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24 Elul 5765 - September 28, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Meaningful Prayer

by R' Dovid Leitner

Part 2

The gemora (Brochos 26) discusses the reason a person prays three times daily. Shacharis corresponds to Avrohom, Mincha to Yitzchok and Ma'ariv to Yaakov. Each of the Ovos introduced one of these tefillos.

This needs to be understood, as the Rambam clearly states that the actual wording of the tefillos was formulated by the Anshei Knesses Hagedoloh. If so, what did the Ovos actually do, when Avrohom introduced Shacharis, Yitzchok Mincha and Yaakov Ma'ariv?

Rabbi Eliyohu Lopian zt"l explains this with an example that was perhaps more appropriate in his generation. In the early days of telecommunications, before the introduction of mobile telephones, the only way one could speak to a foreign country was by laying a suitable cable to connect these countries together. Telephone conversations were relayed through these cables. It was impossible to carry out a telephone conversation with any country that did not have a cable link with your own.

Each of the Ovos, R' Eliyohu said, laid a suitable cable, that enabled all future generations to communicate with Hashem through prayer, using these links. The length and topic of each "conversation," altered with the progression of time. Initially, each person could request from Hashem whatever and whenever he wanted, using the facility of these pre-laid cables. In later generations, tefilloh took on a more set format, as specified in our Siddur, but these too had to use the same cables as lines of communications to Hashem.

Regular prayer, three times a day, is a well-established concept that has its roots with the Ovos, a fact that is frequently stressed during our tefillos. These telecommunication cables that were laid by our Ovos and allow us to connect directly with Hashem, are not only used by the Jewish people, but also by the nations of the world.

Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, initially refused to acknowledge Hashem and His powers. Hashem systematically smote the entire nation with the ten plagues, until he eventually obeyed His wishes. Initially, Hashem brought the plague of blood, thereby punishing their god, the river Nile. The subsequent plaque of frogs, was directed against the entire Egyptian population, and was only removed after Pharaoh asked Moshe to intercede with Hashem on his behalf. His request for prayer to Hashem was in itself an admission of His powers and existence.

When we stand in prayer before Hashem, we are automatically acknowledging His Supreme and Unique Power to help us and provide for all our requests. Hashem in His Infinite Goodness, created an entire universe that would enable him to continually perform kindness with His creation. However there is a system of Divine justice too, that often holds back this kindness from being administered, owing to our own human defects.

When we stand in prayer before Hashem, we create a large amount of goodwill by acknowledging His supreme Powers, which helps to override the Divine Justice and allows His Kindness to be dispensed. This is the meaning of the posuk (Tehillim 33:22) "Yehi chasdecho Hashem oleinu ka'asher yichalnu Loch — May Your kindness, Hashem, be on us, as we have waited for You." We receive His kindness in direct proportion to the amount of supplication that we make to Him.

Alternatively, the gemora suggests that the three daily tefillos correspond to the Korbon Tomid. Shacharis is analogous to the morning Tomid; Mincha to the afternoon Tomid, and Ma'ariv to the burning on the Altar of the animal portions that remained from that day's services.

The Baal Haturim (Bamidbor 7:14) points out that the numerical value of Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov equals that of the words Par (bull), Ayil (ram) and Kevesh (sheep), thereby connecting the three Ovos to the korbonos in the Beis Hamikdosh. These three species were used for the Musaf sacrifice.

What the Baal Haturim is perhaps pointing out is that although each of the Ovos initiated one of the three daily prayers it was their combined efforts that initiated the tefillas Musaf.

The Rokeach, the rov of Amsterdam, explains that the Korbon Tomid corresponds to the entire episode of Akeidas Yitzchok. The morning Tomid corresponds to Avrohom building an altar on which he intended to sacrifice his son, Yitzchok. The afternoon Tomid is analogous to the ram that he slaughtered instead. The offering up of the pieces throughout the night corresponds to the actual burning of the ram on this altar. The three daily tefillos thus provide a constant merit of the Akeidah that helps our prayers to be acceptable to Hashem.

In the Jewish calendar, the night always precedes the day, as the Torah specifies, "Vayehi erev vayehi boker — It was [initially] evening and then morning." In the secular world the situation is the reverse, as the day precedes the night. However, concerning the sacrifices that were offered up in the Beis Hamikdosh, the day also preceded the night. Consequently, the sequence of the Siddur and our daily tefillos begin with the morning Shacharis and end with the evening Ma'ariv, corresponding to the order of the Korbon Tomid and the daily schedule in the Beis Hamikdosh.

