The Shabbos Table – Bereishis: R’ Y. Sacks Shlita: Tefilah B’Eis Tzarah
This D’var Torah should be a Zechus L’Ilui Nishmas my mother Chaya Rochel Bas Dovid Tzvi (Hareini Kaparas Mishkavah), my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my maternal grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, my maternal grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, my paternal grandfather Moshe Ben Yosef A”H, my paternal grandmother Channah Freidel Bas Avraham A”H, my uncle Reuven Nachum Ben Moshe & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein,
It should also be in Zechus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandmother Shulamis Bas Etta
-MY BROTHER: MENACHEM MENDEL SHLOMO BEN CHAYA ROCHEL
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
_R’ Simcha Yitzchak Ben Mirela Yudka
-Chaya Rochel Ettel Bas Shulamis
-Yonatan Menachem Mendel Ben Orly, Eli Aharon Michel Ben Chaya
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamos of HaRav HaGa’on V’Sar HaTorah Shmaryahu Yosef Chaim Ben HaRav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky A”H, Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L, Miriam Liba Bas Aharon—Rebbetzin Weiss A”H, as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken by terrorists (Hashem Yikom Damam), COVID-19, and other tragedies.
–It should also be a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael during this dire time, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
The wounded should experience Refuah Shileimah, the captives should be returned safely, the fallen should experience Kevurah and Aliyah for their Neshamos, their Krovim should experience Nechamah, the Chayalim should be Matzliach and Minatzei’ach, and Am Yisrael should experience Geulah.
Be”H, I will be translating / transcribing / paraphrasing Divrei Torah of my Rebbi, HaGaon R’ Yonason Avner Sacks Shlita. (Any inaccuracies, whether added, misrepresented, or due to omission and/or points lost in translation or context should be attributed to me alone. * = My addition.)
“Tefilah B’Eis Tzarah”
Tefilah B’Eis Tzarah (Yomim MiKedem – Parshas Bereishis, Page 156)
“Then, Began the (Practice of) Calling out in the Name of Hashem”
Buried among the accounts of Parshas Bereishis, the Torah briefly describes the Dor Enosh, “אָז הוּחַל לִקְרֹא בְּשֵׁם ה׳” (Bereishis 4:26). Rashi and Radak among other M’forshim comment in the name of the Midrash that the word “Huchal” (הוּחַל) is a L’shon Chulin (חוּלִין), a profane expression, suggesting that, during the Dor Enosh, people adopted profane, idolatrous tendencies, ascribing independent powers and godlike abilities to heavenly bodies, then eventually people and inanimate objects. Accordingly, the people of the Dor Enosh profaned the Name of Hashem. However, Radak suggests an alternative interpretation of “Huchal,” as a L’shon Haschalah (הַתְחָלָה), an expression of commencement, that the people of the Dor Enosh began to invoke and call out the Name of Hashem. In other words, explains the Radak, for the first time, people began to turn to and Daven to Hashem whenever they found themselves in an Eis Tzarah, a time of dire need. This suggestion is echoed by the Rashbam.
The Obligation of Tefilah – When and How Often?
The Rambam states in Hilchos Tefilah (1:1) that there is a Mitzvas Aseih of Tefilah every single day, as the Torah states “וּלְעָבְדוֹ בְּכָל לְבַבְכֶם” (Devarim 11:10) that we must serve Hashem with all our hearts, and the Gemara in Ta’anis teaches us, what in fact is Avodah SheB’Leiv (service of the heart)? It is Tefilah. Thus, Rambam understands there to be a Chiyuv (obligation) of Tefilah M’D’Orayisa (Biblically mandated).
