V’sartem, va’avad’tem elohim acheirim, v’hishtachavisem lahem
…and you turn astray and serve gods of others and bow to them.
If we do not guard ourselves against the trap of gaavah, as discussed last week, and we do feel that our successes are our own, that will lead to “v’sartem” – turning away from Hashem. The first stage of our turning away is removing our awareness and fear of Hashem (yir’as Hashem). We have forgotten the real cause of our success and thereby we have forgotten about Him altogether. We then feel satiated with our successes and we now begin an unbridled quest to fulfill all of our material and physical desires, since we feel we are in total control. (See D’varim 8:17-19, and the Targum especially on pasuk 19.)
That in turn leads to separating from learning and living Torah (Rashi, quoting Sifrei, understands v’sartem as turning away from the Torah), which is considered like worshiping “elohim acheirim” – “another god.” Rashi further explains the meaning of “elohim acheirim” as: “They are called other gods because they are strangers to those who worship them; one pleads with them but they do not answer.”
Judaism without Torah is “another religion” (Rav Schwab on Prayer, page 353). As a result of separation from Torah, there is a lack of feeling of true connection with Hashem, and the relationship with Hashem will be as a “stranger.” Without Torah, the relationship will dissipate altogether and will become just a superficial or false experience in which people imagine that someone is really listening to them.
If a person does not have the proper kavanah and awareness that he is standing before the Ribbono Shel Olam, he is actually praying to “a stranger” who does not hear his tefilos
“It is also true – and very frightening – that although a person may daven and “shokel” and say all the words, bow where necessary, and sing all the beautiful nigunim, if he does not have the proper kavanah and awareness that he is standing before the Ribbono Shel Olam, he is actually praying to “elohim acheirim” – “a stranger” who does not hear his tefilos. When praying without kavanah, one is really not talking to anybody” (Rav Schwab on Prayer, pages 353-354).
But fear not: Our Father wants to hear from us and longs for our tefilah. We just need to understand that we are, in fact, speaking to Him directly and davening to Him within that reality.
This segment was mostly based on Rav Schwab on Prayer.
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You can direct any questions or comments to Eliezer Szrolovits at 917-551-0150.