by Rabbi Yaacov Chaiton
I understand that G-d likes it when we pray to him. What I don't understand is why we have to do it so often. Couldn't it have been enough to ask G-d for our needs once a month and not have to do it every day?
In this week's Torah portion we read about the Manna - the miraculous bread that fell from heaven and sustained the Jews throughout their forty years in the desert. Here are a few facts about the Manna: It fell every day of the week, except Shabbat. No matter how much a person gathered of it, it only turned out to be exactly enough for that day's meal. It did not have a shelf-life of more than a day.
That Talmud relates how Rabbi Shimon's students once asked him why G-d saw it necessary to provide the Manna on a daily basis. Surely it would have been more convenient to have it provided once a year and have them store it for the entire year? Rabbi Shimon replied with an analogy: There was once a king who had an only son. The father provided him with enough food to last a full year. So the son would only come and visit his father once a year. Upon seeing this, the king decided to change the arrangement. He started to provide his son with just enough for a day. There were immediate results - the son now came to visit his father on a daily basis.
The same is true of the Manna: The Manna is referred to as "the bread of faith" with its purpose being to build the peoples' faith and thereby prepare them for their life in the Promised Land. Imagine going to bed at night with a house full of children and no natural way in the world to find your next meal. You start praying. You start believing. You start connecting to G-d, trusting that He who provided for you today will do the same tomorrow. By providing the Manna on a day-to-day basis, G-d gave us the need to bond with him every day.
"Tefillah" - the Hebrew word often translated as "prayer", actually denotes more than just prayer: In Hebrew, "Tefillah" also means to "bond" or to "connect". "Tefilla" is a time and an opportunity when we can shut ourselves out from all worldly distractions and connect to G-d. A Great king once decided to reward some of his most loyal citizens by giving them the chance to ask for anything they so wish. The wisest of all asked the king if the king would be kind enough to spend just a few minutes alone with him every day.
We too, have a few minutes alone with "The King". These are the minutes of tefillah. G-d asks us to pray to Him every day, not because he wants to burden us but because He wants to have quality bonding-time with us. Through Tefillah, G-d gives us the opportunity to spend quality time with Him.