Monday 21 July 2014

029) The Smokin' Hot NASCAR Prayer

I am always amazed to see with what authority people speak about G-d. I do, however, understand that people speak, sometimes with great authority about religion. And I also understand that ‘authentic’ religion is the will of G-d. But I nevertheless remain wary of anyone who claims to speak for G-d himself.

This being the case, can there ever be such a thing as a controversial prayer? Is there a spiritual censorship board that protects G-d from hearing things we pray for?

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov was quite outspoken when it came to answering such questions. According to him there were no holds barred when it came to prayer. We were given carte blanche to ask (or even simply to talk to) G-d, for (and about) absolutely anything at all.

He writes: 
We should pray to Hashem for anything and everything. Even for something as mundane as a shirt that needs to be mended. We should get so used to communicating with G-d that we see no difference between asking for something worthy and significant, and something small and insignificant. This concept was so difficult for one of Rabbi Nachman’s students to comprehend that he said: "I am astounded. Do you really mean that I can pray for something absolutely physical and mundane?" To which Rabbi Nachman responded with a question: "Is it beneath you to ask G-d for small things?"
(Sichot HaRan 233)

This was written two hundred years ago. Let’s test this theology with something really modern and mundane.

NASCAR racing is quite far from the relatively slow pace of synagogue prayer. At a recent race, a clergyman was asked to lead the prayers just prior to the event. It was later widely billed as a terribly ‘controversial’ and ‘blasphemous’ prayer.

The following is a (slightly) abbreviated version of that prayer: 
Heavenly Father, we thank you for all your blessings…So we want to thank you tonight for these mighty machines you brought before us. Thank you for the Dodges and Toyotas. Thank you for the Fords. And most of all we thank you for Roush and Yates partnering to give us the power that we see before us tonight. Thank you for GM performance technology and RO7 engines. Thank you for Sunoco racing fuel and Goodyear tires that bring performance and power to the track...May they put on a performance worthy of this great track… 
This poor clergyman was castigated for daring to infer that G-d may also be the driving force behind things of an earthly nature. But I suspect Rabbi Nachman might have been smiling down on that event that night.

The Kotzker Rebbe too, encourages us to not think of G-d as being aloof and detached.
He interprets the verse; 
“Do not make for you a strange god” – Do not make G-d ‘strange’ to you. Be comfortable and relaxed in your relationship with him.
(Kochav HaShachar p30, par2)

Yes, maybe G-d is also the G-d of NASCAR.

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