Psalm 21

You have granted him the desire of his heart, have not denied the request of his lips. (21:3)

Wanting is encoded into our DNA. Rabbinic thought teaches that the human being is created with two inclinations – the Yetzer Hatov (altruistic inclination) and the Yetzer Hara (selfish inclination). The rabbis said that were it not for the Yetzer Hara, a person would not marry or build a home. Our impulse towards wanting our needs to be taken care of is built into us from birth. A baby wants to be fed, warm, and dry. A baby learns that certain behaviors cause mom and dad to pay more attention – both crying and looking adorably cute seem work well – and he uses those behaviors at will until his wants and desires are satisfied. Over time, a toddler learns that other people also have needs, and her wants sometimes need to wait. She learns patience. She learns that how she asks for something is important – omitting the magic word please and not using the pleasant tone of voice results in not getting what she wants. Over time, a child learns the pleasures of taking care of someone else, drawing pictures, giving gifts to Mom and Dad. He learns that sometimes, no matter how nicely he asks, there are some things that he wants that he is not going to receive. A young adult learns that no one gets everything they want. Everyone yearns and desires and asks, and more often than not, does not receive.

The wise person learns pay attention to one’s wants, to examine whether they are truly needs, or just the hard to control impulses of the Yetzer Hara. The wise person asks for things that are beyond physical whims, things prompted by an enduring need. The wise person asks for things that are within his power to achieve.

The wise person filters out those things that are motivated by the selfish desires of the Yetzer Hara. The prayers and requests of the wise person, therefore, are directed by the Yetzer Hatov, and are largely motivated by a desire to relieve the suffering of others. May such prayers never be denied.

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