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September 28, 2016 / 25 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

The Power Of Prayer And Kavanah

Friday, September 16th, 2016

Chazal considered Bnei Yisrael’s greatest weapon to be its ability to pray. With tefillah we can move mountains and change the world.

Al tiree, tolat Yaakov, Fear not, you worm, Yaakov” (Yeshayahu 41:14). Just as a worm has its power only in its mouth as it bores into the trees, the same is true of Yisrael; through prayer it overcomes all of its enemies.

“Some boast of their chariots, others of the their horses, but we boast of the name of the L-rd 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” (Tehillim 20:8-10).

But prayer must be sincere and uninterrupted. Even if a king greets you, you should not answer him. Even if a snake winds itself about you, you must not interrupt your prayers. Chazal tell us a story of a pious person who was traveling on the road. When it became dark, he stopped to pray. In the middle of Shemoneh Esrei, an officer approached and greeted him. The pious person didn’t 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 hands 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 had responded to his greeting, what would they have done to you?” the pious man asked.

“They would have cut off my head,” answered the officer.

“Therefore, by your answer, can you understand my actions?” replied the pious man. “If you are afraid to respond when you stand before a mere mortal king, who is here today and gone tomorrow, how 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 pious man on the road to protect him from any harm.

We should learn a lesson from this story and never speak or hold any conversations during our prayers.

Rabbi Sholom Klass

The Power Of Prayer

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Aliza never slept well when her husband was abroad. On a purely logical level, she knew that she should bless and thank Hashem multiple times each day for the zechus to live in the Promised Land and the bracha of parnasa. She likewise acknowledged that she should be eternally grateful for the fact that her highly intelligent, talented and charismatic better half had marketable skills that were in demand. Still, she found herself missing Yehuda even before he boarded the plane, and unconsciously counting the minutes until his scheduled return.

This trip, however, there was more than just the usual pining away for her husband that was robbing her of the healing power of blissful sleep. Everywhere she turned, there were more worries, additional concerns. During the dark sleepless nights, they were magnified tenfold, thus engendering a vicious cycle of stress and sleep-deprivation.

Her biggest nightmare revolved around those dreaded three letters that instilled fear and trepidation into even the bravest of men: I R S.

The first registered letter had arrived a couple of months earlier, forwarded from their last employer in the U.S. Aliza had nonchalantly torn open the outer envelope, never suspecting that a virtual time bomb lay lurking inside it. As soon as she saw those three terrifying letters, alarm bells began sounding in her head. Their piteous wail had become progressively louder and more immediate with each passing day.

Yehuda had always filed their taxes to the best of his ability and had consistently sent the completed forms out on or before April 15. So, these “love letters,” as Aliza wryly called them, were both unexpected and deeply troubling.

The first of the series was a notification of intent to levy their joint assets in the U.S. unless an exorbitant sum of money, virtually double their current annual income, was paid post haste. Just like that, a simultaneous thunderbolt and lightning strike that effectively shook their world.

Subsequent investigation revealed that the letters had begun arriving at their place of employment shortly after they had made aliyah. All the previous correspondence had been ignored, however, and presumably discarded. Only this final warning, which had arrived via registered mail, was deemed worthy of being forwarded to their address in Israel.

Aliza frantically phoned the number on the top of the notice. Needless to say, she was told to call a different department at another number. For hours, she dialed one IRS number after another, until she thought the litany would never end. Day turned into night and her concern evolved into genuine despair. Finally, on her eighth try, just as she was about to throw in the proverbial towel, an angel answered the phone. This IRS employee apologized for the run-around and rough treatment that Aliza had endured, and vowed to keep in touch after she had made some inquiries. And she did.

She found out which department had handled the audit several years previously and emailed a copy to Aliza, along with references to several IRS guidelines that could be of help. She lent a sympathetic listening ear and offered unwavering support and sound advice.

Aliza knew that they were far from “out of the woods” yet, but she felt less overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation and more confident that an equitable solution could be found.

Then, the second shoe fell. Their house in the United States had initially been put on the market just as the U.S. economy had imploded. To compound their disappointment, their most promising prospective buyers had reneged on the sale mere days before closing escrow and just a couple of weeks prior to their making aliyah. Thus their beloved home had seemingly overnight metamorphosed from their “great white hope” into a gargantuan “white elephant” and had strained their already limited budget ever since.

