Wednesday, March 16, 2011

So, nuuu??? Where are my tefillot going???

Some of you might've had a great davening yesterday. Or maybe last week. Maybe last year. 2 years ago? But if you ever had a GREAT davening, you REMEMBER it. "Oh boy, how I cried that day to my Father in Heaven." Or "wow, I remember that time when I read the whole sefer Tehillim" or the whole section of "Yom Rishon" in Tehillim, or maybe the first time you read Perek Shira or Shir Hashirim or Iggeret HaRamban. Or perhaps that day that you were quite meticulous with shmoneh esreh and enounciated all the words clearly, didn't allow your thoughts to drift to irrelevant matters, and had all of the right kavanot.
Point is - everyone remembers the enthusiastic times.
And yet - some of us might wonder, wait a minute...when did I ever get answered?

Maybe you cried and prayed with INTENSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSEEEE kavana asking for your special holy zivug hagun, and what happened?? A shadchan called you the next day and...suggested a person who is totally not shayach! HaShem, what's up with that? What's going on?

(Or better yet, the shadchan suggests someone who you go out with, think is amazing, but OH WAIT he's not interested. Hypothetically, of course.) :D

Rabbi Fischel Shachter told over a beautiful story. There was a frum gal who, like just about all of the single frum ladies in their early 20s, wanted to get married. A relative of hers told her "Chanale, Purim is coming up. You know that Purim is a huge zman tefillah - it's an amazing opportunity for HaShem to answer your tefillot. Pray with much kavana." Chana was inspired to pray that Purim. She had so much to ask for, particularly--her special zivug. She recited the whole book of Tehillim, prayed Shemoneh Esreh, and davened everything carefully and with MUCH kavana.
After Purim, she was certain her tefillot went straight to Shamayim and was expecting results soon.
She waited.

And waited.

Right before the next Purim was approaching, her relative called her, again. "Chanale, remember - Purim is such an important and special day for prayer! Pray. Pray your heart out."
Chana, a bit disheartened from dating, still had emunah. She was determined to pray intensely, and thought, "THIS Purim will be my last Purim as a single lady."
And so, Purim came.
She prayed. The whole sefer Tehillim! Again. She made sure to concentrate and clearly recite all of the precious words. She felt so connected to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
Purim was over. Chana was on a high. She was sure HaShem wouldn't let her down. She envisioned meeting her zivug any day that week...or next week...or perhaps in a few months. But SOON.
She was already envisioning her wedding.
much like the year before, no zivug. No engagement. No Wedding. No husband.

Well, next Purim was approaching. Her relative called her and told her a third time - "Chanale! Purim is so soon. Remember to daven!!! DAVEN!!!!"

C'mon, really? She said the whole sefer Tehillim last Purim. And the Purim before that.
She had so much kavana during shacharit, mincha, etc. She was happy. She cried. She had spent the whole day praying! Tefillah wise, She had done nearly all that she possibly could on Purim.
And she was. Still single. Still a half of a whole.

Why was this year going to be different?
She didn't give up, though. She prayed that Purim. Again, the whole sefer Tehillim, with much kavana.

And some time before the next Purim, she found her zivug. They dated, got engaged, and got married.

A year later, Purim was approaching again, and she was now happily preparing Mishloach Manot with her husband. She gazed at him and smiled.
"You know, Purim is the reason we got married." She said.

Her husband looked very surprised and told her "wait a minute, I never told you the story about Purim? How did you know that?"

Chana listened anxiously, as her husband unfolded his secret journey:
"I wasn't always the same person that you know today. I used to be different. As you know, I grew up frum, but around 5 years ago, I started hanging out with the wrong crowd. Unfortunately, Torah and mitzvot were no longer prevalent in my life.
Purim was approaching, and I wasn't planning on celebrating it at all. My friends and I passed a Beit Midrash, and we saw people dancing, singing, and celebrating. My friends sneered and said 'let's join and get crazy drunk.'
So, we went inside. I was just planning to have a couple of drinks and leave, but suddenly, I felt my neshama bursting out. My friends wanted to leave, but I stayed. I rejoiced in Purim and felt HaShem again. I cried out 'HaShem, please keep me away from the people who are drawing me away from You! I want to walk in the right Jewish path again!'
I was determined to become a better person.

However, my resolution didn't last for long. I found myself back on the streets with the wrong crowd.
Next Purim came, and at night, as my friends and I were on the streets, a bunch of bachurim were celebrating and saw us. They figured out that we're Jewish and joyously escorted us with them to the Shul. As we were dancing, just like the year before, I felt the holiness of Purim again. My heart stirred, and I wanted to yell 'HaShem, make me close to You again! Please keep me away from the evil path of life!"
I was so set on disinvolving myself from my bad influences. I told myself: 'I will be better now! I'm a changed man.'

