The Unknown Destination

Dec 24th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Prayer
“Every journey has a secret destination of which the traveler is unaware (Martin Buber).”

“Then Judah approached him and said, ‘If you please, my lord, may your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears and let not your anger flare up at your servant, for you are like Pharaoh (Genesis 44:18).”

We find the word “approach” used in three different contexts: judgment, supplication, and, battle. Judah was prepared for all three (Rabbeinu Bachya).

It is interesting to note that in each of these instances the traveler is unaware of the ultimate result, or, as Buber said above, the destination. Judah did not know how Joseph would respond and he had to be prepared all sorts for of different eventualities. However, we must realize that if the Torah uses the same word for all three, there must be a connection. When we enter the judgment of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we do not know what the result, or destination, will be. When we go into battle, no matter how confident we may be of victory, we cannot be certain of the destination, or the outcome of the battle. When we enter the world of prayer, we are also beginning a journey of which we do not know where the destination will be; where our prayers will take us, how successful they will be, how much we will connect to our words, how they will be received, how effective they will be, or how much they will change us.

The approach we use in prayer must be with this sense of a journey to a secret destination. We should not approach our prayer with any more certainty than Judah approached Joseph in this verse.

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