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Are We Being True to Ourselves?

Are We Being True to Ourselves?

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Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch (1834-1883) had a chassid who was a successful businessman. Uncomfortable conducting business in standard chassidic apparel, he exchanged his chassidic wardrobe for a modern suit. However, he continued wearing his long caftan when visiting the Rebbe in Lubavitch.

This "hypocrisy" did not satisfy his conscience. Eventually he mustered the courage to wear his modern suit while in Lubavitch as well. When his turn arrived for a private audience with the Rebbe, the Rebbe expressed his surprise at the new garb. "Rebbe," the chassid explained, "I didn't want to fool you. This is what I wear all year long."

"I knew what you were wearing," the Rebbe replied. "But I had hoped that you felt that your modern clothes were fooling the world, and when you wore your Chasidic garments here that's when you were being truthful..."

In the daily morning prayers, after describing G‑d's greatness and the control He exerts over all of Creation, we say the following: "And now, our G‑d, we are modeh to You." In this context, modeh is translated as "thankful"; we are thankful for all the Almighty gives us. However, the word modeh is a homonym which also means to admit, or to concede a point. Hence, chassidut offers a deeper interpretation for the aforementioned passage: "And now G‑d, while praying, we admit that You are indeed right, and we were not."

Prayer is actually a deprogramming of sortsThroughout the day we are preoccupied with many tasks, the majority of them devoted to satisfying our basic needs. We work to put bread on the table and pay our bills; we eat, sleep and exercise to maintain good health; we unwind and relax to have the strength to do it all again tomorrow.

It is extremely difficult to remain aloof and detached while being involved in all these necessary activities. The long hours and mental acuteness demanded in order to be successful in these endeavors invariably consume the person. Paychecks, promotions, fine foods and all the other essentials and luxuries the world has to offer become one's focus. Torah, mitzvot, character refinement and spiritual advancement play second fiddle to more pressing priorities.

This is why we pray.

Prayer is actually a deprogramming of sorts. During prayer we meditate on how every minute aspect of Creation is micro-managed by G‑d. No, our bosses and careers don't control our destiny; only our loving Father who created us is capable of dispensing wealth and all other blessings.

One thought leads to another... If G‑d is the source of all blessing, isn't He "better" than the blessings He provides? After all, would you rather own a few pieces of gold jewelry, or a gold mine with a limitless quantity of gold? Thus the greatest gift which G‑d gives us is the ability to connect to Him through Torah and mitzvot.

So we turn to G‑d and say: Throughout the day we are misguided. In Your holy Torah You state the truth, that "in the heavens above and the earth below there is nothing but Him," but we prioritize trivialities and relatively petty pursuits. But now we are praying. Now we recognize the truth and concede that indeed You are right and we are mistaken.

After prayer we are ready to go back to work. Hopefully, today it will only seem that our jobs are our top priority. Hopefully today we will fool the world.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
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confused? LA, cA May 6, 2010

But I dont really get it. If we are supposed to be truthful with ourselves. I dont understand the connection to the story. Reply

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