Now, over three years and multiple unforeseen home-related expenses later, the housing market had finally begun to rebound, and their realtor had decided to put the house up for sale again. He advised that they list it while it was still early in the season and there was a decided dearth of houses available. His hunch paid off immediately. A few offers came in even before the date of the first scheduled open house. In all, he received chai serious offers, and it appeared that their mazel was on an upward trajectory.

But now the IRS’s dire threats coincided with the time-consuming process of selling their home at long last. They followed the realtor’s recommendation and accepted the offer that required no contingencies. Then they waited. And davened very fervently. Then they signed the requisite documents, paying hefty FedEx fees to have them sent from the US to Israel and back again. And they davened some more.

B’chasdei Hashem, their real estate agent emailed them the wonderful news: this time the house had actually sold! Aliza was elated with the besoros tovos; one major hurdle had been overcome.

As for the others, another two identical IRS letters arrived while Yehuda was abroad, one forwarded from the U.S. address and one sent registered mail directly to their home in Israel. As per her instructions, Aliza dutifully called her guardian angel at the IRS (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and reported the latest correspondence.

Since sleep was proving so elusive in any case, Aliza decided to utilize the quiet evenings to revisit the IRS correspondence that she had received until now. She had never yet studied it herself, preferring to forward it directly to Yehuda.

After researching the first set of documents, she contacted Yehuda right away, despite the late hour and costly long-distance charge.

“Do you remember that I forwarded you the copy of the audit and files from the IRS?” she began without preamble.

“I never got anything worthwhile…”

“What do you mean? The reasons for the audit and the consequent charges are right there in black and white!”

Here, her voice rose a few octaves.

“I never received anything like that…”

Exasperated, she resent the attachments, and waited for him to open them. Again, he insisted that nothing relevant was in them.

As Told To Naama Klein

The Power Of Prayer

Friday, August 19th, 2016

While studying in Israel many years ago, I hitched a ride in Jerusalem with two friendly fellows who offered to drive me to where I needed to go. It was a relatively short distance, yet a lively discussion ensued and within moments they knew my life story. As they asked about my studies, I excitedly began to share a Talmudic dictum I had just learned. I was totally surprised when they joined in to finish off the saying: “Even if a sharp sword is on one’s neck, one should not stop seeking mercy!” Even as a young man I recognized the powerful belief expressed in these words, that one’s fate is never sealed and that we have the power to change our fate. In Parshat Va’etchanan, Moshe Rabbeinu prays to G-d attempting to change his fate, despite being told numerous times he is not going to enter the land of Israel. Moshe did not believe anyone’s fate was sealed, he knew there was always hope and possibility. And yet, G-d does not relent and Moshe does enter the land of Israel.

If we can alter our fate as the Talmud suggests, how is it that Moshe, the grandmaster of prayer, could not change his own? Moshe performed miracles in Egypt, split the sea, bested the angels in a heavenly debate and delivered the Torah to mankind, yet he could not change his own fate? He had changed the fate of the Jewish people numerous times! When G-d said He would annihilate the Children of Israel, it was Moshe who altered our nation’s fate. That Moshe did not change his own fate makes us question his spiritual abilities and undermines the axiom that one’s fate is never sealed. What kind of a grandmaster of prayer cannot change his own fate?

Let us appreciate Moshe in the context of his siblings.

A Midrash quoted by Rashi famously relates that Miriam, Moshe’s sister, stood up to her father when he instructed all of the Jewish men in Egypt to separate from their wives to avert Pharaoh’s decree of casting Jewish male infants into the Nile. By divorcing their wives, no children would be born and Pharaoh’s decree would be obviated. Miriam approaches her father and indignantly claims he has gone farther than Pharaoh. Pharaoh only decreed against males while Amram had acted against both males and females. As a result of Miriam’s intervention, Amram and Yocheved remarry and Moshe is born.

Years later, when Moshe separates from his wife Tziporah, the Torah tells us that Miriam was distressed and spoke about her. The Midrash elaborates that Miriam questioned Moshe’s separation harshly; both she and Aharon were prophets, yet they remained with their spouses. With these two stories Rabbi Dovid Yosef Klein develops the theme that Miriam is the healer of separation between a man and his wife.

