Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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19 Shevat 5763 - January 22, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Mitzvos, Miracles and Prayers

Compiled from the lectures of HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita

Part III (Final Part)

In the first part, HaRav Scheinberg explained that when we put on tefillin we are supposed to think about what Hashem did for us in taking us out of Mitzrayim. The Ramban teaches us at the end of Bo that, "As a result of the tremendous open miracles, a person will acknowledge concealed miracles -- for they are the fundamental basis for the whole of Torah. A person has no share in the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu until he believes that all things and every occurrence, all of them, are miracles; that they do not operate by any natural or automatic process, either for the masses or for the individual."

In the second part, HaRav Scheinberg explained that even obvious things can be hidden in that we do not properly see them. Without siyata deShmaya our eyes are incapable of seeing even the most blatant examples of Hashem's presence in the world. Mitzvas like tefillin, that are called "os", are to draw our attention and help us see that Hashem has ultimate power.

"I am the Lord -- your G-d, who upraised you from the Land of Egypt; open wide your mouth and I will fill it." (Pesukei Dezimroh; Tehillim 81:11)

Before the Redemption of Klal Yisroel, Egypt led the world in power and wealth. HaKodosh Boruch Hu miraculously ended our bondage and all its treasures were given to us. Besides all this, we came out of Egypt with something more valuable; the knowledge of Hashem's mastery over the world and a mitzvah to always remember it; (Devorim 16:3) ". . . you shall remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life."

This commandment integrates our past, present and future. The gemora in Brochos (4b) asks, "Who is a ben Olam Habo?" That is, who is privileged to be so much at home in Olam Habo as if he were a son; a welcome member of the family. The surprisingly modest answer is: the one who, immediately after completing the brochoh of Go'al Yisroel begins the Shemoneh Esrei of his evening prayers.

In order to understand how such a seemingly simple act guarantees such a great reward, Rabbeinu Yonah zt"l gives several explanations. One is, "because, when the geulah from Egypt is mentioned, and prayer immediately follows, one indicates through his prayers that he trusts in Hashem since he asks Him for his needs. For one who does not trust in Hashem will not ask anything of Him."

Something special happened to Klal Yisroel when we were taken out of Egypt -- for then, as a nation, we became believers in Hashem. Rabbeinu Yonah continues, "When Klal Yisroel saw the miracles and wonders that the Creator did for them, in contradiction to `natural' law, they believed in Him . . . Now, when we mention that Redemption by which our forefathers became believers in Hashem -- and He saved them -- and we pray immediately afterwards, this reveals that we too trust in Him. Then He shall answer us as He answered Klal Yisroel -- because they believed in Him. This is why we mention that geulah and pray immediately. Bitochon is fundamental to yirah and emunoh, and because of it we merit life in Olam Habo."

We have an obligation to pray -- morning, afternoon and night. However, these regularly scheduled prayers are just the beginning. To change "nature" requires more than davening on time, with a minyan and with proper concentration. Simply keeping up the routine will not produce the prayers that Hashem truly desires -- prayers that will bring forth miracles, the true teva of the world.

Hence, recalling the miracles of Egypt is a necessary prelude to our prayers. We need to constantly remind ourselves that Hashem is our G-d. He is the One and Only Absolute Ruler, Who did miracles then and will perform miracles for us too, according to our faith and prayers. Recalling the miracles of Egypt is the key. However, only our hearts, with honest prayer and genuine bitochon in Hashem, can arouse Hashem's middoh of compassion to perform miracles.

This is evident from the gemora (Yevomos 64a) which states that two of our great forefathers, Avrohom and Yitzchok, could not at first father children. The gemora asks why, and answers, "Because HaKodosh Boruch Hu desires the prayers of the tzadikim." Hashem, so to speak, yearns for the prayers of the tzadikim. He does not simply wait for prayers to routinely ascend at their scheduled times, but He desires their arrival.

The gemora continues to explain how the prayers of tzadikim can "switch the middos of HaKodosh Boruch Hu from the midda of anger to the midda of compassion."

The Ovos with their prayers were worthy of miraculous changes. Originally their bodies were not capable of bearing children. Nonetheless Hashem, for their sake and in the merit of their prayers, changed "nature." Hashem had decreed that their prayers were to be the key to allow them to be able to conceive. The miraculous was waiting to happen in accordance with their heartfelt desire -- their prayers -- to see it happen.

A tzaddik, through his earnest appeals to Hashem, can thus turn din into mercy. And therefore Hashem desires the prayers of the tzaddikim. With their unwavering emunah and bitochon, they pray that the camouflage of nature and its "laws" be removed. They can properly ask for the miracles that Hashem is willing to bestow upon them, and so Hashem places them in situations that require miracles -- the stimulus for genuine prayers.

The whole of Creation is a continuous series of hidden and open miracles. The privilege of actually seeing them depends on emunah and on prayer.

