Contact Us

Baby Talk

Baby Talk

 Email

"Little beings like us talking to G‑d! Does He really need it, or even listen?"

"Will G‑d change His mind and His grand plan just because I asked Him to?"

"Of course G‑d knows what we want -- He knows everything -- so isn't it strange that we have to verbalize it -- two or three times a day, no less!"

These were some of the comments going around the table.

It was the first night of an eight-week series that I was conducting on prayer. I had asked the participants to think about some of the questions they had and what areas of prayer they would like to explore in the course.

After the initial awkward moments of a group of strangers packed into a room together, the conversation began to flow easily. I nodded, encouraging the class participants to voice their thoughts before we began studying from the sources.

But, truth be told, my own thoughts were somewhere else entirely.

Nodding vacantly to the conversation, my mind was replaying the scene, earlier that evening, of my six-month old baby bursting into tears as she realized I was heading out the front door to come to this class. Her pudgy little hands, which but moments before were flapping about eagerly, anticipating my reaching out and cuddling her, were tensed in frustration; her legs kicked angrily and pitiful cries were issuing from her mouth.

Babies have a way of communicating clearly and openly. It's not until years later that we learn the skill of hiding our thoughts and veiling our true feelings. A baby will actively -- and loudly -- demonstrate, with her entire being, her likes and dislikes, the things she appreciates and the things that she objects to.

It's heartwarming to watch my daughter's face break into the largest smile as I lift her from her crib after a nap, or feel her cuddle lovingly against me as I play with her.

But tonight the vision of a distressed Sara Leah, hands outstretched expectantly, wouldn't go away.

I was mentally planning how, next time, I would slip out through the front door while she was distracted by her toys in the back room. That should prevent the guilt-provoking wails, I thought as I caught the last sentence of the conversation around me:

"I understand that praying forges a connection with G‑d. But will He only fulfill my requests if I say them?" We had reached the end of the table and heads were nodding in agreement to the comments of the last participant.

Eyes were now turned expectantly to me.

And just at that very moment, as my mind was working to fade out the vision of my young daughter's crestfallen face, its relevance to the discussion at hand suddenly hit me.

I heard myself explain how prayer is basically G‑d asking us to tell Him how things look from our perspective. He gives us the opportunity a few times a day, or any time that we need to, to share with Him how things look from down here -- from our point of view.

G‑d is good and therefore everything He does is only goodness. But that's from His perspective, seeing and realizing what needs to be accomplished in our world, seeing how all the pieces of the puzzles of our lives fit together.

But from our perspective, looking at those individual pieces of the puzzle that we're stuck with -- and living through -- sometimes things look awfully disappointing and difficult.

Here's where my baby comes in.

I can explain and explain to her how important it is for me to occasionally leave her, that I'll be back so soon, how one day she'll understand and realize that these short absences were good things, not tragedies. But for now, as I walk out the door, she is inconsolable. To her, her world is crumbling.

I know, of course, that I am her mother and I know far better than she what's good and what's bad. Obviously, her separation anxiety won't prevent me from leaving when I need to and her cries won't stop me from doing something for her benefit -- even if she dislikes it. After all, she's just a baby, with no real understanding of the workings of our world.

But despite all that, when she does wail in frustration or despair, I recognize that she's showing me how lousy things are from her perspective. She's communicating to me how much something is bothering her.

Whether or not her small limited view of reality is a valid one, is irrelevant. To her, her pain is real.

So, although I will still need to leave her at times, although I won't be able to stop her from crying in every situation, I'll do whatever I can to make any possible accommodations in my general plans in order that she not become too distraught. Maybe I'll try to distract her with her toys when she confronts something unpleasant. Maybe I'll give her an extra hug before I go and after I return.

The same applies to the positive feedback I get from her. The smiles that break out across her face when I hold her don't make me love her more -- I already love her, utterly and absolutely, regardless of how much love she shows me back. I also know that she enjoys it when I play with her -- whether or not she communicates her delight with her gurgles or her giggles. But the more that she does gurgle and giggle, the more that she does show me her joy in loving me, the more I'll go to all lengths to keep her smiling and joyful.

I'll make every effort to take her perspective into account and I'll try to arrange things so that her view and mine better coincide. I'll calibrate my actions so that they should elicit more positive and less negative feedback from her -- even while still sticking to my grand plan of what needs to be done.

Not always will I succeed to completely satisfy her perspective, but I sure will try.

It is true that G‑d doesn't need our prayers, that He fully understands our wants and needs far better than we do, that he appreciates what we are experiencing without our verbalizing it.

But, if I seek and respond to my baby's feedback, imagine how important the feedback of our perspective on the good and bad in our lives is -- to an Infinite One.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
6 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Michael June 18, 2008

very well done. I liked the anology very much! Reply

Rochelle Brooklyn, NY February 24, 2005

Baby Talk This essay on prayer was a truly insightful one. I am a Hebrew School teacher and the question of the need for prayer comes up very often. The baby talk analogy really puts it in perspective. Your description of the baby's pain versus the parent's "master plan" is also a comforting thought on human suffering. Thank you. Reply

Chana Weisberg Toronto, Canada February 23, 2005

More on Prayers--Sources Thank you for your comments.
For those who would like to delve deeper into an understanding of prayers, the above essay has been based on the concepts discussed in Torah Ohr 42b, where it is explained that prayer actually draws down a "new will" from a realm of unadulterated compassion.
The Rebbe also discusses the paradox between how negatively things may look to us down here versus our trust that all that G-d does is for the good in Likkutei Sichot v. 3 p. 883. Reply

nehamashira Victoria, BC/Canada February 23, 2005

Baby Talk I found this article to be so encouraging- to think that G-d would really want to know how things seem from my perspective! I felt such comfort in your words, and am grateful for your insights. Reply

Lazer Gurkow February 22, 2005

Mrs. Wiesburg makes a good comparison between her baby and our prayers. It occures to me that when reading her essay one must also remember that an onmipotent G-d can, and would, relate to our needs, with an extra hug and smile, even if we did not inform him of them.

But for some mysterious reason, known only to G-d, he desired our participation. He wanted us to play a role. And in that we are forever privileged. Reply

Anonymous February 20, 2005

This was a very interesting essay... it's something you'd think to be obvious... but no one has voiced it... it's something all parents subconsciously deal with but they don't realize that it works another way too. G-d is our father and we are his children. Reply

Related Topics