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Simcha's Kinder Torah on the Chumash - 330 pages
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"Abba, I am having difficulty understanding something. Can you help me?"
"I will surely try, Avi."
"Abba, I see hundreds of people pray in our Beis HaKinesses every day. They ask Hashem for everything, including yeshuos (salvations) from their tsaros (troubles). Likewise, there are thousands of Bottei Kinesios and Bottei Midrashim all over the world where millions upon millions of prayers are offered up day after day. The numbers are staggering. And yet, the world is still filled with tsaros. How can it be? Does Hashem not hear the prayers? If so, why do the tsaros continue?"
"Avi, you have asked a very famous and deep question. We can answer part of it. What is the ultimate cause of our troubles? Sometimes we know, sometimes we do not. The Merciful One can have many reasons for sending tsaros to an individual or group of people. Some of them are discernable, and some are not. However, there is one thing that we know beyond the shadow of a doubt. Prayer is heard. Hashem listens and pays attention to each and every sincere prayer."
"That is so comforting Abba. How do we know that He is listening?"
"It is stated explicitly in the 'Shema Koleinu' blessing of the Amida. Come Avi, let us look into this very important bracha. The Levush traces its source back to our suffering in Mitzrayim. The Torah relates, 'The Mitzrim mistreated us, afflicted us, and placed hard work upon us. Then we cried out to Hashem the G-d of our forefathers. Hashem heard our voice, saw our affliction, our travail, and our oppression.'ii Devarim 26:6,7 At this point the malachim said, 'Blessed are You Hashem, Who hears prayers,' which subsequently became the closure of the blessing. The blessing contains two more affirmations of Hashem's heeding our supplications. 'For You are the Almighty Who hears prayers and supplications.' 'For You hear the prayers of Your people Israel, with compassion.' Additionally, the selichos prayers contain a paragraph, 'He Who answered our father Avraham on Mount Moriah, may He answer us…' which recounts nineteen different occasions in the Tanach when our ancestors' prayers were answered."
"That is incredible, Abba. However, I still have a question. The tefillos of Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, and the other neviim were answered because they were perfect tsaddikim. What about us? Our madrayga (spiritual level) cannot compare to theirs. How can we ever hope to be heard?"
"Excellent question, Avi. The bracha itself addresses your question. We beseech Hashem, 'chus' - have mercy on us because You formed us.2 May the fact that You created us kindle Your sympathy. 'Vi'rachem oleinu' - have compassion on us (undeserving ones) for we are so low.iii Avodas HaTefillah cites the GR"A 'Vikabel birachamim' - our appeal to You is not based upon our righteousness, rather upon Your abundant mercy.iiii Abudarham This is stated in the verse, 'For not because of our righteousness do we pour out our supplications before You, but because of Your great compassion.'iiv Daniel (9:18) Do not turn us away empty-handed (even if we have no merits). For You hear (and accept) the tefillos of Your nation Israel (though they may be unworthy) with mercy."vv Avodas HaTefillah
"Abba, Hashem's kindness is endless. However, we have another problem. We do not even know the ultimate meaning of the words of the tefillos that we are praying."
"The Maggid Tsedek answers your thoughtful question, Avi. Although we do not know the meaning of the prayers, their hinted subjects, or mystical secrets, we may still beseech Hashem to hear our voices and listen to our prayers. We say, 'accept our prayer with compassion and favor.' Even though we do not know the depth of what we are saying, may our prayers still find favor in Your eyes.
"There are two more important points to bring out about the Shema Koleinu blessing Avi. Firstly, it is the last bracha of the middle section of the Amidah. It is therefore fitting to put extra kavannah (intention) into this blessing, in order for Hashem to hear the voice of our tefillos and accept them with mercy.vvi Avodas HaTefillah cites Ha'amek Bracha (father of the Shelah) Secondly, our Sages ruled that a person is permitted to add private requests in every bracha, as long as they match the subject of the bracha. For example, he may pray for a sick person in 'refaeinu' and for livelihood in 'boreich aleinu'. However, in Shema Koleinu - the last blessing that includes and gathers all of the requests - he is permitted to add appeals for all of his needs.
"Therefore, the Yaaros Devash exhorts us not to hesitate praying for all of our projects, ambitions, and plans, from the smallest to the largest. None of our daily plans are exempt from praying for their success, and for their progress along the straight and correct path. Needless to say, if you have a tsora (Heaven forbid), you must pray for it. Alternatively, if you have a simcha, pray that you avoid sinning at the simcha, or that it does not turn out bad in the end. Hashem will surely heed your voice and produce results, for this tefillah is certainly prayed with kavannah. To avoid rote tefillah, pray for a new thing every day, something that you need at that particular time. Speak it out! Following this formula makes it impossible to pray without kavannah. You will fulfill your obligation for tefillah completely and perfectly. For the essence of tefillah is that it comes from the depths of the heart, as the verse states, 'From the depths I called You, Hashem'."vvii Tehillim 130:1
"Abba, you have put new inspiration into my tefillos. You have motivated me to say the Shema Koleinu blessing with awesome kavannah. May this and all of our prayers always find favor in Hashem's eyes."
Kinderlach . . .
When you speak, you want the other person to listen. That is the purpose of your talking. When you talk to Hashem in prayer, you can be relaxed and assured that He is listening to your words. The Shema Koleinu blessing informs us that the Almighty hears and listens to every prayer. Do not feel that you are undeserving of His attention. Do not be discouraged if you do not know the deep meanings of the words. Do not fall into a rut of blankly reciting them. Rather, realize that He accepts all sincere prayers. Talk to Him! Pour out your troubles! Make your requests for success and happiness. Open up your heart! 'From the depths I called You, Hashem.' May all of your prayers be accepted with favor, and may the Almighty fulfill all of your heartfelt requests for the good.
Kinder Torah Copyright 2011 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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