Thursday, February 17, 2022

Parshas Ki Sisa 5782



Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Ki Sisa

17 Adar I 5782/February 18, 2022



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לרפואה שלימה נטע יצחק בן רחל



            When I was in Eretz Yisroel a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see my wonderful cousin, R’ Izak Cohn. As we both share a love of seforim, whenever we meet our discussion invariably turns to the newest seforim we purchased.

            When we spoke, Izak informed me that a Sefer called Me’chayei Abba - From the life of my Father, containing recollections of the Chofetz Chaim’s son about his father, has recently been reprinted.

            Over the next few days however, I couldn’t find the sefer in any of the seforim stores I visited (I had been to quite a few around Yerushalayim). Then, during the afternoon of one of my final days there, I was walking with my son in Yerushalayim when we met Izak. When I told Izak I couldn’t find the sefer, he smiled and said there was a famous seforim store right up the block from where we were standing, and that store had the sefer.

            A few minutes later I walked out of the seforim store holding the sefer Me’chayei Abba.

            During the flight home I was perusing a few pages and came across the following:

            “It was not his (the Chofetz Chaim) practice to say Tehillim every day, because he was very busy analyzing halachic matters…

            However, often just before dawn, he would pour out his heart to his Creator. Particularly during his old age, young men who slept in his home related that they would often awaken to the voice of the Chofetz Chaim conversing with Hashem in Yiddish, his first language.

            Someone close to the Mashgaich, Rav Don Segal, related to me that Rav Don noted that of all the many special places where one can daven in Eretz Yisroel, there is no more propitious place for prayer than Kever Rochel. I assume it is because the very reason Hashem caused Rochel to be buried there was to enable her descendants to daven at her kever.

            During my trip I went to daven at Kever Rochel. While reciting Tehillim there, a blind man was led in and positioned right next to me. Though I tried not to listen, because the blind man was standing so close to me, it was impossible for me not to overhear what he was saying. He didn’t have a Tehillim with braille. He faced the kever and simply began to speak. At some points he spoke in English, at other points he switched to Hebrew. Certain times he spoke to Hashem and at other times he addressed Rochel Imeinu asking her to intercede on his behalf. He mentioned names of people that were looking for shidduchim, hatzlocho, and health.

            I found it very inspiring. Rav Shimshon Pincus notes that the prayers of the Siddur and Tehillim are nuclear weapons. They have the power to accomplish incredible things, even if we don’t really know what we are saying. At the same time, a vital component of prayer is davening in our own words, expressing our innermost hopes, emotions, and yearnings.

            The halacha is that we do not recite tachanun on Tisha b’Av because it’s referred to as a “mo’ed - set time of meeting”. The holidays of the year are called mo’adim because each holiday is a special time to “meet” and draw close to Hashem in a unique manner. Tisha b’Av is indeed a set time, but for tears, mourning and recalling tragedy and destruction. In fact, the verse that describes Tisha b’Av as a mo’ed states “he called a set time upon me to break my chosen ones” (Eicha 1:15). That hardly seems like something worth marking with any modicum of joy, such as not reciting tachanun.

            Rav Shlomo Wolbe (Alei Shur I p. 115) writes that this law contains a powerful and encouraging insight about prayer.

            We generally think that the righteous are close to Hashem, but those more sinful are distant from Hashem. But the pasuk tells us otherwise. “Hashem is close to all those who are close to Him, to all those who call out to Him with sincerity.”

            It is conceivable that a sinner will be as close to G-d as a righteous person because he calls out to G-d wholeheartedly and with sincerity.

            A Jew understands that even when he feels distant, even when he cannot see the Hand of G-d in his life, and even when the Bais Hamikdash - including the Bais Hamikdash within himself - is destroyed, still, “He called a set time upon me”. A Jew always has the ability to daven and discover that it can be “a set time for meeting” with Hashem if he wills it to be.

            That is why we don’t say tachanun on Tisha b’Av. Even when feeling distant, during the mist painful day of the year, we recognize that we never forfeit our ability to call out to Hashem with sincerity.

            The message gleaned from our omission of tachanun on Tisha b’Av is a tremendous chizuk for us. We all have Tisha b’Av moments in our lives when we feel unworthy of davening or seeking Hashem’s guidance and assistance. Yet, even during those times we can daven and create a “meeting” with Hashem.

            One of the lesser recognized components of Purim is the incredible added poignancy of prayers recited during the holiday. At the time of the Purim miracle Hashem hearkened to our ancestor’s prayers, in an absolutely hopeless and grim situation. Each year on Purim the added power of prayer is reawakened.

            Still, we must realize that to pray effectively, we don’t need to be at Kever Rochel, it doesn’t have to be Purim or Yom Kippur, and we don’t even need a Tehillim or a Siddur.

            We need to simply open our mouths and sincerely speak from our hearts to the One who always loves us and is always listening.


            Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum