This week’s parsha, Ekev, includes the second paragraph of shema, vehaya im shamoa, which is the source of the mitzvah of tefillah according to the Rambam. The Rambam quotes the Sifrei on “ul’ovdo bechol levavchem” - and to serve Him with all your heart (Devarim 11:13). According to the Sifrei, the work of the heart refers to tefillah.
The Ramban, on the other hand, doesn’t count tefillah as a mitzvah from the Torah. Instead, he sees it as a tzedakah that Hashem gave us, so that we can daven when we are in trouble. According to the Ramban, daily tefillah is a rabbinic commandment. He understands the verse in our parsha to be referring only to prayer in times of need, not on a fixed schedule.
Regardless of whether tefillah is a biblical or rabbinic commandment, it is indicative of our relationship to Hashem. Davening regularly demonstrates that we seek a close personal relationship with Him and that we see Him as the source of everything that happens in our lives.
Because we daven three times a day it can become routine and challenging to remember how crucial it is. When we created the Emunah and Tefillah course, we heard from teachers and parents that their kids’ attitudes toward davening changed drastically. They understood that tefillah wasn’t just about mumbling words, but rather about deepening their connection with Hashem and maintaining a constant conversation with Him.
If you haven’t watched Emunah and Tefillah yet, or you’re ready for a refresher, this week’s parsha is the perfect opportunity.