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Eyes to Earth, Hearts to Heaven

by Rabbi Adin (Steinsaltz) Even-Yisrael

  

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What is the proper STANCE for prayer?

One verse suggests that we look heavenward, while another view teaches that we look downward. The Talmud resolves the issue by combining both: “one must direct his eyes below [to Earth] and his heart above [toward Heaven].” These three approaches have implications in many realms, including a general view about life and even macroeconomic vision.

Eyes And Heart To Heaven

Without going into subtle distinctions, most of the world’s religions — including Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism — suggest that both heart and eyes should be turned toward Heaven. They view our physical world as lowly and insignificant, a place that should engage us as little as possible. The real goal is to reach the upper world.

The problems of our world are sometimes difficult to see: physical illness, psychological suffering, natural disasters and so much economic distress. How do these religions respond? All command that one give charity to the poor, but what is the motivation?

All religions command that one give charity to the poor, but what is the motivation? It is not to solve the problems of the poor because giving charity expedites one's journey heavenward
It is not to solve the problems of the poor, but because giving charity expedites one’s journey heavenward and assures a better place in Paradise. The Arabic word for charity, for example, is zakkat — “merit”; giving charity buys points of merit for the World to Come.

This view crosses cultural boundaries. A country such as India, which has so many believers, also has appalling poverty, epidemics and other calamities. Because these people consider the important world to be the spiritual one, the suffering of the poor, the ill and the homeless are not uppermost concern.

Eyes and Heart to the World

The Western conception is essentially materialistic, regarding our physical world as the only one of consequence: physically, visually and emotionally. Its adherents covet it as their principal goal.

This approach has yielded many practical achievements: successful efforts to solve, or at least to improve, some of the world’s major problems. Much of humanity is healthier and better fed now than at any time since the Garden of Eden. People live longer — even if they don’t know what to do with their extended lives.

In this materialistic world, “taking stock” refers to money, to financial credits and debits; all else is irrelevant. Where profits and losses are what matter, apparent expressions of care for others merely disguise selfish interests. The welfare policy of the capitalistic world staves off rebellion, giving the poor just enough so they will not attack the rich.


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Point of Fact

Posted by: Muhammed, Waterloo, Canada on Dec 16, 2006

Muslims do not point their eyes upwards during prayer, but downwards.

RELATED CATEGORIES

Jewish Identity » Non-Jews » Other Religions - Missionaries

Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.