Several years ago, a co-worker of mine in Los Angeles happily shared her simple secret with me. At the time, I was working long hours and feeling somewhat overwhelmed after the cleaning woman who had been helping me twice a week unceremoniously quit just prior to a hectic erev Yom Tov.
“Daven to Hashem!” she encouraged me. “Whenever I need anything, however trivial, I beg Hashem to help me,” she elaborated. “It really works!”
Mind you, I was no stranger to davening, nor to composing my own heartfelt requests when the opportunity arose. Not a day went by that I did not insert my own personal tefillot for my parents, my children, chayalei Tzahal, The entire Klal Yisrael into my standard prayers. I asked for much and often. But a cleaning lady?
Somehow that mundane bakasha seemed far too petty and silly to beseech from the Almighty. But, my friend, a young rebbetzin and mother of a large family, insisted that nothing was too simple or foolish a plea to offer before the Heavenly throne.
“I ask for help in finding lost items, good cleaning help, you name it…” she shared. But I was not convinced.
Eventually, after some trial and error, including an experience with a prima donna and one with a thief, I baruch Hashem ultimately found a fine, honest and reliable household helper. True, she would never make it onto the list of top ten maids in America; but her outstanding character and other important qualities somewhat compensated for whatever skills she lacked in speed and efficiency. We established a comfortable rapport, and she continued to work for me until my family was eventually zocheh to return to the Holy Land.
Since then, I have had absolutely no cleaning help, superlative or otherwise. However, much has changed in my life, in addition to my holier street address. First of all, my children have baruch Hashem grown up in the interim. Some have left the nest altogether, while others are in yeshiva dormitories all week. Consequently, housekeeping is no longer as constant a struggle as it once was.
Even more dramatic is the fact that I no longer work outside of my home for eight hours at a stretch. Now, I am blessed to have a flexible schedule and spend my time working on my home computer, when it is most convenient for me.
So although I still occasionally feel that familiar panic rising before Yom Tov and/or a deluge of guests arrives, by and large my home and my life are relatively under control. And while I do sometimes wish that I had an ozeret to pick up the slack every now and then, my kvetching seldom extends beyond the confines of my own daled amos. The thought of asking Hakadosh Baruch Hu to intercede on my behalf on the domestic front has never crossed my mind.
Which is not to say that I never ask for anything at all. On the contrary, I still daven frequently and passionately. As my extended family dynamics change, so do the specifics of my entreaties: Shidduchim for my children, a caretaker for my parents, even an occasional request for a good grade for one of my kids on an important exam or bagrut all make it onto my list.
Needless to say, however, I have precious little time to rest on my laurels. After beginning to feel reasonably confident in my talents and selling power, I inexplicably receive a major blow. A reputable frum publication, that has heretofore been extremely receptive of my submissions, suddenly starts rejecting my work. I cannot be certain whether there has been a shift in their editorial staff or perhaps something subtle about my current efforts no longer appeals to them; most likely it is a combination of the two. In any case, I am thrown for a loop and unsure how to proceed.
Baruch Hashem I still have quite a few pieces already scheduled with other publications. Likewise a number of stories that they recently turned down are resubmitted to other frum magazines and gladly accepted. Nevertheless, I find myself feeling vulnerable and unsteady. Although the editor at the first magazine remains consistently supportive and encouraging, I cannot help but feel like I have lost my tether and am being tossed about like a ship adrift in a tumultuous ocean. The kindly worded personal replies and invitations to “try again,” submit more copy and send everything their way “first” do much to buoy my spirits, but I still fear that the next unexpected wave will knock me down altogether.
That is when my former colleague’s tried and true advice comes back to me loud and clear. Would I? Could I? Should I? It still seems trivial to me to daven for my personal ambitions. For others, I never had a problem asking for Divine intervention. But for myself? It feels so self-centered and egocentric, not at all me.
Nevertheless, I decide to give it a try. Then I recall that when I recently attended a three-part writing workshop given by one of today’s most popular frum authors, she had repeatedly mentioned “davening for siyata dishmaya” as one of the primary secrets of her success.
Almost off-handedly I compose a bakasha and sneak it onto my long shopping list of requests, a brief addendum I am practically embarrassed to utter.
“Please Hakadosh Baruch Hu help me with the quality of my writing, and help my work be accepted to reputable magazines and newspapers…” is my impromptu and not overly articulate tefillah.
I repeat more or less the same nusach on Thursday, Friday and Shabbos, just prior to saying my final Tehillim regimen each day.
Early Sunday morning, I find an e-mail from a frum publication that has never yet published any of my submissions. Incredibly, it had been sent by the executive editor of their magazine on motzaei Shabbos. Both the fact that the senior editor herself had corresponded with me directly, and that she had sent her e-mail on a motzaei Shabbos, are highly unusual. After responding to her inquiries regarding the confirmation that my piece has not been published previously and is not currently circulating elsewhere, her reply is not long in coming…my submission has been accepted!
There is no way to explain this as being merely a serendipitous coincidence. I had sent nearly a dozen prior submissions to that publication, and only one of those had even merited their consideration.
And then only three days after I chose to add my very specific bakasha to my tefillot, I am zochah to my first-ever congratulatory email from them.
There is no question in my mind that this is an indisputably clear manifestation of yad Hashem. As such, I spontaneously compose another heartfelt prayer, this one to thank Hakadosh Baruch Hu for His kindness and compassion.
A couple of months and a handful of submissions later, the editor of the first magazine sends me a personal short-and-sweet acceptance e-mail, and my latest story is slated for imminent publication.
And then the truly impossible happens: My favorite frum magazine, the only one I actually have a subscription to for the past few years, responds to my latest submission a week after they receive it, rather than the four to eight weeks they generally stipulate for editorial review. And just as unbelievably, their e-mail begins, “Thank you for submitting this piece.… We would love to print it!”
While I am basking in the glow of all this undeniable Heavenly benevolence, I belatedly realize that the young rebbetzin from L.A. had been correct all along. For although Hashem is truly the Almighty, at the same time He is our loving Father in Heaven, for Whom no request is too minor or trivial, as long as it emanates directly from the heart of one of His beloved children.