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The Way to Pray

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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The Way to Pray

After the sin of the golden calf, Moshe said to Hashem, ועתה אם תשא חטאתם ואם אין מחני נא מספרך, if you would but bear their sin, but if not then erase me from Your book.[1] Rashi comments, “Erase me from the entire Torah, so they shouldn’t say about me that I wasn’t worthy enough to daven for them.” Although Hashem forgave us, still, Moshe’s name is not mentioned in Parshas Tetzaveh. What did Moshe do to deserve this?


The Nesivos Shalom explains that Moshe erred when he said ואם אין, if You won’t forgive them…, as why did Moshe even consider such a possibility? He should have believed that since he was davening for their forgiveness, his tefillos would certainly be answered, because we believe in the power of tefilla.


The gemara[2] relates a case where two people were confined to a bed with the identical illness. One recovered while the other didn’t. Why? Because one davened and was answered while the other person davened and wasn’t answered since one davened a complete tefilla meaning he concentrated properly and thus he was answered whereas the other didn’t. How could it be that two people that are deathly ill and one wouldn’t have kavana? Because they don’t truly believe in tefilla. They reason that according to nature there is no natural salvation, and the doctors already despaired. So both daven with kavana but only one believes in his tefilla.[3]


The story is told that during a drought, farmers came to their rabbi seeking guidance, desperate for direction as their lives depended on proper rainfall. Their rabbi told them, “Meet me on the hilltop by the town’s entrance at exactly noon tomorrow. Come ready to pray. We will ask G-d for rain and He will hear our prayers.” The farmers were relieved. When they show up the following day, their rabbi turned them away. He said to them, “Did you believe that G-d would hear your prayers and bring rain?” They nodded. “Then where are your raincoats? If we expect G-d to answer we must ready ourselves for His blessings.”


We must believe that our tefillos will be answered. R’ Yitzchak Isaac of Kamarna translated[4] לא יחל דברו ככל היצא מפיו יעשה, as follows: Don’t hope[5] that your tefillos will be answered (לא יחל דברו). Ratherככל היצא מפיו יעשה, feel that it will certainly be effective.


The Chazon Ish once told R’ Shmuel Greinman that it seems in Heaven they concealed advanced knowledge about the coming Holocaust from us because had we known, we would have davened and maybe there wouldn’t have been a destruction!

[1] Shemos 32:32.

[2] Rosh Hashana 18a.

[3] See Shemen Rosh, Ki Sisa. In such a situation one should say that Hashem can do anything. He made the sickness and He also can heal a person from it (See Brachos 10a with the story of Chizkiyahu and that “even if a sharp sword rests upon one’s neck he shouldn’t refrain from davening for mercy.”).

[4] Bamidbar 30:3.

[5] יחל can mean hope as in יחל ישראל, let Israel hope (Tehillim 130:7).


Writer of the weekly Fascinating Insights Torah sheet in Englishעברית ,אידיש and français
Author of Five Books including the recently released “Magnificent Marriage Insights: Captivating Torah Essays about Marriage”

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