Community Magazine September 2021

HOW TO GET YOUR PRAYERS ANSWERED Rabbi Eli Mansour Reveals t he Secret 12 COMMUNITY MAGAZINE Words of Rabbi Eli J. Mansour לעילוי נשמתם של משה בן עליזה, יצחק הלל בן עליזה, והנרייט לאה בת עליזה, דוד בן גילה, רבקה בת גילה, יהושע בן גילה, משה בן גילה, שרה בת גילה, יעקב בן גילה, ואליאנה בת גילה. ולרפואה שלמה ליוסף בן אהובה מסעודה, שילת אהובה בת עליזה, ודניאל בן עליזה. The Yamim Noraim (High Holidays) are upon us, the time when we take stock of the year that has passed, make commitments for the new year, and come before Gd to express our wishes for the coming year. We bring with us a list of requests – typically, requests for financial security, for our children’s success, for health, for shidduchim for our unmarried children, and so on. With the world still struggling through a pandemic, this list might be longer, and the requests more urgent, than in normal years. The Zohar makes a comment which, at first glance, appears to be telling us that this entire enterprise is wrong and misguided, that we are not to present to Gd our personal pleas for the upcoming year. In this passage, the Zohar strongly condemns those who “bark hav like a dog.” The Aramaic word “ hav ” means “give me,” and those who repeatedly say, “ Hav ” sound like they mimic the barking of a dog. The Zohar teaches that it is wrong to come before Gd “like a dog,” asking for all the things we want – financial success, joy from our children, good health, and so on. Wemust ask, why is this the case? Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do? Especially this time of year, are we not expected to beseech Gd for a favorable judgment? We might also wonder why the Zohar compares someone who presents these requests to a dog. Why do people deserve to be called animals for praying to Gd to fulfill their wishes and grant them their needs? Hannah’s Prayer On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we read a special haftarah – the story of Hannah, the mother of the prophet Shemuel (from the first chapter of the Book of Shemuel I). After being unable to conceive for many years, Hannah recited a stirring, heartfelt prayer to Gd outside the Mishkan . This prayer is regarded as the prototype of Jewish prayer; the Gemara in Masechet Berachot derives a number of crucial halachot relevant to prayer from the description of Hannah’s tearful petition. For example, Hannah prayed with her lips moving but inaudibly – from which the Sages learned that we must enunciate each word, but pray quietly, without being heard. But what makes Hannah’s prayer particularly instructive is a different element. She pledged to Gd that if she would be blessed with a son, she would “give him to Gd his entire life.” Hannah fulfilled this pledge when, several years after her child, Shemuel, was born, she brought him to the Mishkan and gave him to the kohen gadol , Eli. After desperately yearning for a child, and finally being blessed with a boy, she did not even keep him at home. In fulfillment of her vow, she placed him in the service of the Mishkan , where he grew to become one of the greatest religious leaders our nation has ever known. This demonstrates to us something critically important about prayer: if we want our prayers to be effective, we must ask for Gd’s sake, and not for our own sake. Just as Hannah begged for a child not to enjoy him at home, but rather so that he would be devoted to Gd’s service – so must we beseech Gd for His blessings, not for our personal enjoyment, but rather to help us more effectively serve Gd. This might sound very lofty and unrealistic – and, indeed, none of us can really expect to reach Hannah’s level of sincerity – but we need to try. We should ask for health because illness makes it very