But similar to the year before, I went back to my old ways.
I was lost and caught up again by my yetzer hara.

Soon enough it was Purim again. Lo and behold, I found my way back into a Shul again. I had more fire in me than ever before. I felt HaShem, and now I was beyond determined. I prayed to Him that I find guidance and the right derech. The last 2 years didn't stick but...
baruch HaShem, I stayed on the derech that year. I became fully frum again and worked on myself, constantly growing better.

Once I was solid in my fundamentals, I was ready to get married. And then HaShem sent you to me."
Now, I don't really know what Chana responded after that part. But I can imagine that she was like WHOA. So my tefillot WERE working -- I was praying, not just to meet him, but for him to reach the state of maturity and readiness to truly be my zivug.
Finally, she received closure for all the lack of clarity that existed during those bitter periods of singlehood.

When I heard this story (the 2nd time), I was really moved. A lot of times we pray with sincere and intense kavana. We beg HaShem and pour our hearts out, and after we're finished, we're 100% positive that we've made an impression and a change will soon occur in our lives.
And yet...
we find ourselves stuck in the same position, with our predicament not changing.
However, our predicament IS changing - we just don't see the results yet. When Chana was praying for her zivug, she had no idea that he wasn't ready yet. She was praying for herself. And when she didn't see results for HERSELF, she felt a sense of failure.
But failure is far from the reality! Had she not prayed, who knows when her zivug would've been ready? By praying for herself, she was really praying for the well-being of her other half.

She thought her tefillot weren't being answered, but they were. And what would have happened if she had just stopped praying? Perhaps her zivug would have never been ready. Or would have became ready 10 years later.
Her strong tefillot every single Purim are what led her zivug to reach his true potential and become worthy of meeting her at the most appropiate time possible.

This Taanit Esther & Purim, we have an amazing opportunity. We can pray for Klal Yisrael, for ourselves, our families, shalom bayit, parnassah, zivugim, refua shlemah, doing teshuva, mashiach, etc.!
Purim day is one of the biggest days (if not the ultimate day) for Tefillah. In fact, Yom Kippur, such a holy day -- is compared to Purim. "Yom Kippur" is "Yom K'Purim" - a day LIKE Purim.
We have the potential to reach the highest heights of closeness to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. We don't have to be Rabbanim or huge tzadikim to reach this lofty height. We just need to be willing to pray and form a connection. If we do, there's no limit to the impact we can make.
Even if we don't see the impact right away, that doesn't mean that HaShem is not "working" on your case. HaShem runs the world, and He knows what He's doing! We must never feel disheartened. There is ALWAYS a solution and "refua" waiting. Remember, HaShem never creates the maka (plague) without the refua (salavation/recovery).

This story also works well with the concept of nistar. HaShem's Name isn't mentioned even once in the Megillah, yet if we delve more closely, He's alluded to in EVERY SINGLE pasuk!
On Purim, we dress up in costumes. If a person wears an animal mask and furry outfit, he's barely recognizable. But is that person still the same person inside? Of course! On the surface, his identity is hidden, but if one looks deeper - he'll see that the man behind the animal mask, in fact, his friend.
That's the concept of "nistar" - HaShem is hidden from us, but it doesn't mean that His essence of goodness is not here. He's always with us, we just need to take a closer look and find Him in our every day lives.
There is NEVER a hopeless situation. Please remember that in regards to whatever problem it is that you're dealing with in life!

May all of our Tefillot be answered l'tova, and may the holiness of chodesh Adar and Purim bring us all closer to HaShem! :)


  1. This post actually gave me the chills. Amazing chizuk. Thanks for posting!

  2. What an amazing story!!

    In high school, we had a sub who told us a similar story tying in to the idea that it's never too EARLY to daven for your zivug!! Daven that he should have a good day, he should make the right decisions...all these tefillos will help him be ready to meet you at the right time and that you'll be on the same page when you meet!!

  3. SternGrad - I was nearly speechless when I heard the story! Even better in it's original form :)

    Devorah - one of the best shiurim I heard at seminary was by a Rabbi who taught us about the pasuk from Mishlei: "Chochmat Nashim Banta Beita" (The wisdom of a wife can save/build a household)
    And he told us to start davening for our zivug - even though we know we're not getting married for at least several months. Just daven that he's doing well, learning, on the right derech, happy, keeping healthy, etc.

