THE ART OF HEARTFELT PRAYER
Parashat Mattot Masei
R’ Y. Eibshitz (1694- 1764 Prague) was once challenged by the king of his day. “In your books, it says that Mashiach will come as a poor person riding a donkey. גִּילִ֨י מְאֹ֜ד בַּת־צִיּ֗וֹן הָרִ֙יעִי֙ בַּ֣ת יְרוּשָׁלִַ֔ם הִנֵּ֤ה מַלְכֵּךְ֙ יָ֣בוֹא לָ֔ךְ צַדִּ֥יק וְנוֹשָׁ֖ע ה֑וּא עָנִי֙ וְרֹכֵ֣ב עַל־חֲמ֔וֹר וְעַל־עַ֖יִר בֶּן־אֲתֹנֽוֹת Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion, blow your trumpets daughter of Jerusalem: for your king (Messiah) will come to you, he is just and victorious, a poor man (symbolic of the lack of merits of the Jewish Nation), riding on a donkey, (symbolic of humility) and upon a colt – the foal of a donkey. (Zecharia 9;9) Do you really believe that your Messiah will come as a frail man riding a donkey, and rule over all the kings of the world?!?!
R Y. Eibshitz responded that the king was asking him a difficult question to answer. He needed two months. He further requested that, at the end of the two months, each of the king’s ministers come to the king’s court with a nice, big turkey. He added, I, myself, will also come with a turkey, and with an answer to your question. The anticipated day arrived, and each minister came with a fat, hefty turkey, a turkey that they had fattened for two months. R Y. Eibshitz, also, showed up with a turkey, but a very weak, frail one. So weak and frail, you could barely see that it was from the same species as the other turkeys.
The king was puzzled… “What next?” R. Y. answered: “Tell all your ministers to bring all of the turkeys into a big room. I will also bring my turkey.” The minute that the poor, weak turkey of R.Y. noticed the other turkeys it was on the floor with, it ran into a corner of the room and hid behind an oven, frightened of its fate. The king and all his ministers stood around in a circle watching and waiting to see what was going to happen. Suddenly, R. Y. pulled out of his pocket a handful of seeds and threw it in the middle of the circle. The turkeys started fighting with each other, pecking at each other with their beaks, whacking each other with their wings, scratching with their claws… A half hour later, tens of turkeys lay on the floor, wiped out, breathing their last breaths… Suddenly, R. Y.’s frail turkey came out of his hiding place from behind the oven, and with cautious steps, walked over to the pile of seeds waiting for him in the middle of the circle. On its way, it trampled over turkeys that, not long before, it had been afraid even to look at.
R.Y. explained to the king that if G-d wants, He just throws something into the world that causes the biggest nations to fight, to compete, to eat each other alive… All the kings, all the presidents, all the governments, all the businesses, all the economies will tumble over each other, and Mashiach will come on his donkey, with his humility, a poor man, and rule the world without a gun, bomb, or war. Mashiach will not rely on anything, except for G-d alone. He won’t rely on the Jews’ merits, as he is ‘poor’, in the sense, that the Jews don’t have enough merit to be redeemed. The Final Redemption will be the work of G-d alone.
לְעֹ֮שֵׂ֤ה נִפְלָא֣וֹת גְּדֹל֣וֹת לְבַדּ֑וֹ כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ To Him Who alone performs great wonders, for His kindness endures, forever. (Tehillim 136;4) Of course G-d does wonders alone!? Who helps him? The answer is that G-d waits to do His thing, He waits to bring His amazing wonders, until we realize that He is alone, that He does not need anything or anyone to help Him. He does not need our help, or anyone else’s help. Not the help of doctors, lawyers, iron-domes, presidents, police, a good economy, Uncle Sam or Amazon. קָר֣וֹב יְ֭קֹוָק לְכָל־קֹרְאָ֑יו לְכֹ֤ל אֲשֶׁ֖ר יִקְרָאֻ֣הוּ בֶאֱמֶֽת: G-d is close to all that call Him, to all that call Him sincerely. (Tehillim 145) What does that mean, to all that call Him sincerely? What would mean not sincerely?
