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THE ART OF CONTINUED RELENTLESS PRAYER
In the Daf Yomi this week, we have just learned that a human is a creature that that a human being, at his core, is expected to pray. The Jewish people want G-d to tell them why this Galut is so long and dark. When will this Night end, this long, dark Galut? שֹׁמֵר֙ מַה־מִּלַּ֔יְלָה שֹׁמֵ֖ר מַה־מִּלֵּֽיל: G-d, the Watchman for the Jewish Nation, answers. אָמַ֣ר שֹׁמֵ֔ר אָתָ֥ה בֹ֖קֶר וְגַם־לָ֑יְלָה אִם־תִּבְעָי֥וּן בְּעָ֖יוּ שֻׁ֥בוּ אֵתָֽיוּ The morning came, the opportunity for Mashiach came and it passed, and now night has come… If you want the Mashiach to come at the opportune times, you need to pray, to request with your whole heart. You need to do Teshuva. (Yeshayahu 21 ;12)
The first Mishna in B. Kama refers to a human as a מבעה , a person who is praying. Because that is when a person is doing what he is inherently created to do. (Netziv B. Kama; Alei Shur page 24) Man is called אדם, Adam, because all Mankind have in them a split nature, either to be earthly, Adamah, or to be G-dly, Adameh, I will be similar to G-d. Similarly, a person is either a מבעה, a destructive creature, or a מבעה, a creature that prays. Either a person is G-dly, connects to G-d, or a person is at risk of being animalistic. If we take the letters of Man, אדם, and we write out the name of each one, one at a time, we will see what a Man is meant to be. א-לף , ד-לת,מ-ם . When the name Adam is spelled out in full, we have the letters מתפלל. Because that is what we are created for. That is our purpose, the meaning of why G-d created Man.
There are two types of prayer. There is Yishmael’s prayer, which is a utilitarian prayer. He turns to G-d when he needs Him, but does not believe that he can see G-d in difficult times. When Hagar had a revelation from G-d that she would have a child called Yishmael, who would cause difficulties to the Jewish Nation at the End of Days, causing them to cry out to G-d, she called the place Be’er Lachai Ro’ee, A well, where G-d sees me. This means, “G-d sees me in my difficult times, but I can’t see Him.” ישמעא-ל , He will hear my voice when I cry out to Him for help, but still, I can’t see Him in my everyday life. וַתִּקְרָ֤א שֵׁם־יְקֹוָק֙ הַדֹּבֵ֣ר אֵלֶ֔יהָ אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל רֳאִ֑י כִּ֣י אָֽמְרָ֗ה הֲגַ֥ם הֲלֹ֛ם רָאִ֖יתִי אַחֲרֵ֥י רֹאִֽי She only sees G-d, after G-d sees her, after G-d takes care of her and answers her prayers, but not during the difficult times. When Yishmael prays, G-d listens, as He promised Hagar that He would. וַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע אֱלֹהִים֘ אֶת־ק֣וֹל הַנַּעַר֒ and then, כִּֽי־שָׁמַ֧ע אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶל־ק֥וֹל הַנַּ֖עַר. G-d only hears him, but he doesn’t see G-d.
Twice in this parsha, we find that Yitzchak is mentioned as being in the vicinity of this same well, the Be’er Lachai Ro’ee. First time is when Rivka comes to meet Yitzhak: that is where Yitzhak was, when he was inaugurating the Minha prayer for eternity. Second time is when Yitzhak brought (Ketorah) Hagar to marry his father Avraham, after Sarah died. But what was the significance of this place?
Yitzhak knew that this place connected to Hagar had holiness in it. He knew that he needed to fix, to correct and repair the prayers of Hagar; after all, both Yitzhak and Hagar share the same gematria, of 208. When Avraham was with Yitzhak facing Har Hamoriah, ready to sacrifice Yitzhak, Avraham and Yitzhak saw G-d and His Cloud, while Yishmael and Eliezer did not see either G-d or His Cloud there. Avraham said to both of them, since you don’t see, and the donkey which is such a lowly animal does not see, both of you are like donkeys! Stay behind with the donkey. (Midrash Raba 56 1-2). What was the meaning of this?
