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In this week’s parashah, the Torah refers to the story we read in Bemidbar, Parashas Balak, about how hard the evil prophet Bil’am tried to curse the Israelites but to no avail.
But Hashem, your G-d, refused to listen to Bil’am, and Hashem, your G-d, reversed the curse to a blessing for you, because Hashem, your G-d, loves you (Devarim 23:6).
Reb Yankele Galinsky shlita, relates that Hatzaddik Harav Moshe Rosen zt”l (I believe he was the mashgiach of the Lomzhe Yeshiva), once came into yeshiva, banged on the bimah (the platform in the synagogue for the Torah reading), and began an unscheduled address to the students.
“Listen to this ‘chidush’ (novelty),” he said, sarcastically. “The Torah wants to prove how much Hashem loves us by telling us that He didn’t accept the curse of a perverted sinner on His holy children! Why should He have in the first place? How does this show His boundless love for us?”
The Rabbi then explained that the chidush is that a creation of Hashem prayed to Him, with all of his heart, and Hashem refused to accept his prayer. That is the out of the ordinary situation which occurred only because Hashem loves us so much.
This extraordinary vort gives us a totally new insight into prayer. We assume that Hashem hardly ever accepts our prayers. Therefore, if we find someone whose prayers are answered pretty regularly, we say, “He has a koach hatefillah (a power of prayer).” Before long, people begin coming to him, asking him to pray for them too. Eventually, once he gets a reputation for helping others, he becomes known as a “Rebbe” or a “mekubal.”
But actually, it is just the opposite. Everyone has the power of prayer. And if he uses it, it will be unusual if it is not heard. But he has to pray with all of his heart. Of course, that doesn’t mean that all of his prayers will be answered, just as a good parent does not always give a child what he or she asks for. But they will all be heard and dealt with. A sad child whose father passed away, R.l., asked her mother, “Mommy, we said so much Tehillim asking for Daddy’s life. Why didn’t Hashem answer?” The smart mother hugged her daughter close to her and replied, “He did answer, sweetheart. The answer was, ‘No.’”
But normally, if one prays with all of his heart, he will be amazed to see how often Hashem answers his prayers in the affirmative. In my filing cabinet, I have a plastic rain-hat (hat cover) filed under “T” for tefillah (prayer). It’s the result of an incident which took place when I was a boy about 17 years of age.
I wanted to spend Simchas Torah both in Crown Heights and Borough Park. I arranged to spend the evening at a friend’s home in Crown Heights and then, early in the morning, walk through Prospect Park to Borough Park where I would stay at another friend’s home. When I was well into the park, it suddenly began to rain. I was wearing a new Yom Tov suit and hat, things which I didn’t get too often. I looked up at the sky and said a prayer, with all of my heart: “Hashem,” I said, “I don’t mind the suit getting wet; I can always send it to the cleaners. But if the hat gets wet it will be ruined and my parents really can’t afford to buy me another one so soon. Could You please provide me with some sort of a rain-hat?”
I had barely finished my prayer when, lo and behold, right before my very eyes, I noticed a plastic rain-hat lying on the ground before me. Thinking to myself that this couldn’t be real, I stood before the rain-hat, hesitating to pick it up and expecting to see someone run after it and retrieve it in a moment. But no one showed up, and my hat was getting wet needlessly, as I doubted Hashem’s imminent help. Finally, I bent down and took the precious piece of material to me, all-the-time waiting to hear someone shout at me for taking his rain-hat. I placed it over my hat and, with a prayer of thanksgiving, continued on the long walk to Borough Park where I danced with the Torah feeling especially close to Hashem Who answers everyone’s prayers, if they pray to Him with a whole heart.
Many years later, I made up to meet a student at the vasikin minyan (pre-dawn morning prayers) in Telz-Stone. Not used to getting up so early, he arrived in shul half-asleep. I pointed out to him that he had apparently forgotten his kippah in the dorm and was standing in shul bareheaded. He was very embarrassed, but was too tired and lazy to climb the mountain back to his room to get one. He rushed out of shul, and returned a moment later with his head covered. I asked him where he got a kippah so fast and he replied, “I remembered the story you told us about your rain-hat, and I decided to try it too. I said, ‘Hashem, I’m really too tired to go all the way back to the dorm right now. Maybe you have an extra kippah for me!’ Then, I looked down on the floor, and there it was – a nice kippah just waiting for me to pick it up!”
I think he filed his under “T” too.
Let’s all try to improve our davening and we’ll all have good things to file away and remember.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network