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October 23, 2016 / 21 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Tefillah: A Meeting With Hashem -Teshuva Through Prayer

Friday, October 7th, 2016

“The Shabbos Shuva drasha will be given at 5:00 in the main sanctuary.” The age-old custom of listening to a Shabbos Shuva drasha will take place all over the world this Shabbos and definitely should not be missed. When the community gathers together to hear words of inspiration from the rabbi, it is a wonderful opportunity to prepare ourselves for Yom Kippur. The fact that we have come together as one unit to raise our level of spirituality causes much joy to Hashem, and that in itself is a reason to take part in this special event.

But we must know that besides the rabbi’s speech, there is another important one, given by none other than the navi Hoshea during the Shabbos morning services. For some people, hearing the chazzan begin reading the weekly haftarah is a signal to doze off. What a pity! These words contain such holy inspiration that just hearing them will help us peel away some of the layers of sin that cover our hearts. And certainly anyone who listens to Hoshea’s message will learn what to do in order to achieve true repentance.

So let us take a look at the opening words of the haftarah of Shabbos Shuva. There we will discover what we should be doing during these special days.


Take Words

The haftarah begins: “Shuva Yisroel ad Hashem Elokecha, ki chushalta ba’avonecha! Return, Yisroel, unto Hashem your G-d, for you stumbled in your iniquity. Kechu e’machem d’vorim v’shuvu el Hashem – Take words with you and return to Hashem…” (Hoshea 14:2-3).

The midrash (Shemos Rabba, Tezaveh) explains what these “words” are: “Klal Yisroel says to Hashem: ‘We do not have sacrifices to grant us atonement!’ And Hashem answers, ‘I only request words from you, and words means Torah.’ So Klal Yisroel says ‘But we don’t know how!’ And Hashem answers, ‘So cry and pray to Me. Did I not redeem your forefathers in Egypt because they prayed to me… and in the days of Yehoshua, was it not through prayer that I performed for them miracles? So too, I do not want from you offerings or korbonos – just words…’”

This amazing midrash addresses our generation, as we also do not have sacrifices. Hashem compares us to being in Egypt – where we needed salvation from the torture and slavery that entrapped us. And today we need miracles just like our nation needed in the times of Yehoshua. Why is this so?

The painful answer is that even though we try hard to fulfill the commandments of the Torah, many times we, unfortunately, fall short. And when a temptation to sin arises, we usually overcome it – but many times we don’t. All this needs atonement, as it is not possible to enter the World to Come with stains on our souls. We may have to endure various punishments or suffering, chas v’sholom. But Hashem, in His great kindness, gives us the opportunity each year, during these ten days of repentance, to achieve that soul cleansing and avoid the need to undergo pain.

So we say to Hashem: “What should we do? Once, we had a Bais HaMikdosh where we could offer korbonos and receive atonement. But we don’t have that anymore! We try to learn Torah, but we don’t know how! Our learning is not on the level sufficient to save us from our dire situation.” Hashem answers: “Cry and pray to me! That is what you should bring me – words of prayer!”

We see from here that there is a deep connection between prayer and repentance.

We find the same connection from the fact that viduy, confession, is part of the Yom Kippur davening – it appears five times during the silent Shemoneh Esrei and five times during the chazzan’s repetition. Similarly, we say in the moving prayer of U’nesaneh Tokef: “But repentance, prayer, and charity remove the evil of the decree!” So an integral part of achieving atonement is through prayer. Why is this so?


In Your Presence

As part of the viduy of Yom Kippur we say over and over “al cheit shechatanu lifanecha.” We ask forgiveness for the sin that we sinned “in Your presence.” I heard from the mashgiach of Yeshivas Toras Moshe in Yerushalayim, Rav Elchonon Meir Fishman, that the main reason we sin is that we forget we are in the presence of Hashem.

He illustrated his point in this way: Let us imagine that right now we hear the shofar of Moshiach. When that great shofar will finally be blown, there will be no doubts – this is it! Moshiach is here! As it gets louder and louder, someone walks into the room and starts telling you a juicy piece of loshon hora. Normally, you would have trouble resisting, but this time you scream: “Get out of here! The King is coming; how can I sin in His presence!”

When we express our remorse, we admit that “the sin was in Your presence.” The first step in repentance is to say to Hashem that until now we lived as if we were not in front of You, but now we have come back.

Now we can understand why we repent specifically during Shemoneh Esrei. As we explained many times in this series, tefillah is a meeting with Hashem. We put aside all other matters, business and personal, and turn to Hashem in prayer. At that moment, when we feel the strong connection to Hashem, we are able to truly feel how far we have strayed. We can honestly say that we sinned because we did not feel that we were in Your presence. So please accept our regret and forgive us!

This is what Hoshea is telling us: The way to repentance is through prayer! Praying is the quickest and most direct way of placing ourselves back in front of Hashem. That is why he stressed taking “words with you and return to Hashem” – because through these words of prayer we return directly to Hashem. And once we are there, we will be able to see everything in the correct perspective and truly turn over a new leaf in our lives.

Rabbi Eliezer M. Niehaus

Jewish Minor Detained by Jerusalem Police on Suspicion of Prayer

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

A Jewish minor was detained by police on Temple Mount Sunday morning, when he toured the area with a group and was accused of praying to God, which Jews are prohibited from doing there, legal aid society Honenu reported. Honenu attorney Rehavia Piltz is providing legal representation to the minor.

David Israel

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.”


Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/sports-minister-employed-kabbalist-to-secure-yarden-gerbis-medal/2016/08/10/

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