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prayer

King David reminds us of the true focus of prayer.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are filled with requests, both private and public. We all petition to be inscribed for a good life and given what we need to survive. The famous Avinu Malkeinu prayer alone contains a list of over forty requests.

By contrast, the Psalms ch. 27, which we customarily recite daily from a month before Rosh Hashanah until the conclusion of Sukkot features just one highlighted request, as it says, “I have asked one thing from God, that I will ask: That I dwell in the House of God all the days of my life, to see the pleasantness of God and to study in his Temple.”

While this is certainly a noble request, what happened to the litany of other things we need to ask for, like life, peace, good health, and sustenance that is a feature of the Avinu Malkeinu prayer? King David, author of almost all the Psalms, who suffered no small amount during his life, should certainly be expected to ask for these things.

The commentators explain that David decidedly does not ask for help with the various needs people commonly ask for, like health, sustenance, being rescued from an attacker and the like. Instead, he continues to ask for the same thing he always has, that I dwell in the house of God all the days of my life. Through the granting of this request, he attains all of his individual needs, which are essentially pre-requisites to achieving this loftier goal.

This explanation provides an answer to our question. Why doesn’t King David ask for all the basic needs that everyone needs and wants? In truth, he does. With his one, goal-oriented request, he essentially asks for everything that a person needs: God. You see, when God is in our life, when we feel His presence, when we let Him know that we want Him in our life…all the rest falls into place.

We are not King David. We will indeed be making a long list of requests during the High Holidays. But David reminds us what the true focus should be and where we want these blessings to fall from.

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