Heaven Within Reach

(Torah Portion Aikev) Heaven Within Reach

The Curiosity Rover made it to Mars! The 154 million mile trek took eight months and cost 2.5 billion dollars and the text message indicating that it landed safely took 14 minutes to reach NASA mission control back on earth. Fascinating!

I want to introduce something even more fascinating, travels further, faster and is much more effective than Curiosity; and best yet – it doesn’t even cost a dime nor does one need a special degree to create or navigate. Incredibly, this proposition has been around since time immemorial and is frequently employed by everyone; it is called Prayer.

Did you ever think about how far it is from earth to the Heavens? The Talmud tells us that it is a five hundred year trek until the first level of Heaven. This same 500 year journey exists between each of the next six levels of Heaven.

It’s fascinating that our prayers reach all the way up to Heaven instantaneously – just as they are being recited! Like everything else, there are rules regarding the recital of prayers that ensure they are most effective and have the correct ‘booster rockets’ to ascend the Heavens.

We have a Mitzvah to recite three daily prayers. Each prayer service, morning, afternoon and evening has a specific time when they are to be recited. Prayers are most effective when they are conducted with a Minyan – a quorum of ten men. The Talmud relates that when a Minyan gathers, G-d’s Shechina – presence – is in their midst.

The Halacha – Jewish law – indicates that when one prays they should not be facing an immodestly dressed person or be in close proximity to foul orders or fecal material; and one should not pray when he needs to discharge his bodily waste.

At any time throughout the day and night one may offer a personal supplication to G-d if he is in need or if he wishes to thank the Almighty.

In this week’s Parsha, Moshe reminisces and recounts the events that occurred to him and the Jews during their 40 years of travel in the desert. In one instance, Moshe describes how he was in Heaven for 40 days and forty nights, without food or drink while learning the Torah from G-d in Heaven.

This is an instance where mortal man traversed from earth to Heaven without a liftoff pad, shields and elaborate computer programs. The only thing Moshe was equipped with to merit such an experience was his righteousness, humility and G-d fearing qualities.

Upon return from Heaven, Moshe brought back to us the word and instruction of G-d, including the Ten Commands, the Torah and all its direction and inner teachings.

So when we want to reach the Heavens, all we have to do is call out to the Almighty in prayer. And if we want to live Heavenly and purposeful lives, all we have to do is study our Torah and apply its instructions to our way of life.

Last Wednesday 93,000 Jews, gathered at the Met Life Stadium in New Jersey, to celebrate the completion of the seven and a half year cycle of studying a daily page of the Talmud – known as Daf Yomi. There were inspirational speeches, singing, dancing and prayers.

Click on for video link to the event:
In addition, 16,000 children of all ages studied and amassed 1.5 million Mishna’s (oral law) in memory of the 1.5 children who died in the Holocaust and also studied 6 million lines of Talmud in memory of the 6 million.

At the end of the gathering the head of security of the Meadowlands commented upon the sterling behavior of the massive crowd by saying, ‘This stadium was built for the football Giants, but I now know that you are the true Giants!’

Whether there was life or is life on Mars is a big question, and one suspects that the motivation behind such a query and expense is to show that life on our planet is random and accidental.

Our prayers, our leader Moshe, our history and our Divine Torah are absolute proof that our lives have meaning and purpose and we have a direct contact and relationship with the Almighty!

Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks