Baker Academic

Friday, February 7, 2014

On Prayer and Suffering

From Emmanuel Levinas, "Judaism and Kenosis", p.130:

According to Rabbi Haim of Volozhim, praying for relief from one's own misery is never the ultimate aim of a pious prayer--the prayer of the just. .... to the degree that the suffering of each person is already the great suffering of God who suffers for that person, for that suffering that, through "mine," is already his, already divine--the "I" who suffers may pray, and, given God's participation, may pray for himself or herself. One prays for oneself with the intention of suspending the suffering of God, who suffers in my suffering. The self need not to pray to mitigate its own suffering: God is already with me, before any asking. Is it not said (in Psalm 91:15): "I am with him in suffering?" And does not Isaiah 63:9 speak of God who suffers in the suffering of man? The suffering self prays to alleviate the "great suffering" of God who suffers, to relieve the "great suffering" of God who suffers both for man's sin and for the suffering necessary for his atonement. And in that suffering of God which is greater than his own, and toward which, in his prayer, he rises, man's own suffering is assuaged. Man no longer feels his own pain, compared to a torment surpassing his own, in God. Precisely therein lies the atonement: in that measure in which God's suffering exceeds my own my own. It is in God's suffering that the redemption of sin is realized--to the point of abridging suffering. A holy feat: bitterness sweetened by bitterness!

Quoted from this book, Jesus and the Holocaust: Reflections on Suffering and Hope by Joel Marcus.

HT Mark Almlie who lent me the book.


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