Friday, November 9, 2007

Trust in Prayer

Posted by IshbitzForever

And Issac entreated Hashem opposite his wife, because she was barren. Hashem allowed himself to be entreated by him, and his wife Rebbeca conceived."

Genesis 25-22-23

The authoritative commentator known as Rashi explain the words "opposite his wife" as thus "This one stood in this corner and prayed and this one stood in this corner and prayed".

What is the significance of opposite corners - we have no such tradition that man and wife can not pray together or that retreating to different parts of the room help our prayers to be received, accepted or answered.

In addition we must introduce another puzzling explanation given by Rashi. Although we find that both Issac and Rebbeca prayed for a child, the verse tells us "Hashem Allowed himself to be entreated by him" (Isaac only)" - but what of Rebbeca's prayer? To this Rashi makes the statement, "One can not compare the prayer of someone who is righteous and whose parents were also righteous - to the prayer of someone who although they are righteous their parents weren't righteous" - meaning we cant compare the paryer of Issac who had a father like Abraham to the prayer of someone like rebbeca who had a father like Bethuel (an evil man). The question is blazing - is a new requirement for prayer to have a righteous parent? Isn't prayer the open and direct connection between every living creature and its maker our living G-d in heaven - what is Rashi talking about!?

So there's a story of a Great Rabbi, one of the Students of the Baal Shem Tov (Founder and Leader of the Hassidic Movement). This Rabbi hadn't had children for many years. One day his wife could take the pain no longer and yelled at her husband " I don't understand, people come from far and wide seeking your blessing for all their ills and troubles, you pray to G-d on their behalf and they are answered. Yet I, you're own wife sits in a sad and empty house without children and your prayers for me don't seem to be answered". The Rabbi softly answered "Those that come from far and wide believe I am a saintly man and they believe with all their hearts that G-d will surely listen to my prayers it's this very pure belief that carries their cause up to the deepest place in heaven before G-d's heavenly thrown - you on the other hand live with me, you know I am no saint just a struggling Jew trying to make the best of myself, your belief in me or my prayers is rightfully not without its doubts - hence my prayers for us must fight their way up, and so far they haven't reached their destination".

Isaac was the son of Abraham, he was installed with unquestioning belief in G-d from an early age. So much so that when his father told him that he was to slaughtered as a sacrifice he didn't flinch, an accepted the will of G-d as the only reality by which to live, utter trust. Rebbeca not so. She did not grow up with G-d at all, although she was good hearted, her religious experience surely began when she was wed to Issac.

When they prayed - each was in their own corner - they both had different approaches to prayer. Issac was sure G-d was listening - as he himself had been a miracle baby - and was sure G-d could change the worlds natural order in an instant as he had seen and heard his entire life - Rebbeca had not shared that upbringing, and could not pray the same way - Although she believed it could not be the same belief. One can not compare the prayer of one who is the child of a righteous man - because the child of a righteous man prays differently due to what he has been taught and seen while growing up.

Although prayer's function is primarily away to connect man and his creator - G-d set it aside as a tool we can use to call out to him in times of need. For it to function as such it needs trust, in both how closely G-d is listening, and how quickly G-d can change things.


  1. According to this post, God is more accepting of prayers when they come from a heart of perfect faith. That strikes me as a bit surprising.

    Fantastic post!

  2. Th Rambam (Maimonides) says that the mitzva of prayer is but a vehicle to serve God.
    The purpose of which is not to benefit ourselves but rather to profoundly be conscious that everything is decreed from God and through develop a "closeness" a bond with God.
    merely implying that tefila is a way to get a prize is demeaning to man and to Tefila.

  3. Rabbi Gordon, I hear your point and at first, I was struck by that thought as well. The way I understood it though was as follows. Ishbitz states that for prayer to function optimally, we need to show trust in G-d. Maybe we can say that those who have righteous parents have more of a natural inclination to trust more and therefore their prayer is more powerful. This is not to say that a person who doesn't have righteous parents can't achieve a high level of trust, but they may have to work harder for it.

    Just a thought..