Just as correct thoughts and intentions are an essential requirement with every sacrifice that was offered up to Hashem, similarly it is essential that correct thoughts should accompany our prayers. The Megalleh Amukos points out that originally the Shemoneh Esrei contained eighteen brochos, until the extra one of "Velamalshinim" was added. In a single day, we recite the Shemoneh Esrei three times, thereby reciting fifty-four brochos. During the six days of the week, that makes a total of three hundred and twenty-four. On Shabbos we daven four times, with each Shemoneh Esrei containing seven brochos, providing a total of twenty-eight brochos. Therefore, in a complete week we recite three hundred and fifty-two brochos in all the Shemoneh Esreis, a number that equates to the numerical value of the word korbon. Our tefillos correspond to the sacrifices that were offered up to Hashem in the Beis Hamikdosh.

The Kuzari compares our three daily tefillos to partaking of three daily meals. A person eats a satisfying breakfast, but by lunch time he is hungry again and is ready to partake of another meal. Our appetite in eating is enhanced by our conviction that the food that we are about to eat is good and healthy for our bodies, and will provide us with the required energy to continue our work.

Similarly, if we appreciate the power that constant and regular prayer contains, we will approach it eagerly, with dignity and treat it seriously. We should approach each of our tefillos with a spiritual appetite and a hunger to connect to Hashem directly.

Rashi (Bereishis 29:17) quotes a Midrash on the words of "Ve'einei Leah rackos — the eyes of Leah were tender." They were tender from persistent crying, because the shadchonim suggested that Rivkoh had two sons, and Lovon had two daughters. The elder daughter, Leah, would be a match for Eisov, and the younger one for Yaakov. Leah abhorred the prospect of becoming Eisov's wife and prayed sincerely with tears in her eyes, to be spared this fate.

The power of her prayers is manifest in her subsequent life story. She eventually merited to marry Yaakov, even before her sister Rochel. Out of the twelve tribes of Yaakov, six were the children of Leah. Furthermore, of all the sixty-six descendants of Yaakov who went down to Egypt, thirty-three of them were her descendants (Bereishis 46:15).

This is the source of the Midrash (Vayikra 10; 5) that states, "Tefilloh oseh mechtzoh — Prayer accomplishes half." Leah, by her sincere and persistent prayers, merited to have half of the twelve tribes, and half of the descendants of Yaakov too.

Devoted and sincere prayer is an extremely powerful tool that will circumvent natural predictions, even from the most professional matchmakers. Leah's life-history teaches us the positive power of tefilloh, and a similar striking lesson can be learned about the absence of prayer.

Moshe Rabbenu was instructed by Hashem Himself to go and lead the Jewish people out of their Egyptian bondage. He was to go to Pharaoh with an appropriate message, but Moshe declined as he possessed a speech impediment. This alone should have been reason to choose a different leader to speak to Pharaoh. This same leader would eventually receive and teach the Torah to the entire nation. Why did Hashem not simply heal Moshe of this speech difficulty, thereby removing his objection for carrying out his mission?

Rabbenu Bachye (Shemos 4:10) states that this was not possible, as Moshe never prayed to Hashem that his speech should improve. Without prayer, nothing will ever change.

Towards the end of Pesukei Dezimroh we say, "Ve'olu moshi'im behar Zion, lishpot es Har Eisov — The saviors will ascend Mount Zion to judge Eisov's mountain." With the arrival of Moshiach, Hashem will Judge the nations of the world. The prosecutors will ask them why they continually performed evil and did not conquer their yetzer hora. The nations will reply that it was too difficult for them as the yetzer hora was a mountain that they were unable to climb, with the evil inclination being alluded to in the phrase, "mountain of Eisov." To this response the prosecutor will admit that the yetzer hora is very difficult to subdue. But he will cite the power of prayer that Leah performed, that entirely separated her from the evil powers of Eisov.

The Megalleh Amukos points out, that the acronym of the three words, "lishpot es Har" spells out the name of Leah. She was the prime example, who showed us how sincerity in prayer will assist us to conquer our yetzer hora, thereby radically changing our own lives.

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