According to at least one Jewish
prays. Now that probably seems a little weird
. I’m with you on this one. But go ahead and read anyway.
The following is an excerpt from the agaddah of the Talmud – the story part. That means that all Jews are ‘allowed’ to believe it happened, or to choose not to. Often Orthodox Jews view the more esoteric aggadah as ‘true in some sense’ but not literally true.
Bab. Talmud Brachot 7a
Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Yosi: "How do we know that the Holy One blessed be He prays? Because it says “Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer.” (Isaiah 56:7) It does not say ‘the house of their prayer’ but ‘the house of My prayer'. From here we see that the Holy One blessed be He prays.
Now this is a little tricky to explain in English. Basically, in Hebrew, the possessive attaches to the word prayer in “My house of prayer”, so it’s written the same as “the house of my prayer”. It’s a linguistic quirk that the Gemara
is using to make its point.
The point it’s trying to make is that God prays. The two obvious questions are “To whom does He pray?” and “What does He pray for?”
What does He pray? Rav Zutra son of Tuvia said in the name of Rav: "May it be My will that My mercy suppresses My anger, and that My mercy prevail over My other attributes, and that I deal with My children with the Attribute of Mercy, and that I stop short of the limit of strict Justice."
A common interpretation of this passage is that it teaches the dichotomy between Justice and Mercy – two equally valid ways of judging a situation.
Justice is one of those ideals that is seen as something worth attaining – We look for just solutions and view a functioning justice system as a good thing. Justice is fairness.
On the other hand is mercy, or compassion. Giving very ill people lesser jail sentences is compassionate. Giving a beggar some money is compassionate. Neither of these things is just, or fair. They are ‘right’ in a different way.
Following this idea, it suggests that a good God who does ‘the right thing’ has a dichotomy – some courses of action will be fair, others merciful. The passage above might be suggesting that God wants to incline to mercy, and hopes – whatever that can be said to mean – that people won’t put Him in a position where he applies strict justice. After all, if God treated humans fairly we’d all be screwed.
Of course, that’s only one interpretation of the passage’s meaning, and there are many. Still, there’s something vaguely comforting about the idea of God praying that He’s nice to us.
masculine pronoun used to refer to God throughout. In the Hebrew and Aramaic, the words are masculine and it’s neater to maintain a pronoun throughout a piece of writing.