Parashat Haye Sarah

Praying in the Fields

For Isaac, praying in nature was a crucial element of worshipping the Divine.

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The connection between these two verses in their use of this same word is deeply meaningful when one considers that on the second verse--"Now all the trees (siah) of the field were not yet on the earth and all the herb of the field had not yet sprouted, for God had not yet sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to work the soil"--Rashi, the eleventh century medieval scholar, comments:

"For what is the reason that God had not yet sent rain, because there was no man to work the land and there was no one to acknowledge the goodness of the rain, and when man came and knew that they (the rain) are a need for the world, he prayed for them and they came down, and the trees and grasses sprouted."

The use of the term in this verse may be about agriculture, but the verse is telling us that human beings are needed in order to pray!

But that is not all. The verse preceding the above one states: "These are the products of the heaven and the earth when they were created on the day that God made earth and heaven." (Gen. 2:4) There is a direct connection between God's creating of the si'ah and to the tending of the si'ah done by man. In other words, God created the earth in order for man to tend to it. Being involved with the earth is an act whereby one connects with God's handiwork. 

Prayer Space

In line with this, Rabbi Yohanan, the late third century Talmudic sage, said that one may not pray in a house without windows (Brahot 34b). According to Rashi, Rabbi Yohanan said this because looking outside causes one to focus towards heaven, and one's heart will be humbled in this way. More than just simply focusing towards heaven, however, one will be able to see the natural landscape--God's handiwork. By praying in a house without windows, one would be surrounded by man's handiwork, which does not strike one with as much awe and appreciation for God. 

Rebbe Nahman of Breslov instructed his followers to engage in hitbodedut--to speak with God in the field for an hour every day. In explaining Rebbe Nahman's teachings, Rabbi Natan Greenberg stated that real prayer involves conversation with the natural world around a person. Indeed, the strength of prayer comes from the Divine, spiritual energy flowing from nature. A person needs all the spiritual energy of the earth to give strength to his or her prayer.

Isaac first manifests this type of prayer through his connection to nature. He comes to prayer because he finds it difficult to relate to the world around him. He wants to be in a simple world, God's world, so he walks and prays in the field.

For Isaac, praying to God in nature was a central part of his Divine service, and it can be for us as well. As Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig wrote,

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Drew Kaplan

Drew Kaplan is a rabbinical student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York City.