4) Prayer


The interdiction to represent god as a man or an animal had of course the aim to prevent anthropomorphism. And thus avoid coping with the laws of life the same way one copes with laws of men with all the misconceptions raising from that attitude. For example the sacrifice of children by early idol worshippers.

Unfortunately when one reads the prayers written by the rabbis, which were literally translated by Christian priests and later by the Koran, these prayers as poetic and wise as they can be, are full with anthropomorphic misconceptions in flagrant contradiction with the biblical message. The interdiction of anthropomorphism is a major interdiction, present in the 10 commandments: “You will not make an image of god!” and you will not bow before any representation of creatures presents in the air, the earth or the sea. Major commandment set aside by Catholicism (but restored by Protestantism) hair of the Greco-Roman traditions of Zeus (the etymology of the French word “Dieu”) god the father of the half-god-half-man Hercules

And yet in the prayer ” Avinou malquénou chebachamaim ouvaaretz… ” translated in Latin by ” Pater noster quod est in coelum… “, in French by ” Notre père qui êtes aux cieux… ” and in English by “heavenly father who is in the skies” god is pictured as a father, with the character of a father, severe and protecting as a king.

As nice as this prayer can be, the simplistic interpretation of it is able to let the biblical notion of deity to be misunderstood: What is and will be, and not the projection of man’s character, on the laws ruling the universe.

One of the worse emanations of anthropomorphism is prayer.

Prayer gives the illusion you can talk to god, anthropomorphic projection. Worse, it introduces flattery, just as if god could be reduced to a man sensitive to flattery. Just as if god was corrupt and could be bribed to change ones destiny.

But we are all tributary to the destiny written in the book of our genes.

It is not possible to bribe our genes responsible for our character or our diseases to come. It is not possible to bribe the fate of the earth around the sun responsible for the changing of the seasons.

Amin Maalouf a French Lebanese writer says in his book ” Les identités meurtrières ” that destiny is like the direction of the wind, and that the science of the sailor is able to bend destiny by directing his sail to bring his ship safely to its harbour.

We are thus masters of our knowledge or science, which we can acquire by study and observation. And it is our freedom to use this science for good or for evil.


The bible doesn’t ask to pray. The bible asks to be humble and to accept the universal laws ruling the world. Every biblical law reminds us of submission to eternal codes. The only way to honour deity is to live in harmony with our surrounding, men and nature. The bible asks respect for all kind of life, human or animal. But as life is cruel as it is, namely “life” is necessary as food for another life, the bible teaches us to avoid unnecessary suffering.


Prayers can have their importance in the rallying of people, in the conservation of the cultural heritage and in the catharsis after the emptying of one’s soul. Psychological conflicts can be resolved just like psychoanalysts do in their office. But instead of telling secrets to a non-answering shrink leading to the well-known projection of feelings and catharsis, one tells his secrets to a non-answering god, actually with the same results, insight in feelings, projection and catharsis.

It was not a hazard that prayer was introduced after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem. Prayer was introduced by Yochanan ben Zakai to replace the sacrifice of animals by the sacrifice of time

Notice that Jewish prayer is a community performance. Synagogue is a Greek word translated from the Hebrew “beth haknesset” or house of parliament. Prayer has to be done by at least 10 people, a minian as it is called. It is like in the auction talk Abraham had with god in Sodom and Gomorrah. 10 righteous men are enough to avoid a cataclysm (righteous men, not praying men). If it were only to speak with god, one is able to do that alone anywhere. A very important rabbi once said that if you imagine somebody you are talking to when you pray, you are actually committing idolatry. So prayer is more than begging. Prayer is a social event around the Jewish heritage, a meeting place and a peacekeeping place for the heart, the spirit and the soul. And now you understand why synagogues are so noisy.


















Published in: on 24/10/2006 at 09:38  Leave a Comment  

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