B'NAI NOAH AND PRAYER
 
Rabbi Saul Zucker

 
B'nai Noah are often asked what form of prayer exists for them. We know that prayer per se is not one of the seven mitzvot [commandments]; yet it is of great concern to many people. Therefore the first question we must ask is, ``Can prayer indeed have a place at all in the life of the ben Noah?'' I believe the answer is a resounding ``YES.'' The Talmud states (Berakhot 26b) that Abraham established the morning prayer, Isaac established the afternoon prayer, and Jacob established the evening prayer. Now, it is important to remember that the patriarchs did not have the halakhic status of Jews; they were legally considered B'nai Noah. (Although they were the Patriarchs of the people who were to become Jews during the time of Moses, and Abraham and his family were known as Hebrews, the law binding upon them was that of B'nai Noah). From the Talmudic passage cited, describing that it was they who established the prayers, we may deduce that B'nai Noah can have meaningful experience in prayer. Yet, we must nevertheless define precisely what the nature of that prayer is.
 
 I propose with this article to begin a series on the nature of prayer, to explore this fundamental yet sometimes enigmatic issue from the Torah perspective. Prayer is referred to in the Torah as ``worship of the heart'' (Deuteronomy 11:13). It is interesting to note that the category of internal worship encompasses two areas, prayer and study (see Miamonides' Book of the Commandments, Positive Commandment 5). The Talmud refers to prayer by the Hebrew Tefillah, which means
judgement, or organized thoughts. (In fact, the Hebrew prayer book is the Siddur, which literally means, organization). In both references to prayer, whether as internal worship or as thought, we find the concept of the engagement of man's mind, rather than a mere outpouring of felling without thought. This important to remember when reflecting upon prayer in general.
 
Upon close scrutiny of the Talmudic passage cited above, we find six verses introduced to demonstrate the patriarch's role in prayer. Briefly stated, the passage proceeds as follows: Abraham' arose to the place where he stood before God (Genesis 19:27). This standing refers to prayer, as it is written, (Psalms 106:30) that Pinchas stood and prayed. Isaac went to speak in the fields (Genesis 24:63). This speech refers to prayer, as we find, (Psalms 102:1) the afflicted pours out his speech before God. Jacob reached in the place (BethEL). This reaching refers to prayer, as we find, (Jeremiah 7:16) that God told Jeremiah at a certain point to refrain from praying, from reaching out to God. While there are three distinct aspects or facets regarding prayer here, there is one element common to all, i.e. prayer occurs ``before God.'' However, one aspect of prayer is depicted as standing before God; another is speaking before God; another is reaching before God. A proper
understanding of prayer necessitates an analysis of these distinct facets of prayer.
 
Additionally, it would be nice if we could understand why the aspect of standing occurs in the early morning (Abraham), why speech is the aspect as the sun sets (Isaac), and why reaching is that aspect emphasized at night (Jacob).
 
 In the next article, I propose to focus on Abraham's prayer and what it can teach us about our own sense of prayer. In the meantime, I would like to encourage readers to look up the verses and passage herein referred to, and to contemplate an analysis of the issues. In this way, we can maintain a type of dialogue and study group through these pages. As always, let us continue to utilize the Divine part of our nature, our minds, in the continued worship of the Creator!


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