However, the Ramban in his Hasagos (notes, editions) writes that Tefilah is not an independent Chiyuv but a Chessed (kindness), a privilege that Hashem listens to and answers us when we call out to Him. Ramban explains that according to the Pashut P’shat, “וּלְעָבְדוֹ בְּכָל לְבַבְכֶם” is a broader directive that we serve Hashem with all our ability, and the Drashah from Chazal as a reference to Tefilah is merely an Asmachta, derived by way of allusion. The Ramban suggests alternatively that part of one’s service of Hashem includes Tefilah B’Eis Tzarah, that our eyes and hearts be directed to Hashem, “K’Einei Avadim El Yad Adoneihem” (like the eyes of servants towards the hand of their master). To this end, the Ramban cites the Pasuk in Parshas B’Ha’alosecha (Bamidbar 11:9), “וְכִי־תָבֹאוּ מִלְחָמָה בְּאַרְצְכֶם עַל־הַצַּר הַצֹּרֵר אֶתְכֶם וַֽהֲרֵעֹתֶם בַּחֲצֹֽצְרֹת וְנִזְכַּרְתֶּם לִפְנֵי ה׳ אֱלֹקֵכֶם וְנֽוֹשַׁעְתֶּם מֵאֹֽיְבֵיכֶם”-“And when you will arrive at war in your land against the antagonist who antognizes you, then you shall cry out with the trumpets and you will be remembered before Hashem your G-d and you will be saved from your enemies.”
Tefilah B’Eis Tzarah
One may have understood that according to the Ramban, the Chiyuv of Tefilah is only M’D’Rabbanan (of Rabbinic origin). Indeed, at the end of his comments on Sefer HaMitzvos, where Ramban lists his count of the Mitzvos, Ramban comments that the Chiyuv of Tefilah is not included in Taryag Mitzvos (613 Mitzvos). However, the Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah #433) understands that according to the Ramban, it is clear that at least B’Eis Tzarah (at a time of distress), there is a Chiyuv of Tefilah M’D’Orayisa (*and a Mitzvah does not have to be one of the 613 to be Biblically mandated). In this vein, the Sefer HaChinuch writes that one who does Daven at an Eis Tzarah, his Oneish is great as he is effectively removing the Hashgachas Hashem from upon himself.
Similarly, independent of the daily Chiyuv of Tefilah, the Rambam describes in Hilchos Ta’anis (1:1-2) that there is a Mitzvas Aseih to shout and cry out with the trumpets, that this is a fundamental component of Darkei Teshuvah, that when we cry out and approach an Eis Tzarah with humility considering that perhaps it was our inappropriate behavior that caused it.
Eis Tzarah as a Means to Tefilah
In Kuntres Ma’amarim (“Ma’alas HaTefilah,” Virtue/Quality of Tefilah), R’ Yechezkeil Levenstein writes incredibly that Tefilah is not just a “Segulah” (lit., charm) or a means towards deliverance from an Eis Tzarah, but it is more often the reason for the Eis Tzarah to begin with. After all, why was it, asks the Midrash Rabbah in Parshas Beshalach, that when the B’nei Yisrael left Mitzrayim, Hashem caused them to be surrounded on all sides, by the Egyptian enemies pursuing them, the beasts of the wilderness, and the Yam Suf? Because Hashem desires their Tefilos, their connection, and once they were positioned in a state of desperation, they turned to Avihem SheBaShamayim (their Father in Heaven) and Davened.
Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Levi explains this phenomenon with a Mashal of a Melech who witnesses a princess being attacked by bandits. She cries out and he rescues her. Then, when he wants to marry her and attempts to begin a conversation with her, she ignores him. So, what does the Melech do? He incites the bandits against her so that he could hear her call out to him once again, and so on. So too, the B’nei Yisrael were subjugated by the Mitzrim until they cried out. Hashem rescued them B’Yad Chazakah U’V’Zro’a Netuyah. But, when Klal Yisrael ignored Hashem, Hashem incited Pharaoh to pursue them again, until they cried out again, because He wants to hear our voice.
Herein lies the Yesod of Tefilah, that, often times, Tefilah is not merely the response and solution to an Eis Tzarah, but it is the end in and of itself, that it was the cause for the Eis Tzarah in the first place. Halevai, if we would appreciate Tefilah and Daven properly, we would not require desperation of an Eis Tzarah.
*We should be Zocheh to treasure the opportunity of Tefilah, utilize the current Eis Tzarah to connect intimately with Hashem, and to be delivered from this Eis Tzarah with the coming of the Geulah and the immediate arrival of Moshiach, Bimheirah BiYomeinu! Have a wonderful Shabbos Bereishis / Mevarchim Chodesh Cheshvan!