Friday, April 03, 2015

"va’ta’al shav’asam... min ha’avodah" - a lesson in tefilah

The questions raised by the four sons we talk about in the haggadah can be asked and answered any time of the year.  So what’s special about the seder night?  Ba’avur zeh – b’sha’ah she’yeish matzah u’maror munachim lifanecha,” explains the Oheiv Yisrael, is a promise.  We tell our children lots of things all year long and they go in one ear and out the other.  The Torah is telling us that on this one night, things penetrate.

It is very hard to feel simchas Yom Tov when you see clearly how the world is lining up once again against their favorite enemy – the Jew.  It’s not time for a rant right now.  I just want to say something short about the koach of tefilah because we desperately need it.

First point: “Va’nitzak el Hashem… VaYishma Hashem es koleinu…”  R’ Chaim Kanievsky points out that Klal Yisrael were on the bottom of the 49 levels of tumah in Mitzrayim – that’s even worse than three-time-a-year Jews.  Nonetheless, the pasuk tells us that G-d listened to their tefilos.  Do not underestimate the power of sincere prayer.

Second point: “Va’yei’anchu Bnei Yisrael min ha’avodah va’yizaku va’ta’al shava’asam el haElokim min ha’avodah.”  Why the need to repeat “min ha’avodah” at the end of the pasuk?  The Radomsker explains that at first Bnei Yisrael were concerned only with their own pains of slavery, but then they realized there is an even greater pain than that – the pain of the Shechina that suffers in galus with us.  Va’yei’anchu” is like the word “naycha” – it was tolerated.  Bnei Yisrael put aside and were willing to tolerate their own pain and instead turned their thoughts and prayers to G-d’s pain.  The turned, “…el haElokim,” to focus on G-d's suffering, kavyachol, and away “min ha’avodah.”  Therefore, their prayers were answered.

Now let’s be honest -- to be more concerned with G-d’s pain, with ruchniyus, than your own suffering is a very high level indeed, one that most of us (at least me) might reach rarely.  It’s hard to think about G-d when someone is beating you.  It's hard to think about it even after a long day of normal work.  But before you get too depressed, Rav Pam, in the haggadah Mareh Kohen, quotes a yesod from the sefer Zechusa d’Avraham: if a person davens even one tefilah with the proper kavanah, that one tefilah elevates all the improper tefilos and ensures their delivery upstairs. 

He uses this yesod to say an amazing pshat in this same pasuk that the Radomsker spoke about.  We just need one other bit of introduction.  The Midrash comments on our pasuk that Pharoah was killing Jewish babies and bathing in their blood.  Why, asks the Parashas Derachim, does the Midrash stick this in here?  What does it have to do with the cries from the work of slavery?  So here’s how it works: “Va’yei’anchu… min ha’avodah…”  Sure, people prayed because they had hard work, they were physical oppressed, they suffered.  We all pray.  Shachris this morning took about 25 minutes despite the fact that President Y’mach Shemo yesterday practically said he is giving our enemy a nuclear weapon.  That type of tefilah is not going to make that much of a difference.  But when Pharoah started to kill Jewish babies, that’s a different story -- then, “vayizaku.”  The Zohar explains that “ze’aka” is the most intense type of tefilah, the deepest kind of cry.  Those tefilos were the real deal.  Suddenly people woke up and realized the danger they and their children were in.  They began to really pray.  The Midrash is explaining to us why Bnei Yisrael’s tefilos were accepted – there had to be a trigger to transform “vayei’anchu” into “vayizaku.”  Those prayers of "ze'aka" went straight upstairs, but, says Rav Pam, not only were those prayers of “ze’aka” accepted, but “va’ta’al shav’asam min ha’avodah,” even those prayers that they said earlier, even the 25 minute Shacharis, even the complaining that they did only because of their own suffering from the pains of slavery, even those prayers were now carried upstairs and accepted as well.  Once you begin to daven for real, even if it’s not the norm, those real tefilos cause all the other tefilos to go up with them.

I go to work at a regular job too, so I know what it’s like to be rushing through shacharis because you need to catch a train.  But what about davening on Shabbos and Yom Tov when there is no train?  These days are an opportunity to daven like you mean it, the real deal.  These tefilos can not only bring about tremendous things on their own, but can cause a tidal wave of tefilah as they carry all our less the perfect tefilos upstairs with them as well.  Hopefully they will all be answered.

1 comment:

  1. Rav Pam Hagadah is amazing. Nice to see it in your repertoire