In this week’s parsha, we meet up with Noach and the story of the flood. The Torah starts out with saying that Noach was a tzadik. After looking at the commentaries we see that if Noach was living in the times of Avraham Avinu he wouldn’t be considered a tzadik. And this is because Avraham always prayed on the behave of all mankind and Noach looked to save only himself. The point I would like to strengthen is prayer.
Why do we pray? Doesn’t God already know what’s good for us? Doesn’t He already know what we need? Are we somehow trying to “convince” God of the justness of our cause?
People often mistakenly believe that they should pray only for the Big Things like health and life. They don’t want to “bother” the Almighty with small things.
This is a two-fold mistake. First, G-d is Infinite. He has the capacity to have an ongoing individual relationship with every human being on the planet. Hashem desires our prayers because He wants to bestow blessings upon us. He only wants our good which is to make the most out of our lives. Prayer is one way in which we maximize our potential by drawing closer to G-d.
Second, if we want to ask for the Big Things, then we need the knowledge and the practice of how to pray. Every prayer puts one in touch with the Almighty.
Prayer is most effective when combined with effort. We live in a world of “doing.” Prayer helps us to focus on what we need to do in order to succeed.
Does G-d answer our prayers? Definitely! Sometimes the answer is “Yes” and sometimes it’s “No.” And whatever God’s answer, it’s always what’s best for us.
Living in Jerusalem, I am very familiar with the idea of “40 Days.” You see, mystical Jewish tradition says that a person who goes to the Western Wall for 40 consecutive days to pray for one thing, that request will be granted.
The origin of this idea is when Moshe Rabeinu spent 40 days on Mount Sinai, asking forgiveness for the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf.
How does this work? G-d sends us personal challenges that encourage us to self-reflection leading to teshuvah. By undergoing 40 intense days of prayer, the teshuvah process can be sped up.
This happened to a friend of mine. She was not ready to get married, when her then-future husband began the 40-day trek to the Wall. He had been dating for five years and was about to be black-listed from the matchmakers’ lists for his pickiness! During the course of his 40 days, his then future-wife’s life changed dramatically, and she was forced to confront test situations. By the time his 40 days were completed, her life had fast-forwarded and she was ready to marry.
They met about a week later, and were married within three months! They now live happily together, with their adorable baby boy in the Old City of Jerusalem.
One can pray on behalf of someone else. I heard the story of one man who secretly did the 40 Days for the brother of a friend who had no children. Talk about an act of kindness! The only thing he knew about them was their full names and their pain. Years later, as an older man with a family of his own, his daughter became happily engaged. Hearing the full name of his future son-in-law’s parents, a familiar walk to the Wall came to mind. (After 40 days of praying for someone, their names leave quite an impression!)
Sure enough, the man who was set to marry his daughter was none other than the child of the “childless” couple whom he had prayed for, some 25 years earlier. The miracle was too great to contain, and the once-anonymous act of kindness was revealed.
So you might wonder why I am praying for 40 days for a girl I’ve never met here in the holy city of Jerusalem.
Like water through a pipe, the blessing runs through the person praying on the way to its destination.
On the other hand, there is a deep mystical force operating here. The Talmud (Bava Kama 92a) says that one who prays for another will be granted that thing first. Just like water running through a pipe, the person praying becomes the pipe through which the blessing flows to the other person. The blessing first runs through the one praying on the way to its destination.
We see in the Torah that when Avraham prayed for Avimelech to be blessed with children, immediately thereafter his wife Sarah conceived and bore a son Yitchak. Through Avraham feeling Avimelech’s pain and having compassion on him, G-d responded to Abraham’s pain.
In a world that focuses so much on the “I” – I want, I need, etc. – it is so easy to get caught up in one’s own needs and forget the pain and needs of others.
I take a moment to stop and think of other people, especially when I pray for others, before I resume my own life and my thoughts are free once again to be mine.
Noach was indeed a great person, but our focus as Jews must not only be about ourselves but of all our fellow Jews all over the world. Hashem wanted Noach to pray not only for himself and his family, G-d wanted to bring down to the world the trait of caring so deeply for the your fellow Jew that you pray for him first.
That kindness is so great that Hashem first grants the one praying and only then does he go about helping the others. May we merit the midah of prayer of ourselves and for all of Am Israel.