Friday, July 23, 2010

VaEtchanan - On Prayer

"Va'etchanan el Hashem BaEit Hahi Leimor"

Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh on the short opening pasuk of Parshat Va'etchanan writes that there are 4 conditions required for tefillah to be answered.

1 -
Tefillah must be a request for mercy (tachanunim) like a poor beggar knocking on a door. This is based on Mishlei 18:23, “Tachnaum yedaber rash”- a poor person asks for entreaties. He explains that the reverse is true as well, that an arrogant attitude of entitlement is the ticket to not receiving your request.

2 - A person must ask from the true source of mercy, only from God. A person should not put his trust in any person, only in God, The Creator, who watches over people and is in a stand alone position to assist us.

3 - Timing: As
Dovid Hamelech wrote (Tehllim 69:14) “Vani tefilati lechaHashem et ratzon.” As in our human interactions in this life, timing plays a major role in petitioning G-d. As important as what we ask for is, the element of when we make our request is of paramount importance.

4 - Precision is important when it comes to prayer. This relates to a story from Esther
Rabbah about a worn out traveling man who prayed for "a donkey for carrying." He wanted the animal as a mode of transportation because he was tired of walking. Because he did not phrase his words clearly he received a weak donkey that he needed to carry, instead it carrying him. While the story may sound extreme, the importance of ordering or words clearly is crucial when we ask for something from G-d in particular, and in any statement we utter in general.

These 4 stipulations are implied by the opening words of
Parshat Va'etchanan.

1 - “
Va'etchanan” teaches us that our prayers must be tachanunim, urgent and contrite supplications for mercy
2 - “El
Hashem”-This teaches that we should ultimately present our requests only to God.
3 - “
BaEit Hahi” this teaches that the timing of our prayers matter greatly because no one would have known a better time to approach G-d than Moshe did.
4 - “
Leimor” this teaches that we should be careful to say precisely what we want in order to get it. It's like the old saying: "Be careful what you ask for..."


Anonymous Minnesota Mamaleh said...

this is really interesting. i'm especially intrigued by timing and precision. i remember someone saying "if you don't know where you're going, does it really matter." that's always resonated with me. and, of course timing-- the given. thanks for much to think about on a friday afternoon!

July 23, 2010 at 5:30 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

MM - glad it was meningful to you. You brought to mind another saying - "Even if you don't know where you're going, you're on your way."

July 23, 2010 at 6:02 PM  

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