    "Daven that he should have a good day, he should make the right decisions" -- Devorah, that's such a beautiful concept!!! Thank you for sharing. I'm loving the idea of praying for him (and any Jew!!) to have a good day.

  4. Now a couple of things.
    1) @SG-Is this post among the posts that you were deciding if you should post? If yes, what is so bad about it? If no, does that mean you have decided not to post those?

    2) If this is true, can someone please tell my zivug to daven a little harder? I could really use it right now...

    3) Is it just me or does that chart on the side feel like one great way to take away everyone's anonymity? Also, I am pretty sure I am not in Brooklyn right now...

  5. Azriel Tzvi-
    1) No, it wasn't among those posts.
    I still haven't decided whether or not to post them.
    2) :)
    3) Okay, okay! Due to complaints, I removed it. I was trying to experiment, but I suppose one shouldn't experiment at the expense of others...

  6. This post was very though-provoking. It reflects the concept that no Tefilla is in vain, Hashem hears and accepts it, even though it may not be visible to our restricted perception. We don't know what kind of commotion transpires in Shamayim with every tear that falls onto the pages of our siddur.

    I think a practical approach to strengthening oneself regarding continuing to daven is to recognize and internalize that it is only Hashem who truly understands the situation we find ourselves in...and, it is only He who can assist us in whatever salvation we patiently await.

  7. Tika4eva - first off, you really write beautifully. Great choice of diction :)

    "I think a practical approach to strengthening oneself regarding continuing to daven is to recognize and internalize that it is only Hashem who truly understands the situation we find ourselves in...and, it is only He who can assist us in whatever salvation we patiently await."
    Well said. I remember once hearing that if we only knew how much HaShem loves us and understands us...we'd never be sad, disappointed, or depressed.

    Rabbi Zelig Pliskin writes in his book Growth Through Tehillim that many times, a person is in need to release steam and talk to a friend. It's a huge mitzvah for the friend to listen to his problems. When one has a heavy heart and has nobody to talk to, he feels alone and empty. It's such a terrible feeling.
    But we're never alone - we always have HaShem. HaShem is that friend to talk to, except He's always there. And He has more power and ability than any other friend because He not only listens to our issues but also can help us and change the situation for the better.

  8. Sefardi Gal:
    "Purim is a huge zman tefillah"

    Somebody please correct me if I am wrong, but the concept that prayers recited on Purim have a special advantage is not mentioned in: Tanach, Mishnah, Talmud or any Rabbis who lived before Shulchan Aruch was written. This belief seems to have started with Chasidic Rabbis.

  9. Mr. Cohen - if I'm not mistaken, Chazal mention that Purim and Yom Kippur will be the only chagim celebrated during the times of Mashiach. The Gra teaches that Yom Kippur is compared to Purim.
    The connection between Purim and Yom Kippur teaches us that just like tefillah is crucial on Yom Kippur, so too on Purim.

  10. Also - it's a very Kabbalistic concept. Very powerful.
    I strongly suggest this shiur:

  11. I am pretty sure that the first person to come up with the famous yom ha"kippur"im vort was the ariz"l.
    That being said, the ariz"l lived about the same time as rav Yosef Caro, he was before the chassidim.

  12. Yalkut Shimoni on Mishlei / Proverbs, chapter 9, Remez 944:

    All of the holidays are destined to be annulled except for Purim.

    (שכל המועדים עתידין ליבטל וימי הפורים אינן בטלים לעולם)

  13. Rav Brevda says that one of the lessons we should take from the megillah is the power of tefillah - it was only once Mordechai gathered all the Jewish children together and davened that the yeshuah came about.

  14. @Devorah- I am all for quoting Rav Brevda, as I am a major addict of his seforim, but what you just said is a straight up Gemara in Megillah.
    Where did you hear that from anyway?

  15. AT-I read it in "The Miracles of Purim" by Rav Brevda. It's in English and really good as I'm sure you know. I don't learn gemara but I'm sure he mentioned the source.

  16. @Devorah- I have the hebrew version of the sefer "Kimu V'Kiblu." As far as I know, the english 2 book set is just 4 or 5 chapters out of the 11 chapter sefer. The other chapters are well worth it.

    Also, if you like Rav Brevda, you should really check out my blog, I quote him about every third dvar torah. bH I get to him a number of times a year because he speaks pretty close to my house.

    I actually just restarted reading his sefer on the seder "Leil Shimurim." If your interested, I typed up a 15 page summary of it last year.