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Rosh Hashanah 5779 - The Power of Tefilla

By BJLife/Reb Dovid Fink

Posted on 09/09/18

In Parshas Toldos, we are told of Yitzchak and Rivka’s pleas to have a child.  The Pasuk says Vaye’etar Yitzchak (Toldos 25:21) Rashi explains this unusual term of “Vaye’etar” as a Tefilla of unprecedented intensity and of unprecedented relentlessness.  Noone had ever davened like this before – neither in duration nor in quality.  Quite a statement by Rashi for certain, but the question remains - why?  We are told that all the Avos had to wait for children.  Various explanations are offered for why the Avos and Imahos were not blessed with children right away.  Some say it was because Hashem treasured their Tefillos and wanted them to daven for children.  Others say that it was so the children would be even more dear to their parents because they had to long and wait for them.


Neither of these explanations offers any insight into why Yitzchak would have had to davcn with so much more intensity and perseverance than the others.  After all, Yitzchak was a Korbon Lashem.  He was so Kadosh that he was not permitted to leave Eretz Yisroel for his entire life.  Having attained such a level, one would think that his Tefillos would be accepted quicker than the other Avos.  Why did Yitzchak have to pound on the walls of Shamayim? 


One Medrash offers an incredible description of what transpired which explains this quagmire.  The Medrash says that when Yitzchak began to daven, immediately malachim rushed to the Kisei Shel Kavod and said to Hashem “Yitzchak is asking for children, how can you hold back from granting his request?”  At the same time other malachim came to Hashem and said “No!! You must not grant Yitzchak’s request.  After all, you have already decreed that Avraham would die five years prematurely so that he would not see his grandson Eisav commit the three cardinal sins.  If you accept Yitzchak’s Tefillos now, Avraham will have to die even earlier!!”  The Medrash goes on to describe the angst caused by Yitzchak’s Tefillah – how could Hashem refuse the Tefillah of such a Tzaddik; on the other hand how could he grant the request and take even more years off of Avraham’s life?


Ultimately, as a result of the extreme nature of Yitzchak’s davening, Hashem acceded to Yitzchak’s request and Avraham was taken five years before his time.  Obviously, Yitzchak had no idea as to the far reaching nature of his Tefillah being answered.  But the powerful message of the Medrash cannot be understated.  When we daven we literally have the power of life and death in our hands.  While many people choose to believe in a somewhat fatalistic approach to life, i.e. things happen when they are supposed to happen, the Rambam categorically rejects this idea.  The Rambam points to a dozen examples where we see that people actions can change everything.  A couple examples – In Bereishis, shortly after Kayin kills Hevel his brother, Hashem says that all the bloods of your brother are crying out to me from the grave. (4:10)  Rashi says the plural nature of the word “bloods”  reflects the descendants from Hevel who were never born as a result of his being murdered.  Who exactly was crying out? Hevel died childless – he had no descendants from whom cries from the grave could come.  The Rambam concludes that Hevel was supposed to have many descendants but Kayin’s actions changed all that.  


Similarly in Parshas Shemos, the pasuk says that Moshe, before killing the Mitzri, looked around and saw “noone” (Shemos 2:12) Rashi says Moshe looked into his future and saw that no Ger or other redeeming person would come from him.  Who exactly was Moshe looking at?  Nevua is seeing something in advance – these people that Moshe “looked” at were never born on account of Moshe’s killing the Mitzri.  It must be that Moshe saw an alternate reality of what could have happened had he not killed the Mitzri.  Hence the Rambam concludes quite irrefutably, that our actions matter, they matter a great deal.  They can cause life and death and everything in between.  Things do not always happen when they are supposed to happen.


In these days of the Aseres Y’Mei Teshuva we must keep these concepts constantly in mind.  What we do, matters.  What we daven for matters.  Through positive actions – a kind deed or warm words and sincere Tefillah we can change anything and everything.  Almost sounds like Us’Shuva, Usefila, U’tzedaka, Maavirin es Roah Hagezeira.  Those words are the climax of our davening for a reason.  We need not wait for the absolute last minute to try them out. 


A K’siva  V’Chasima Tova,