Studying an Old Book of Jewish Prayers
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
The power or strength of a prayer must be examined, lest its practice becomes worse than useless. Blind faith is better avoided, and egotistical prayers can only lead people into self-defeat.
What is then the source of the healing power present in some prayers? And how can it be expanded?
“In Jewish tradition”, says Irving M. Bunim, “man is a microcosm, a world in miniature. Think, if you will, of a military general planning a campaign. Before him lies a small-scale representation of the field or theatre of battle, and on it he places and moves little objects. Is he amusing himself with some innocent child’s game? – hardly. The little objects represent soldiers and equipment; the little movements that he makes with them will be translated into large-scale action. And as a result, men will live or die, emerge whole or injured; battles – perhaps an entire war – will be won or lost.”
I.M. Bunim proceeds:
“Even so, Jewish tradition indicates, is man the microcosm in relation to the world without. All that goes on within him is translated into far-reaching effects: his influence radiates into the far reaches of the macrocosm. In Jerusalem stood the Sanctuary, the Holy Temple. When the people grew thoroughly wicked and would pay no heed to the prophets of the Almighty , the Temple was destroyed, the people were expelled, the entire land became desolate. Similarly, man is the temple of creation, so to speak, and the human heart is the holy of holies. If we entertain thoughts that are immoral or emotions that are unworthy, it is as if we had defiled the Holy of Holies itself. To do this is to call down destruction upon the entire world. For man is the sole connecting link between heaven and earth, bearing within him the essence of all life on earth and all the spirituality in heaven.” 
The same teaching will be found in the book “The Secret Doctrine”, by Helena Blavatsky, and other classical writings of theosophy. Being a universal tenet, the idea is present in every authentic tradition of wisdom.
The universe uses symbolical language to express itself. When students of theosophy or devotees of different religions think of G-d, Krishna, Christ and Buddha, or meditate in the Tao, the Law, Zoroaster, Jehovah or Parabrahman, they are in fact concentrating their hearts in culturally created metaphors which symbolize both the intelligence of the Cosmos and their own spiritual souls.
The process is similar every time a student thinks with reverence about the immortal sages who have guided human evolution – since time immemorial – through different religions and philosophies. The practical role played by such Masters is to stimulate the awakening of the divine, universal soul in citizens of good will, wherever and however situated. The main temple is in one’s own heart, and there is no need for bureaucratic intermediation regarding one’s contact with the sacred world.
“In other religions”, Bunim clarifies, “the ordinary person needs intermediaries, clergymen: he must go through the proper ecclesiastical channels to reach the Almighty and merit His aid. The Jew, however, has no need of intermediaries, and he is not confined to approved channels. He comes to the synagogue or he prays at home, and his sincere prayer will reach Heaven directly.” 
Such is the theosophical approach to the expansion of human connection with divine wisdom. It has been shared since the beginning of present mankind by the true mystics of every nation. The inner world of an individual of good will is mysteriously unlimited in space and time. His interaction with eternal truth transcends the universe of words. In spite of that, right thoughts and utterly sincere wording are necessary in order to activate in him the fire of direct perception.
An old book of Jewish prayers, edited in the United States, offers an effective evocation to the spiritual soul of each student. The “Prayer to One’s Higher Self”, as we might call it, says:
In this glad hour of worship, I draw aside from toil and care, and lift my heart unto Thee for light and strength, for faith and courage.
In the stress and turmoil of daily striving, I yield only too often to selfish ease and mean ambitions. I become so entangled in the things of earth that I lose the sense of life’s simplicity and nobility.
Fortify my spirit, enlighten my reason, and elevate my aims and desires, that I may devote all my powers of body and mind to Thy service.
Thou hast implanted within me the yearning for the unseen and the infinite; instil Thou also within me fresh zeal and purpose, when my soul faints and my vision grows dim. O that my ideals would pervade all my thought and labors, that I might never lose sight of Thy supreme realities!
I bow in reverence before Thee, Strength of my heart, my never-failing Light. Amen. 
These verses make us see the divine presence in the temple of our conscience. In other words, they improve the connection of every truth-seeker with his own “Atma” or higher self. Regardless of our outward religion, this prayer gives us a lesson in altruism and self-responsibility; in self-knowledge and self-control.
As we meditate on it, we realize something that is as obviously decisive as it is neglected and forgotten in our present civilization:
“Before desiring, one must deserve. The peace we want to find in the world must start in our own hearts.”
 Almighty – in esoteric philosophy, the impersonal cosmic Law of Karma or Justice. The personifications of G-d in different religions are but symbolic tools to be decoded on the wordless levels of immediate consciousness.
 “Ethics From Sinai”, an eclectic, wide-ranging commentary on Pirke Avoth, by Irving M. Bunim, three-volume edition, Philipp Feldheim, Inc., New York, 1964, see volume 3, p. 8.
 “Ethics From Sinai”, Irving M. Bunim, Philipp Feldheim, Inc., New York, 1964, see volume 1, p. 3.
 “The Union Prayerbook for Jewish Worship”, Part I, Cincinnati, USA, 396 pp., 1953. See pp. 58-59, “Silent Prayer”.
The above text is also published in a theosophical blog at “The Times of Israel”: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-prayer-to-ones-higher-self/ .
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