In a recent post entitled Do Scientists Pray, Rabbi Slifkin appeals to his readers to pray for the welfare of Moshe Yehuda Yehoshua Michoel ben Chava. (May Hashem grant him a refuah sheleima b’karov). This request struck me as odd.
Back in June of 2011, Rabbi Slifkin bemoaned the state of affairs regarding segulos and in fact this blog concurred with his opinions in this matter. However, he went on to write as follows:
How much more inherently irrational are segulos than, say, tefillas haderech (which I am extremely makpid about)? True, one can draw distinctions, but the efficacy of petitionary prayer may be difficult to justify on a solely rational level.
So, is the Rationalist Blog making an irrational request from its readers?
Furthermore, Rabbi Slifkin fortifies the apparent irrationality of petitionary prayer by appealing to his favorite rationalist, the Rambam. He writes as follows:
In fact, it seems that according to Rambam, while petitionary prayer is of great religious importance, it does not actually serve to attain the object of one's requests. (See Marvin Fox, Interpreting Maimonides, for extensive discussion of this.)
So, if Rabbi Slifkin does not believe that praying for Rabbi Joshua Cohen is efficacious (and thus unjustifiable from a rational point of view), than why bother appealing to his readers to pray on his behalf? And if he does believe it could be efficacious (i.e. justifiable from a rational perspective), then how does he reconcile this belief with his interpretation of Rambam's opinion regarding the inefficacy of prayer?
Ironically Rabbi Slifkin’s appeal to prayer comes directly after he provides his readership with Fox’s paper on Rambam and petitionary prayer.