Monday, June 30, 2008


The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Sotah 37a) had stated that Yehudah sanctified God’s Name in public. The Gemora cites a braisa: Rabbi Meir used to say: When the Jewish people stood by the Sea, the tribes were fighting with each other. Each one said that they would be the first one to jump in (as the Egyptians were behind them, and they had nowhere else to turn). The Tribe of Binyamin jumped and went down into the Sea first. The officers from the Tribe of Yehudah began to stone them. It was because of this that Binyamin the righteous merited to become the host to the Presence of the Almighty, as it says: And God rests between Binyamin’s shoulders (the Holy of Holies was located in Binyamin’s portion).

Rabbi Yehudah told Rabbi Meir: That was not the way the incident occurred; rather, each tribe said that they would not be the first one to jump in. It was at that point that Nachson the son of Aminadav (the Nasi from Yehudah) jumped and went down into the Sea first. At that moment, Moshe was praying at length. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to him, “My dear ones are drowning in the Sea, and you are prolonging in prayer before Me!” Moshe replied to Hashem, “What is there for me to do?” Hashem said to him, “Speak to the Jewish people and they should travel forward. You should lift up your staff and stretch out your arm over the Sea and split it.” It was because of this that Yehudah merited becoming the ruling power in Israel.

Rashi in Shmos (14:15) notes: Moshe was standing and praying. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, “This is no time to pray at length, when the Jewish people are in distress.” It would seem from Rashi that since they were distressed, it was not the proper time for a lengthy prayer; however, it was a time for prayer.

The Maharsha explains based upon the Gemora in Brochos (28b), which rules that if one finds himself in a dangerous place, he should pray with an abridged version.

The Maharal explains as follows: A person is not answered during his prayer. He is only answered when he concludes his prayer. This is what Hashem was telling Moshe. Now is not the time for lengthy prayers, for the Jewish people are in distress.

This requires clarification. If his prayer was worthy of answering, why couldn’t he be answered during his prayer? Why was there a necessity to wait for the conclusion of his prayer?

Rav Hutner in Pachad Yitzchak (Pesach; 14) cites a Medrash in Shmos Rabbah (21): Why did the Holy One, Blessed be He, place the Jewish people in such a predicament? It was because He desires to hear their prayers. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi offers the following parable: A king was traveling o the road when he hears the cries of a damsel in distress. “Help me,” she calls out, “Bandits are attacking me!” The king hears and comes to her rescue. After some time, the king wishes to marry this girl. He invites her to the palace, but she refuses to come. What does he do? He sends out a group of bandits to threaten her, and once again, she calls out to the king to be protected. The king says, “It is to hear your voice that I desired.”

It emerges from here that the prayer is not on account of the Jewish people’s distress; but rather, the suffering or anguish is brought about to stir us into prayer. Hashem wishes to hear our prayers. Reb Yeruchem Levovitz, the Mirrer Mashgiach used to state this principle to explain the following Gemora in Yevamos (64a): Hashem desires the prayers of the righteous. The Matriarchs were barren only so that they should pray to Hashem for children. Their desire for progeny caused the Matriarchs and the Patriarchs to pray to Hashem at a level that under normal circumstances they would not have done. This is why we cannot be answered in middle of a prayer, for then, the salvation will be interrupting the prayer, and the only reason Hashem brought about this situation is only because He wished to hear us pray.


Anonymous said...

Yasher koach. It is for this reason that the Gemara in Megillah states that after Moshiach arrives (es tzemach Dovid) then comes Tefillah. Even after we are redeemed we still have Tefillah.