Thursday, December 15, 2016

PARSHAS VAYISHLACH 5777



“RABBI’S MUSINGS (& AMUSINGS)”
Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayishlach   
16 Kislev 5777/ December 16, 2016

Last Shabbos, the President of our shul, R’ Yossi Goldman, reminded the kehilla that Sunday evening would be December 4th, and we would begin reciting v’sayn Tal Umatar in the ma’ariv Shemoneh Esrei.
 As R’ Yossi made the announcement, I noticed two Israeli guests who were visiting for Shabbos, look at each other and snicker. In Eretz Yisroel they began saying V’sayn Tal Umatar shortly after Succos, on the 7th of Cheshvan. They therefore found it comical that we in Chutz L’aretz were only beginning to recite it now.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago. When I mentioned to him that we were beginning to say tal umatar that night, he rolled his eyes and said, “Here we go again”. When I asked him what the big deal was, he replied that from the summer on, he felt like he was always having to repeat Shemoneh Esrei. For the first ten days of the year (from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur) he often forgot to say Hamelech Hakadosh, so he had to repeat Shemoneh Esrei. Throughout Succos, half the time he forgot Yaaleh V’yavo and had to repeat Shemoneh Esrei. Then, after Succos was over, he had to contend with remembering to say Mashiv Haruach. He usually forgot a bunch of times during the first few weeks, necessitating his repeating Shemoneh Esrei. When he finally got used to saying Mashiv Haruach and ‘prayer life’ seemed to return to normal, December 4th came around, and with it a whole new period of forgetting Tal Umatar, and having to repeat Shemoneh Esrei.
He looked at me with frustration and asked, “Why couldn’t the Sages have mercy, and just keep the whole Shemoneh Esrei uniform throughout the year?” I replied that although each insertion had its own reason based on the time of the year, perhaps the Sages also wanted to ensure that we don’t daven Shemoneh Esrei on auto-pilot. Perhaps they felt it would be a side-benefit to compel us to be more vigilant as we davened and have to pay attention to what we are saying.
Rav Shimshon Pinkus zt’l (Tiferes Torah – Toldos) notes that in regards to human interactions, persistent requests are viewed as vexing and irksome. If a person asks another for something on a few occasions and was rejected, continuing to ask is rude, to say the least. Just ask any parent who has whining children. (I wouldn’t know; I heard about this from friends).
In regards to prayer and davening to Hashem however, it is altogether different. Although we repeat the same words of prayer every single day – in fact, three times a day – Hashem never tires of hearing them. In fact, the opposite is true, for the whole purpose of prayer is to connect ourselves with Hashem through communicating with Him. There is no greater nachas that He has than when we turn to Him in sincere prayer and supplication.
Does a spouse ever tire of hearing a sincere and meaningful compliment? Do parents ever tire hearing their children tell them that they love them? That is how Hashem views our tefillos.
Therefore, it behooves us to ensure that our prayers are not recited emotionlessly and callously. True, we might not know what many of the words mean. But if we pray with an underlying sentiment that we want to connect with Hashem, that is more precious before Him than anything else.
We need to remind ourselves that He never tires of hearing it, so that we will never tire of saying it – with vitality and love. 

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum       

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