Monday, March 10, 2008

We Need *Your* Tefillos

I received the following e-mail, in response to this morning's post about davening for the matzav in Eretz Yisroel. I thought that it was worth sharing. I think the comments section has some good things to read as well.

I read your personal posting on "A Simple Jew" which mentions a struggle concerning prayer which I sense is shared by others. I have therefore attached a letter which cites some teachings that may be helpful.

Be Well, and Shalom,


We Need “Your” Prayers:

Dear Friends,

The biblical term chesed refers to overflowing love – a love which is expressed through deeds and words. A chasid is a biblical term for someone whose understanding of Torah leads to a loving devotion to serving the Creator and all creation – always striving to fulfill the loving Divine purpose through deeds and words. As we shall discuss in this letter, the words of a chasid include prayers on behalf of others.

Mesilas Yesharim – Path of the Upright – is a classical work on personal spiritual growth written by Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzatto, a leading sage of the 18th century. In several chapters of this work, he discusses how a chasid develops the art of loving. In chapter 19, he reminds us that the love of a chasid also includes a love for the People of Israel, and through this love, the chasid feels the pain and suffering of our exile. Rabbi Luzzato describes how the chasidim of our people, through their love of the Blessed One and Israel, pray for the redemption of Jerusalem and for the restoration of the honor of Heaven.

These chasidim and their loving prayers are to serve as models for us; however, as Rabbi Luzzato points out, someone may ask the following question:

“Who am I and what am I worth that I should pray about the exile and about Jerusalem? Will the exiles be gathered in and will salvation sprout forth because of my prayer?”

Rabbi Luzatto explains that the answer to this question about the value of one’s prayer can be found in the following teaching from the Talmud:

Each one should say, “For My sake the world was created.” (Sanhedrin 37a)

In a previous letter, we discussed how each person should feel that the world was created for the sake of his or her unique mission and contribution. Rabbi Luzatto is revealing that one’s contribution includes one’s prayers!

Each person should therefore recognize that his or her prayers for redemption are needed and appreciated, as Rabbi Luzatto writes

“It is the Blessed One’s pleasure that His children desire and pray for this. And though their desire may not be fulfilled because the proper time has not yet arrived or for some other reason, they will have done their part and the Holy One, Blessed be He, rejoices in it.”

In profound and mysterious ways which we may not fully understand, each of our prayers serves the cosmic purpose; thus, each of us can say, “For the sake of my prayers, the world was created.”

Regarding our responsibility to pray for Jerusalem, Rabbi Luzzato writes: “We cannot exempt ourselves because of our inadequate strength. For in relation to all such things we learned, ‘The work is not yours to complete, but you are not free to abstain from it’ (Pirkei Avos 2:16).” In other words, we are to do what we can and pray what we can, for this effort is precious to our Creator.

Yes, “your” prayers for the redemption are needed, and through the combined spiritual power of all of our prayers, together with the spiritual power of our own renewal, we can merit to experience the universal age of enlightenment and shalom, when, “Torah will go forth from Zion and the Word of Hashem from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). Our yearning for this new age is expressed in the following words from a prayerful song that we sing at the Shabbos table:

“To Your Sanctuary return and to the Holy of Holies, the place where spirits and souls will rejoice and utter songs and praises – in Jerusalem, city of beauty.” (Kah Ribon)

Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

Hazon – Our Universal Vision

-Dixie Yid

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Anonymous said...

Beautiful words, Yosef. I'd like to add a thought. It has been said (Pirkei Avos and the Sfas Emes brings this idea out often) that when only a few people are doing the right thing, Hashem gives them the reward (or job) of all those who should have been doing the mitzvos. This is called Noteil S'char K'neged Kulam. The question is: S'char of what? They just did not do good things and got worse and worse instead. It seems then, that each generation is Mesugal, or given a job, to do certain good things. If they do not, then those few who do try (like Avrohom) are made their representatives and Hashem helps those few people "fill in the blanks". If you are right that each jew has a portion in the prayer to bring the Geulah as well, per the RamCh"L, then it seems we can say that the portion of the prayers that had "belonged" to those who are now clueless and hence unable to pray, is taken up by those who are able to understand and are praying.
The reason my heart tells me that this is true is that I know many jews who are unaware of the seriousness of the Galus, do not know why to pray for Geulah, and really do not understand that the Torah and Mitzvos are a priority, at all. I thank Hashem that I occasionally have an awareness of these things, but it is obvious that I have little appreciation of Tza'ar HaShechina, and barely a grasp of what Geulah really means. How are so many of us ever expected to pray with a whole heart for the Geulah? Is the Geulah then endangered? I believe that just as the doros from Noach to Avrohom had their Torah and Mitzvah portions transferred to Avrohom, those who do try to pray for Geulah now will be given Siyata DiShmaya to do it better and will actually take up the lost prayers of those who are not participating. Maybe that is the inner meaning of what the Ari Z"L said regarding the mitzvos of last generations. Reb Tzvi-Meyer quoted Kisvei Ari Z"L to the effect that the small deeds of the later generations (like ours) are counted by Hakadosh Baruch Hu as equal to very great deeds of the earlier generations' Tzadikkim. Perhaps it has nothing to do with our nisayon or mesiras nefesh (which the gemora implies are actually lessened with each generation even in THEIR times) but is rather a function of the fact that HaKadosh Baruch Hu has determined that these Tefillos, just like certain Torah and other Mitzvos simply must/will be done over this period by his people. If they are not shared then He increases the quality and quantity of those few who are doing their own parts so it all gets done and the Geulah can come. Hashem save us all from errors...any feedback?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing these beautiful and profound thoughts which were inspired by the various teachings of our sages that you cited. I do not feel qualified to offer more feedback on the deep ideas that you expressed, but I want to say "Yasher Koach" for raising the discussion to a new and higher level.

Shalom Rav,
Yosef Hakohen