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How to Pray on Rosh Hashanah

Some of us mistakenly believe that we should pray to Hashem, in general, and particularly on Rosh Hashanah, only for those things which we cannot acquire without His help. However, those things which we can "get on our own," we should not "bother" Him with.

This is a major error.

Reb Moshe Feinstein ztvk"l once told over a story which Chassidim relate about a chassid who came to his Rebbe and asked for a blessing to be successful in business. The Rebbe was outraged, and chastised him that rather than ask for material things, he should ask for spiritual ones.

Reb Moshe vehemently disagreed and said that it is forbidden to relate such a story (which surely never took place). If one could live on spirituality alone, like an angel, then it would be true. But since one does need sustenance to survive, he has to ask Hashem to give it to him, otherwise how else can he get it? The Torah warns us not to believe that "My strength and the might of my hand provided me with my wealth" (Devarim 8:17). Everything we have comes directly from Hashem and we have to turn to Him for it. Therefore, it is certainly proper to ask a rabbi or a holy man for a blessing that we prosper materially (within the proper proportions, of course), just as we would ask him for a blessing for spiritual success.

A student of mine once wrote me a letter from her seminary in Jerusalem. She asked me whether or not she should pray for mundane things such as nice hairpins. I explained to her that if she wants to bring herself up to the level of the holy women who have no need for mundane things, then that is fine (if she can live that way and be happy). However, as long as she was interested in these "mundane things" and wanted nice hairpins, then there is no other way to get them unless Hashem grants them to her and, therefore, she certainly should pray to Him and ask Him for that and for everything else she wanted.

Rosh Hashanah is the time that Hashem judges us and decrees every single thing which will happen to us during the coming year. He wants us to turn to Him and express our confidence in Him by asking Him for everything we need.

There are those who wish to dissuade us by pointing out that in the Holy Zohar it is written that the Angels complain when Jews pray on Rosh Hashanah for their material needs rather than entreat Hashem to have mercy on His Holy Name and return from the long and bitter Exile and regain His Throne and declare His Kingdom over all that He created.

But Reb Shlomo Fisher shlita explains that this, too, is a big mistake. The Zohar is referring to those who are merely concerned with pampering their bodies and ask Hashem for all of the luxuries in life in order to be able to do so. The Angels are upset with those who put their own physical pleasures before the Spiritual Redemption of our Father in Heaven.

However, those of us who realize that our goal should be to serve Hashem, but need a certain amount of materialism in order to have a sound and healthy body which will be willing and able to do so, certainly have the right, and the obligation, to ask Hashem for what we need in order to be able to serve Him properly.

So let us pray with all of our hearts for a good year, full of Hashem's blessings. And may we use these blessings properly, to give our Father nachas from His children whom He loves and never abandons. May we all be privileged to a kesivah vechasimah tovah and to a year of Redemption by the hands of Moshiach, Amen.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel