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Thought for the Day: We Are Descendents of the Avos, So We Get to Talk Directly With the Creator of the Universe

Here are two very bad ideas:
  1. If you are working in the mail room of a large, multinational corporation and you need a pad of paper and pencil, just march up to the CEOs office, tell his secretary that you have an appointment, walk in to his office, ask him to wait just a moment while you check your email and Facebook, then say hastily and with obvious impatience, "Wow.  You run this operation that you single-handedly created and architected really, really well.  I really need a pencil and pad of paper and you are ultimately in charge of all office supplies.  Thank you very much for always being there for all of us."  Back out while checking your email again.
  2. If you are ever, rachmana latzlan, standing in front of a judge for sentencing after having been convicted of several heinous crimes, just say, "Judge Bob, you are good friends with both my dad and grandfather, who have always been law-abiding citizens and helped you out in your re-election campaigns several times.  So what do you say we just forget my crimes as a favor to your old buddies?  wink/wink, nudge/nudge..."
As obviously bad as those ideas look, we seem to do just that three times a day when we stand in front of the Creator and ask for all our petty needs and desires, all the while knowing we don't deserve any of it.  Best of all, we start by referring to the amazing relationships that our illustrious ancestors built by dedicating their lives to nothing but the sanctification and glorification of HaShem's name.  We would be embarrassed and mortified if asked how our achievements or even efforts compare to them, yet we boldly charge in and announce we are their descendants.  What are we thinking?!?

Better question: what should we be thinking; what did Chazal have in mind for us to be thinking while uttering those words?

First -- a small segue to the science of genetics (it pains me, as a physicist, to admit that a discipline so closely aligned with biology could be called science, but it is what it is).  When I was taking biology (yikes... over 40 years ago...) it was well known that traits acquired during one's lifetime are not passed on to the children.  The German biologist August Weismann actually chopped off rats' tails for five generations and never found their offspring to be tailless.  (Why didn't he just use the evidence provided by hundreds of generations of Jews being circumcised as evidence?  Um... ).  However, recent (late last century) experiments have shown that life experiences can affect the way existing genes work (epigenetics) and those epigenetic changes can, in fact, be passed on to the offspring.

Now back to Chazal, who have always known that life experience can and do affect people in ways that can be transmitted to their offspring.  S'farim speak of the extreme experience of Noach and his family in the ark, for example, as having changed humanity forever after so that HaShem could promise, "Never again."  Our avos, also, were each tested to bring out their deepest abilities and change them and their offspring forever.  Avraham brought chesed into the world as an expression of divinity -- Elokei Avraham.  Yitzchak brought selfless courage and dedication to divine justice, even when that would cost him his life -- Elokei Yitzchak.  Yaakov blended both of those extremes to a life of life that glorified HaShem in everyday living -- Elokei Yaakov.

We are not mail room clerks asking for office supplies from the CEO.  We are the genetic descendants of Avraham Avinu, Yitchak Avinu, and Yaakov Avinu who carry with us the potential to express divinity in each of our actions.  We ask for wisdom, help with repentance, forgiveness, health, wealth, a country of our own and so forth for only one reason: to express those traits passed to us from our illustrious ancestors  and thereby bring yet another dimension of Kiddush HaShem into the world.

That ever so important first bracha of shmone esrei sets the stage for all that follows; we are here, in the presence of the King of the universe and Author of reality to ask for the tools and assistance we need to do what we were born to do -- live a life that bespeaks divinity in each and every breath.

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