Aharon is famously known as the lover and pursuer of peace. We well know the midrashic tale of two friends who had a disagreement and were visited by Aharon. He would tell each one how heartbroken the other was over their spat. The two parties would then meet and exchange hugs of friendship and ask forgiveness from one another. The Midrash accentuates the idea that Aharon is the healer of separation between man and man.

Despite all G-d had done for us, we still made Him distraught, angered and aggrieved by turning to alien gods and walking in sinful and unappreciative ways. It was Moshe who, in the words of the Midrash, “stands in the void.” He cleaned us up, made us repent and fell before G-d in prayer for 40 days and 40 nights. It is Moshe who still, even after his death, helps to protect us from harm. It is Moshe who heals the separation between G-d and the children of Israel – between man and G-d.

Rabbi Donn Gross

Rejuvenation: The Genesis of Prayer [audio]

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

“Jews and Christians in the ancient world were the original atheists.” What?? Penn State Professor of classics and ancient Mediterranean studies Daniel Falk joins Eve to discuss the genesis and development of communal prayer. Community prayer- nay, prayer in general- is not Biblically proscribed, so why does the Mishna, redacted 1800 years ago- begin with a rule for the Sh’ma Yisrael prayer? What is the essential element of Jewish prayer? After the Destruction of the Second Temple 1946 years ago – are the 3 daily sacrifices replaced by new prayers, or was there praying in the Temple? It’s the language of Hebrew and of the heart and incidentally, where do Angels fit in? Listen to a fascinating conversation with one of the world’s experts on the Dead Sea Scrolls and his research on the genesis and ritualization of prayer.

The Land of Israel

Sports Minister Employed Kabbalist to Secure Yarden Gerbi’s Medal

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Shortly before the start of Tuesday night’s round that ended in Israeli Judoka Yarden Gerbi’s victory in the Rio Olympic Games, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev (Likud) who is present at the games, sent an SMS to “the kabbalist from Netivot,” Rabbi Netanel Shriki, a.k.a. “the tunnel collapser,” asking for his help.

One of the people close to the mystic disseminated a screenshot of his cell phone with the message from Regev: “Dear Rabbi, how are you? We here hope and pray that we’ll get a bronze medal. Yarden Gerbi’s bout is in halaf an hour, we deserve to get a medal and hear the national anthem.”

Rabbi Shriki praying at the Gaza border fence / Source: Facebook

Rabbi Shriki praying at the Gaza border fence / Source: Facebook

Rabbi Shriki’s followers believe that he has been bringing down the Hamas tunnels with the power of his prayers. During the two-month period last spring, when about ten Hamas tunnels collapsed, some burying Hamas terrorists under the rubble, the students of Rabbi Shriki from Netivot, near the Gaza border, were certain their rabbi was the cause. In early 2016, he began praying at the border fence, exposed to sniper fire from the other side, asking God to help Israel. His students have no doubt that his prayers were being answered (On Tuesday this week, just before Gerbi earned her bronze medal, yet another tunnel collapsed, burying alive the Islamic Jihad terrorists inside).

The students told website Haredi 10 they saw the rabbi go out to the fields to pray for the tunnels to collapse, and each time, a tunnel collapse was reported shortly thereafter.

“This is already not a case of a string of circumstantial events,” the students insisted. “Five times in a row he went out to pray for the tunnels to collapse, and each time it happened.”

JNi.Media

The Power Of Prayer

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

And the congregation will save the killer from the redeemer, and they shall return him to the city of refuge where he will sit until the death of the kohen gadol who was anointed with the holy oil.” – Bamidbar 35:25

 

If Reuven unintentionally kills Shimon, he is called a “shogeg killer” and must flee to a city of exile.

The Mishnah (Maakos 11a) tells us that since shogeg killers could only return home when the kohen gadol died, the mother of the kohen gadol would bring the killers food and clothing. By acting with great kindness, she would create in them a sense of appreciation so they would not pray for her son to die.

This Gemara is rather difficult to understand. The kohen gadol is considered one of the greatest men of his generation, certainly a tzaddik. The shogeg killer, on the other hand, is viewed as someone who can’t even remain among the nation; he must be exiled. Yet it appears that if the shogeg killer would daven, his prayers might be answered, and the kohen gadol would die. Why? The kohen gadol is an innocent man, and this killer is only praying for his death so that he can go free. Why should anyone’s prayer have that effect – especially when praying for the death of such a righteous man as the kohen gadol?