Yishmael does not see G-d in the difficult times, just like his mother Hagar does not see G-d in the difficult times. Avraham gives this holy mountain of the Jewish people’s prayer – a name. וַיִּקְרָ֧א אַבְרָהָ֛ם שֵֽׁם־הַמָּק֥וֹם הַה֖וּא יְקֹוָ֣ק׀ יִרְאֶ֑ה אֲשֶׁר֙ יֵאָמֵ֣ר הַיּ֔וֹם בְּהַ֥ר יְקֹוָ֖ק יֵרָאֶֽה: And Avraham called the name of that place YKVK will see, that it will be said from today onwards, in the Mountain (of Moriah) Hashem will be seen. Yitzhak sees G-d even in hard times, while Yishmael calls out to G-d in hard times, and sees G-d only after G-d answers his prayers. That is the fundamental difference between Hagar’s prayer and Yitzhak’s prayer. And that is what Yitzhak was doing: fixing Hagar’s prayer, at Be’er Lachai Ro’ee.
We pray, not to be answered, but to see G-d in the hard times, and to connect to Hm. Yishmael was promised that his prayers would be answered, and he has Avraham’s mistaken prayer of ל֥וּ יִשְׁמָעֵ֖אל יִחְיֶ֥ה לְפָנֶֽיךָ: keeping him around till the End of Days. (Zohar) He has the merit of the Brit Milah to be in the Land of Israel, until that merit runs out. (Zohar) He is what G-d uses to bring about judgement on the Jewish People, as he was born when Avraham was 86, the numerical value of Elokim, G-d’s Name of Judgment. When we see G-d in the hard times, in times of judgement, then the prayers of Yishmael are not answered. Yishmael’s prayers Allahu Akbar, are answered, only when we are not praying or learning. It is so interesting, how my sons in Yeshivat Hebron told me, that there was a sign put up in Yeshiva, a request from the IDF. “Please have students learn and pray from the hours 2 a.m. till 5 a.m., taking rotations! The IDF soldiers who are getting attacked in Gaza, are all getting hurt or dying, from 2 a.m. till 5 a.m., when no one is learning or praying! This war, is a war that is battling out the merits of Yitzhak vs. Yishmael’s prayers!
It is so interesting how the Shaharit prayer was inaugurated by Avraham, and his prayer was specifically for the people of Sodom – a prayer that was never answered! It was a prayer that Avraham knew had almost no hope, for G-d had already checked out Sodom and made His decision after His research. אֵֽרֲדָה־נָּ֣א וְאֶרְאֶ֔ה הַכְּצַעֲקָתָ֛הּ הַבָּ֥אָה אֵלַ֖י עָשׂ֣וּ׀ כָּלָ֑ה וְאִם־לֹ֖א אֵדָֽעָה: So, what was this Shaharit prayer even about?
Another question. G-d explains why He felt it was important to tell Avraham about the destruction of Sodom. Avraham will be a forefather of a big nation. וַֽיקֹוָ֖ק אָמָ֑ר הַֽמְכַסֶּ֤ה אֲנִי֙ מֵֽאַבְרָהָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֖ר אֲנִ֥י עֹשֶֽׂה Hashem asked, How will I hide from Avraham what I am doing? וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם הָי֧וֹ יִֽהְיֶ֛ה לְג֥וֹי גָּד֖וֹל וְעָצ֑וּם וְנִ֨בְרְכוּ־ב֔וֹ כֹּ֖ל גּוֹיֵ֥י הָאָֽרֶץ And Avraham will be a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the land will be blessed through him… Why is that a reason for G-d to tell Avraham about the destruction of Sodom?!
There was once a retired man in a clothing store, and it took him a long time to find a suit to buy. He noticed how a younger man came in and bought a suit within fifteen minutes. He turned to the younger fellow and asked him how he bought a suit so fast. The man answered, “Simple. I have 5 boys at home. If the suit does not fit one, it will fit the next one. You don’t have any boys at home, so if the suit will not fit you, it will go to the garbage!”
G-d knew that this prayer to save Sodom had no chance. Avraham’s praying was to see G-d, through His Judgement, and to bring awareness of G-d to the Universe. If the prayer wasn’t answered, it didn’t mean it did not work. Prayer is ברומו של עולם ; it will be reserved in the highest place in Heaven for something else, in the right place, and the right time. Being that Avraham will have so many descendants, those prayers for Sodom will have somewhere to go!
And those prayers did get to good use!
Who came out of Sodom? Who survived? Lot and his daughters, who ended up to be the ancestors of Ruth, who was the grandmother of King David, and the Forefather of Mashiach!!!
