Why is religion practiced childishly?

There is a comfort in rote practice, in being able to touch with our hands rather than with our minds only, in receiving rather than in giving, in giving something other than ourselves, in having things done to us rather than making our own change.

It seems that the practice of religion often succumbs to such comforts. We try to put our understanding of belief into a science fiction or deus ex machina mold. We want to make our beliefs concrete. We want to follow a formula to salvation and glory. We want the religion we could understand as children to be the religion of our adulthood.

L’hispallel is a unique experience, but as with most Jewish things today, this holy word has been changed into an English word with a western connotation. The word “prayer” actually comes from the Latin word meaning “to beg” — exactly what most people feel prayer is. They imagine a big king in the sky who is getting a big ego boost from watching his subjects beg. This is a terrible image of our selves and of G-d. … L’hispallel has nothing to do with begging G-d to change His mind. L’hitpallel is a reflexive verb and it means to do something to your self, not to G-d. When you are praying, your question should not be, “Is G-d listening to my prayers?” Rather, you should ask yourself, “Am I listening to my prayers? Does what I say impact me? Have I changed?” … Therefore, when we l’hispallel, we are actively, intentionally trying to fill our hearts, to think the thoughts, to dream the dreams of what it is that we want to see and do in this world and then change ourselves in order to make these things happen. It is not G-d whom we are trying to change. It is ourselves and our relationship to G-d we are trying to change through prayer. If we change ourselves, we change our whole situation. [Rabbi David Aaron. Jews don’t pray. Jewish World Review 24 December 2004]

The conflict of the world right now is very much about what we think of our God and what we think He wants of us. Does He want us to live in poverty and dispair as is the case in much of the middle east? Or does He want a healthy and comfortable people who can devote much of their lives and their wealth in the betterment of others – as is the case in the US today?

The Christians among us celebrate the birth of Christ at this time. It is a time of celebration, of giving, and a reminder of what was given to us at such horrific cost. It may be the Churches of the Christians who took the concept of L’hispallel and called it prayer. But it is also the people of these churches that created the western cultures that so much added to the lives of the people of the world. The conundrums are not those of children.

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