The answer to this question is based on understanding that Hashem created two systems of judgment: the system of din, which is strict justice, and the system of rachamim, which is mercy. The system of din demands exact accountability: you were capable of resisting the temptation and you didn’t, so you are responsible. There is no leniency, no leeway. It’s strict cause and effect. You brought about the consequences, so you are responsible.

The system of rachamim is very different. It takes into account many other factors: the difficulty of the situation, the effect of the generation you lived in, the circumstances that led up to the event. And while it is still true that you did what you did, you are held much less accountable because of the mitigating factors.

The World Created With Mercy

When Hashem first thought (if it could be) about creating the world, the middah of din was in operation. That is the system of absolute truth, and it should be what guides all judgments. However, the world couldn’t exist under that system. The standards are too high, the demands too great. No man would be found righteous, and the world itself could not continue. Therefore, Hashem created the world with the attribute of rachamim as the primary system. Now manywith other factors weigh in, and judgment is much lighter.

However, while the rachamim system may sound nicer and kinder, in a real sense din is far more proper and appropriate. After all, a person is responsible for what he does. And that is the conundrum. Judged with 100 percent din, no human would stand. But judged with complete rachamim, no person is responsible for his actions, and justice would be destroyed. For that reason, a balance must be struck. The din remains in this world, but it is mitigated by rachamim, and the relative levels of din and rachamim are affected by many factors.

Because of this, both systems function. Any judgment becomes a balance – how much rachamim and how much din? Almost like a slide rule that moves across a beam, the balance will shift across the spectrum from din to rachamim depending on many factors – sometimes 30 percent rachamim, 70 percent din, sometimes 60 percent rachamim, 40 percent din, etc.

One of the things that affects the balance between mercy and justice is prayer. When we daven, a big part of what we request is for Hashem to show mercy, meaning Hashem should shift the balance from justice to mercy. Without abdicating responsibility for my actions, I ask Hashem to judge me with a greater measure of mercy, taking into account all the extenuating factors that lessen the severity of the judgment. If, in fact, my prayers are effective in changing the balance, then the same act that might otherwise have been severely punished may now be overlooked. Judged by a different standard, it isn’t as egregious.

This seems to be the answer to the question. As great as the kohen gadol might be, if he were judged with complete din, even he would not survive. At some point in his life he must have done something wrong. If that action would now be judged with strict din, he would die.

When the shogeg killer davens, he is asking Hashem to have mercy on him and let him go home. The only way this can happen is if the kohen gadol dies. But according to the current system of judgment, the kohen gadol is an innocent man and deserves to live. The prayers of the shogeg killer change the system of judgment that is used. With more din in force, even the kohen gadol becomes guilty. Under those exacting standards, he deserves to die. For that reason, the mother of the kohen gadol would do everything in her power to prevent the shogeg killer from davening. She was aware of the power of prayer.

Why Should I Daven?

This concept is very relevant to our lives. Often we may find ourselves thinking, “How much of a difference can my davening make? If I am destined to get this, then Hashem will give it to me. If I am worthy of it, Hashem will provide it for me. What difference do my tefillos make?”

The answer is that they make a huge difference. Not with regard to me, and not with regard to whether I merit that which I am asking for, but with regard to the system of judgment that is applied to me under the circumstances. Judged with favor, I might merit great things. Judged with strict justice, I might merit very little. We daven to Hashem to change the system; He should use mercy and not justice.

 

To view Rabbi Shafier’s parsha video, click here.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Soul Talk – Why Can’t I Connect with Formal Prayer? [audio]

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Prayer is a very important way to connect to G-d and connect to ourselves. Yet, it can sometimes feel easier to make that connection when I say my own personal prayers. After all, they are in my own words infused with my own thanks, worries and desires. How can I more effectively connect to formalized prayer from the prayer book?

Join Leora Mandel and Rabbi David Aaron, where you will get a new understanding of what prayer is all about and a new perspective that will likely change and empower your prayers.

Please feel free to send your questions for Rabbi Aaron at soultalk@israelnewstalkradio.com.

Soul Talk 10Jul – PODCAST

Israel News Talk Radio

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/multimedia/israel-news-talk-radio/soul-talk/soul-talk-why-cant-i-connect-with-formal-prayer-audio/2016/07/12/

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