Yitzhak specifically set up the prayer of Minha, the prayer that is symbolic of the End of Days, at the well of Be’er Lechai Ro’ee, the spiritual place of Yishmael. It is not clear where this place is. (Although it is most probably ‘Ein Avdat) What is the connection between the prayers at the end of days and the spirituality of Yishmael, and G-d answering Yishmael’s prayers?
As long as Yishmael’s merit lasts, his prayers can do something. The Baal Haturim says, at the end of our Parasha, that Yishmael died “on the face of all his brothers”. עַל־פְּנֵ֥י כָל־אֶחָ֖יו נָפָֽל. This is adjacent to the words of the beginning of the next parasha, וְאֵ֛לֶּה תּוֹלְדֹ֥ת יִצְחָ֖ק, these are the chronicles of Yitzhak – to teach us that at the End of Days, when Yishmael falls Mashiach ben David, Yitzhak’s descendant, will sprout forth. We just need to keep on praying! Relentlessly! That is all we can do! The Rambam )1138-1204) wrote, in Iggeret Teiman, in his days of difficult times with Yishmael, that our greatest enemy is Yishmael. “The way to deal with the oppression of Yishmael is, like the Midrash says, hidden in the names of Yishmael’s sons וּמִשְׁמָ֥ע וְדוּמָ֖ה וּמַשָּֽׂא: The Midrash says, שאנו שומעין חרפתינו ושותקין ונושאין עולם ודוממין. ועליהם אמרה תורה אוי מי יחיה משמו אל (במדבר כד, כג), אוי למי שיחיה במלכות ישמעאל. That when we hear our disgrace (Pro Palestinian riots?) we are to remain silent, and bear the world’s view and to keep our silence. And regarding Yishmael, it says, Woe is to the one who lives in the times of Yishmael’s rule.
This is all so strange, to say that the last of the Galut will be to deal with Yishmael. After all, the passuk says, וְעָל֤וּ מֽוֹשִׁעִים֙ בְּהַ֣ר צִיּ֔וֹן לִשְׁפֹּ֖ט אֶת־הַ֣ר עֵשָׂ֑ו וְהָיְתָ֥ה לַֽיקֹוָ֖ק הַמְּלוּכָֽה That at the end, the Jews will lead, in Har Tzion, after Esav, not after Yishmael!? And how are we supposed to ever get rid of terror, if we are just to keep quiet?
If you want to get rid of terror, don’t read Netanyahu’s books! He still did not figure it out! He feels that it is his responsibility to protect his country and he failed! How foolish of him! No one can protect G-d’s Nation, except G-d! No one will ever get rid of terror, as G-d created terror for us to pray to Him! Only G-d will get rid of terror, all by Himself! The Arabs will kill each other, while Esav will be involved. This is all clearly stated in the Midrash, Pesikta Rabti (Piska 36). אמר רבי יצחק שנה שמלך המשיח נגלה בו כל מלכי האומות העולם מתגרים זה בזה, מלך פרס מתגרה במלך ערביא, R’ Yitzhak said, the year that King Mashiach will come, all of the kings of the world will be involved in a cold war. The king of Iran will start with the king of Saudi Arabia. והולך מלך ערביא לאדום ליטול עצה מהם וחוזר מלך פרס ומחריב את כל העולם כולו, And the king of Saudi Arabia will go to take advice from Edom (Esav) (USA? U.N.?), and then, the king of Iran will destroy the whole world! וכל אומות העולם מתרעשים ומתבהלים ונופלים על פניהם ויאחוז אותם צירים כצירי יולדה, וישראל מתרעשים ומתבהלים ואומרים להיכן נלך ולהיכן נבוא, And all the nations of the world, will be petrified, and they will fall on their faces, and they will be so scared, they will have birth-pang like feelings. And Yisrael, will be petrified, saying, where should we run to?! (Sounds familiar? People ran from Israel to USA, and now they want to run back to Israel!) ואומר להם בניי אל תתייראו כל מה שעשיתי לא עשיתי אלא בשבילכם, מפני מה אתם מתייראים אל תיראו הגיע זמן גאולתכם, And G-d says to them, My sons! Don’t fear! All that I did, I did for you! Why are you afraid? The time of your redemption has come!
All G-d wants from us, is to pray with our whole soul, that we see Him in these hard times, and He will redeem us!