Photo Credit: Jewish Press

“Man’s best friend” is one of those phrases we have gotten so used to that we overlook its absurdity. This phrase, of course, refers to a furry, four-legged creature – namely, the dog. Have we ever contemplated how ridiculous this statement is? How can one say that a human being, the bearer of a soul from the upper spheres, is best friends with a canine mammal of the Order Carnivora? And, if we are discussing a Jew, who has a holy neshama from under Hashem’s Throne of Glory, which gives him the ability to connect to Hashem, it is even more ludicrous.

So who is really “man’s best friend”? The answer is G-O-D … not D-O-G! Yes, they have the same letters, but we have gotten the word totally backwards!

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In many places, we refer to Hashem as our friend. For example, “Rei’acha v’rei’ah avicha al ta’azov – Do not forsake your Friend and the Friend of your father” (Mishlei 27:10). Rashi explains that the friend of our father is Hashem, who was a close friend of our forefathers. But He is not just a family friend, He is our own personal friend – “your Friend,” the verse states. We ourselves see that He is our best friend, so Shlomo HaMelech tells us not to forsake Him!

 

So Many Presents!

Last month (6-10) we mentioned that one of the prerequisites to turning to Hashem in prayer is knowing that He loves us and has our best interest in mind. We explained how we can see this love from the fact that Hashem gave our nation His precious Torah, the source of true life. But from the aforementioned verse in Mishlei, we also see that we must be aware that Hashem is our personal friend. One of the best ways to build that awareness is by contemplating all the wonderful gifts that our Friend is constantly bestowing upon us. Let us mention just a few.

If you ask, “How much is that person worth?” most people will answer based on his assets. But the correct answer is that if he has a healthy heart, liver, and kidneys, he is worth several million dollars! Why? Well, the average cost of a heart transplant is $ 1,250,000; for a liver, $750,000; and for a kidney, another $350,000. That brings us to the grand total of $2,350,000 to receive “used” organs. Studies show that approximately half of heart transplant recipients are still alive at 10 years post-transplant. A living donor kidney functions, on average, 12 to 20 years, and a deceased donor kidney from 8 to 12 years. That being the case, how much would a person pay for a brand new heart or kidney, straight from the “Manufacturer”? At least double the price! That means that we, who have “original” organs, are worth millions of dollars! And we take these wonderful presents from Hashem for granted.

But it doesn’t stop there. Do we think about that fact that He is constantly making sure that they function properly? We do not have to attach ourselves to a dialysis machine three times a week for several hours to clean our blood. Our heart pumps smoothly and effortlessly – no pacemaker necessary. Our lungs draw in wonderful oxygen – no need to drag around an oxygen tank. We do not wheeze as we breathe and coughing does not tear our innards apart. We hear just fine without hearing aids. No need to tap with a white cane or be led by a seeing-eye dog. We are able to use the facilities, our food gets digested properly, and we can enjoy the different types of food Hashem gives us. Perambulating with our wonderful legs is a pleasurable experience! Arthritis and muscle pain? Those are things we hope never to meet. Our heads are free of horrible migraines, our skin is generally not dry or chapped and, for the most part, when it is time to go to bed, we place our heads on the pillow and drift off into a peaceful slumber without too much delay.

Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l would suggest looking at a hospital directory and saying, “Baruch Hashem, I don’t need a cardiologist and baruch Hashem, I don’t need an oncologist,” and so on. By the time you finish the list, you will be full of joy with the realization of how much Hashem loves you.

Another example is our menuchas hanefesh – our peace of mind. We are all, unfortunately, familiar with couples who lack marital harmony. They describe it as living in gehinom without even a moment of respite. The kids are falling apart and the situation seems hopeless. We must thank Hashem for giving us a normal home, harmony with our wonderful spouse, and a place to turn to for encouragement.

A person who has children who are growing in Torah and yiras Shamayim should feel like he is in Gan Eden! You can see the suffering and distress on the faces of parents whose children have unfortunately strayed. Good children are a gift from Hashem!

Our emotional and mental well-being is something to remember. People who suffer from anxiety say that they simply do not have a moment of peace. They feel like they are locked in a prison and are terrified to be with themselves.

Even a person who unfortunately lacks one or more of these presents should focus on the myriads of gifts that he does have. The more a person is aware of how much Hashem loves him, the more he will believe that any suffering is really for his best. And at the same time, he should thank Hashem for the medical advances and tools that allow him to lead a fulfilling life.

 

Handled With Care

We can also see Hashem’s great love for us from the way He takes care of us. We never went to sleep on an empty stomach, never pushed all our belongings in a shopping cart, or had to sleep on a park bench. Was our electricity or water ever cut off because of an unpaid bill? Most of us have a stable job, and if we look carefully we can see how Hashem orchestrated all the various factors that helped us get where we are.

The Chofetz Chaim writes (Sheim Olam, end of chapter 3) that when we merely look at the end of a story, we do not immediately see the hashgacha pratis. In such cases, we should look back at all the events that brought us there. Let us take, for example, a man who brought a product to sell in a trade fair and discovered that prices had soared, yielding substantial earnings. He should look back and see how it happened. How did he find the product? Where did he receive his funding? Why did the prices suddenly soar? Someone who lives this way will see with his own eyes how Hashem is taking care of him, and will truly feel Hashem’s love

We have now discovered a way to greatly strengthen our tefillah. Throughout the davening we mention that Hashem loves us and bestows kindness upon us. If we make sure to bear in mind some of the thoughts we just mentioned, we will be able to say those words with more emotion. The more we feel how Hashem, our Best Friend, is waiting for us to turn to Him and request His help, the more real our tefillah will become!

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Rabbi Niehaus, who originates from Los Angeles, is the Rosh Kollel of the Zichron Aharon Yaakov night kollel in Kiryat Sefer, a rebbi in Yeshivas Tiferes Yisroel in Yerushalayim, and the author of the just released “Oasis: Experience the Paradise of Shabbos” by Mosaica Press. He can be contacted at kollel.zay@gmail.com.