The fifth of the 13 principles of being a practicing Jew is אֲנִי מַאֲמִין בֶּאֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵמָה, שֶׁהַבּורֵא יִתְבָּרַךְ שְׁמו לו לְבַדּו רָאוּי לְהִתְפַּלֵּל, וְאֵין רָאוּי לְהִתְפַּלֵּל לְזוּלָתו. I believe with a complete belief that the Creator, may His name be blessed, to Him alone, is it fit to pray, and it is not fit to pray to any other. The Only One who can help me is G-d. He is the Boss of all bosses, the King of all kings, President of all presidents, the Doctor of all doctors, Teacher of all teachers, Advisor of all advisors. When the doctors give up, when the police give up, when the stock market gives up, when there is no one anymore to turn to, to hope for, then you can call G-d’s Name sincerely, באמת!!!
I will never forget the time I prayed Shaharit at sunrise by the Kotel. I needed help from G-d with a project I was involved in. As I was praying, I noticed that standing right behind me was one of the richest Jews in the world, a good man from the Syrian community I grew up in. I noticed that my eyes were set on two places: on the Kotel, and on this guy behind me. If only G-d could help me approach this person and get some aid for this project that I am passionate about. Then, I realized how dumb of me!!! This man, himself, is coming to G-d for help! He, also, needs G-d! All I need is G-d, I do not need G-d to help me through this good rich Jew behind me! That is what G-d is waiting for. For us to make him King over the whole world, over every source of help we rely on that we think can help us. To call to Him, and only to Him, and then, our prayers will be real. באמת!
We polish off our every prayer with these words and this recognition. יִֽהְי֥וּ לְרָצ֨וֹן׀ אִמְרֵי־פִ֡י וְהֶגְי֣וֹן לִבִּ֣י לְפָנֶ֑יךָ יְ֝קֹוָ֗ק צוּרִ֥י וְגֹאֲלִֽי: YKVK is my Rock, and my Redeemer. I don’t have another rock to rely on, or another redeemer to save me. אין לנו מלך אלא אתה We do not have any king, other than You! No one that we turn to actually has the ability to save us, except You! And that is when G-d answers our every prayer – העונה לעמו ישראל בעת שוועם אליו He answers His Nation Israel when they pray TO HIM! And only HIM! There is no better way to serve G-d than to peel off everything you rely on, and pray only to Him, relying only upon Him.
We learn the power of a sincere, heartfelt prayer, a prayer that comes from a place of total dependency, from the man who killed unintentionally and is confined to the city of refuge, until the day that the Kohen Gadol dies. וְיָ֣שַׁב בָּ֗הּ עַד־מוֹת֙ הַכֹּהֵ֣ן הַגָּדֹ֔ל (Bamidbar 35;25) The Mishna teaches that the mother of the Kohen Gadol would supply food and clothing to these unintentional killers so that they wouldn’t pray that the Kohen Gadol die. (Makkot 11a)
What?!? Just because the killer now has a supply of food and clothing, he won’t pray that the Kohen Gadol die? He can’t step one foot out of the city of refuge! He can’t see his family! And another question… Is the mother of the Kohen Gadol really worried that G-d is going to answer the prayers of this unintentional killer and bring about the death of her Kohen Gadol son?!
The answer is, YES!!! One question answers the other. Even an unintentional killer who prays with his whole heart, who has nothing else to rely on other than G-d bringing the death of the Kohen Gadol, G-d is close to those prayers!!! The mother of the Kohen Gadol can help stop that, though. If she supplies food and clothing to this man, he won’t rely on G-d, alone. He will also rely on the Kohen Gadol’s mother!!! He won’t pray with his whole heart that G-d bring the death of the Kohen Gadol, and G-d is not close to those prayers!
When we stop relying on Uncle Sam, we can start relying on G-d, and our prayers will be answered. כִּ֤י מִ֣י אֱ֭לוֹהַּ מִבַּלְעֲדֵ֣י יְקֹוָ֑ק וּמִ֥י צ֝֗וּר זוּלָתִ֥י אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ: For who is a god other than YKVK? And who is Rock, other than our G-d? (Tehillm 18)
Selfie steps to sincere prayer:
- To pray properly, you have to understand that not only G-d loves you, but His love for you is infinite.
- To really talk to G-d, you need to know He is willing and able to do it all. He has all the right connections.
- Anticipate that G-d wants to help you. Anything that you could ask Him for is infinitesimally small compared to what He has already given to you.
- G-d is not hurt when we ignore Him. We are. G-d has no needs and doesn’t need a relationship with us. It is we who need a relationship with Him. Our greatest pleasure is being in touch with G-d. That’s why He arranges small mishaps to get our attention. All for our own benefit.