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Bedrock of Belief

Shani Mendlowitz

“Why are you coming in through the back door?” This was the Chofetz Chaim’s question to the many callers who sought his brachos. If you’re trying to visualize his house and its entrances, you misunderstand. The Chofetz Chaim was not referring to the portals of his home; he was alluding instead to the gateways of Heaven.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The fifth Principle of the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith addresses this very issue: I believe with perfect faith that to the Creator alone it is proper to pray, and that it is not proper to pray to any other.

There are two statements here: the first instructs us to believe in the concept of prayer and worship of Hashem, which implies that Hashem wants us to connect to Him, and that He listens, cares, and responds.  The second statement tells us to recognize that we may not direct this service to any other force, deity, or power.

Although the listing of this Principle in the siddur only mentions prayer, the Rambam writes that this fifth Principle includes other forms of avodah, as well: “Serving Him, exalting Him, making His greatness known, and fulfilling His mitzvos.” The common theme of these actions is expressing our submission to Hashem’s greatness in a multitude of ways.

In the BeisHamikdash, avodah included bowing to the ground. Rav Pincus explains that when a person stands, his head is higher than his limbs, indicating its superiority; when he prostrates himself, he lowers his head and aligns it with his body, expressing that, when relating to his Creator, there’s no difference between his head and his limbs — they’re equally inferior. Another form of avodah in the Beis Hamikdash was the offering of korbanos, which symbolized our readiness to spill our blood for Hashem, for we owe our very lives to Him.

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