2006

holy war Great article, as usual, but the phrase "spiritual violence" really doesn't do justice, imho, to your point. While it is true that violence means something done with great fervor, energy and concentration, that is not the image that comes to mind when you hear the word. Maybe "force" and "forceful"? Reply

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