Never underestimate the power of prayer. Rabi Meir used to say: “Two men become ill from the same disease, or two men appear before a criminal court to be judged for the same offense; yet one gets up from the bed and the other does not get up. One escapes death and the other doesn’t.
“Why does one get up and the other does not? Why does one escape death and the other does not? Because one prayed and was answered and the other prayed and was not answered. Why was one answered and the other not? Because one prayed with his whole heart and was therefore answered while the other did not pray with his whole heart and therefore he was not answered.”
The Prayer Of A Child
Once Rabi Eliezer and his associates were traveling on the road towards the city of Pikian. Nearing the city they heard a cry, “Rabi Yose has died!”
Rabi Eliezer wrung his hands in anguish and exclaimed, “This wonderful fruit that gave forth such good things has now been taken from us!”
Turning to his associates he said, “Come, let us visit the home of this great man and mourn him.”
On entering the city, all the leaders of the community walked out to greet the great Rabi Eliezer. They were honored that he was visiting their city. They then visited the home of the Rabi Yose.
Upon entering the house they saw Rabi Yose’s young son prostrated before his father’s coffin crying:
“Ribbono Shel Olam,” he sobbed, “Why did You take my father away? In Your Torah it states, ‘If thou find a nest of birds, you shall send away the mother bird and keep the baby birds. G-d in Heaven, You know that my little sister and myself have no mother. Our father was to us like a mother. Now why did you take our father who is our mother and send us away? The Torah states that you should send the mother away and take the babies – us. What benefit can You derive from two little orphans left alone in this world?’”
When Rabi Eliezer and his associates heard this plea they all began to cry and Rabi Eliezer stood aside in the corner and he too began to pray to G-d.
Suddenly a fire descended from Heaven and surrounded the little boy and the coffin. A Heavenly voice rang out: “Lucky are you, Rabi Yose, that you have such an intelligent son. Know that his tears and prayers reached up to Heaven to the very throne of G-d Himself and G-d decreed that you should come back to life and you will live another 22 years so that you will be able to instruct your son in the Torah. For your son’s arguments have found favor in the eyes of G-d.”
The Heavenly fire lifted, and suddenly Rabi Yose opened his eyes and he saw his son lying on top of him.
“Blessed is the Lord that we were worthy enough to see the resurrection of the dead,” cried Rabi Eliezer.
They approached the coffin and saw that the little boy had fainted. After helping Rabi Yose get up they took the boy and bathed his face with water until he was revived. He then hugged his father and could not stop crying tears of joy.
“Lucky are you Rabi Yose that you have such a wonderful son whose very prayers pierced the Heavens and forced G-d to give you back your life,” said Rabi Eliezer.
“Listen to me, my friends,” said Rabi Yose, “In Heaven they counted all the tears of my little son. He shed 370 tears that flew directly towards the Heavenly court and the very Heavens began to tremble and Satan and his accusers became mute. Then when he quoted the sentence in the Torah about the mother bird, all the angels began to shake and tremble and the plea came before the very Throne of Almighty G-d who thereupon commanded the Court to return my soul to me.”
Rabi Eliezer and his colleagues remained in the home of Rabi Yose for 30 days and they celebrated his return to life with parties and the saying of Hallel. Before they departed they blessed the son and the family.
Prayer And Its Concentration
“Some boast of their chariots, others of their horses, but we boast of the name of the Lord, our G-d. They will fall and be defeated, but we will arise and pray to G-d who will hearken to us when we call to Him” (Psalms 20:8-10).
Chazal relate the story (Berachot 30) of a pious man who was traveling on a highway. When it became dusk he stopped to pray. In the middle of Shmoneh Esrei, an officer approached and greeted him. The man did not answer him.
The officer waited until he finished his prayers and then said to him, “You fool! Why didn’t you return my greeting? Doesn’t your Torah advise you to guard your life? Were I in the mood, I could have cut off your head and no one would have known the difference.”
The man answered: “Permit me to explain my actions. If you were standing before a king and your friend came along and greeted you, would you have returned his greeting?”
“No,” replied the officer.
“And if you would have responded to his greeting, what would they have done to you?” The man asked.
“They would have cut off my head,” the officer replied.
“Therefore by your answers can you understand my action,” answered the man. “If you are afraid to respond when you stand before a mere mortal king, who is here today and gone tomorrow, who much more so when I stand before the greatest King of all, G-d, the King of Kings, who lives eternally. Is it not proper that I should not respond to your greeting when I pray?”
The officer was very pleased by this clever answer and he escorted the man on the road to protect him from any harm.