Everyone has a time of need and if we pay proper attention, we can notice that the words of our prayers guide us in how we should respond. The first brochoh of Shemoneh Esrei mentions three expressions that refer to Hashem: `Ozeir' -- our Helper, `Moshi'a' -- our Savior, and `Mogen' -- our Shield. Then we conclude `Mogen Avrohom' -- the Shield of Avrohom.

The Vilna Gaon zt"l (Siddur HaGra, Avnei Eliyohu) explains that these three expressions correspond to three approaches to bitochon which result in three manifestations of siyata deShmaya; Divine salvation and intervention in our lives.

"First [Ozer] that a person does something and Hashem helps him." A practical attempt to reach a goal is made. If the outcome is successful according to the original desire, it is because Hashem responded with assistance. And so Hashem is referred to as Helper.

"Second, [Moshi'a] that nothing at all is done, for he has faith in Hashem alone, that Hashem will save him without any human actions or strategies." Here, no attempt is made by the person to accomplish anything. If Hashem responds, it is because He has chosen to rescue the person. And so Hashem is called Savior.

The third highest level, was the practice of Avrohom Ovinu, as the Gaon continues, "Avrohom Ovinu trusted in Hashem to perfection. He placed himself in many dangers for the sake of Hashem Yisborach's honor. Therefore, he reached the level of `I will shield you, to save you from all the dangers -- that nothing at all will have power over you.' Therefore the [brochoh] concludes, `Mogen Avrohom.' It does not say Ozer or Moshi'a, but rather Mogen because of his [Avrohom's] great bitochon in Hashem."

This highest level requires complete devotion and self- sacrifice, with no belief in natural law. Perfect faith that Hashem is the one true, sure, unchangeable fact of existence; that nothing else has any stable, constant reality, because everything is subject to the Will of the Creator.

As lofty as this may seem, we must strive to reach this perfection, for the Vilna Gaon in Mishlei (22:19) gives us a remarkable insight regarding bitochon: "The primary bestowal of the Torah to Klal Yisroel is that they should place their trust in Hashem."

In other words, the goal and purpose of Torah is to forge in our hearts a pure, persistent faith and trust in Hashem. Learning Torah and the performance of its mitzvas have the power to bring us closer to Hashem. The more mitzvas we do, the more Torah we learn, the more we will come to know Hashem and trust Him. According to the quality of our Torah, its depth and honesty, so will be the degree of our faith in Hashem.

Similarly, the Maharal of Prague zt"l (Nesivos Olom; Nesiv Emunah) writes, " The one who believes, gives himself completely over to Hashem Yisborach. He trusts in Him and does not turn aside from Hashem Yisborach at all -- in any way. For this is the way of emunah -- total attachment to Hashem Yisborach. Therefore, he has a deveikus to Hashem Yisborach through emunah." This is achieved through Torah, for there is no greater bonding agent to HaKodosh Boruch Hu than Torah.

Emunah and bitochon must, by definition, exist under all circumstances. Even in the most hopeless of all situations, even under the threat of death, we must never despair. We turn to Hashem. We gather together in the beis knesses or beis medrash, open the Aron HaKodosh and pour out our hearts to our Creator that He should save us -- Ovinu Malkeinu -- because we know He can. We have faith that Hashem alone can and will help us and we, on our own, are helpless.

If we have faith in ourselves, in our own might, strength and intelligence; this is neither emunah nor bitochon. The Maharal zt"l just taught us that faith means that we shall not turn away from Hashem at any time, for any reason. The bond must be complete and flawless. As the Maharal concludes, "For when a person believes in Hashem Yisborach with all his heart and cleaves to Him and does not turn from Him -- this is ultimate perfection, for all the mitzvas are in order that a person should cleave to Hashem."

Our faith in Hashem is not measured by how loudly we cry out to Him in the midst of distress and turmoil. Hashem can definitely help when we cry out to Him for help. But this is not the test.

Our obligation is to never turn from Him -- whatever the situation, whether it is going our way or not. Whatever the case, we must always cleave to our Creator. If we do so, we will be able to receive all the Divine blessings that Hashem is prepared to bestow upon us. Through emunah and bitochon our lives will be filled with the experience and appreciation of Hashem's blessings.

Hashem expects us to believe and experience that He alone is the One true reality. Likewise, He has given us the Torah and its mitzvas as a means to achieve it. Just because the world seems to behave according to a certain routine in no way determines that it must continue forever in the same manner. Everything is subject to the Will of HaKodosh Boruch Hu. "Natural laws" are not permanent, invariable and constant, especially when ruchniyus is concerned. The mitzvah of tefillin is just one example of the many mitzvas that Hashem has given us to help us remember this.

The existence of Klal Yisroel, Hashem's representatives of ruchniyus in this world, depends upon our faith in Hashem and our obedience to His Torah. Consequently, our existence throughout history is beyond natural explanation. The miracles of Egypt were done for our sake -- so that we will recall them and understand their message each day. They were great lessons for us to remember and so remind ourselves that our presence in the world is linked to the Torah and its commandments. There is no other avenue for success.

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