Supplication: Seeing the Source

Naaleh_logo Shiur provided courtesy of

Adapted by Channie Koplowitz Stein

The written adaptation of this shiur is dedicated l'iluy nishmot the kedoshim of the war in Israel, and for the safe return of the hostages and of our brave Tzivot Hashem in the IDF.

Parshat Bereishit recounts the creation narrative. After the Torah records all of creation in Chapter one, the Torah goes into greater details of creation in Chapter two. In chapter two, there is a pause between the creation of the world and the creation of Man. The Torah has told us that the world was complete, yet here the Torah says, "Now all the trees of the field were not yet on the earth, and all the herbs of the field had not yet sprouted, for Hashem, God, had not yet sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to work the soil."

If all the world was complete, what was man's work on the earth? All vegetation had indeed been created in potential on its appointed day but remaining beneath the soil's surface; it actualized that potential and broke through the soil only after Adam was created. Rashi explains that man's work was to understand the significance of rain and to pray.

Chazal explain that the world was actually desolate when Adam was created, bleak and dark. Hashem created it that way because He desires the prayers of the righteous. Adam understood this. He turned his eyes heavenward and prayed. Then the rain came and the plants grew.

We see the importance of prayer throughout Tanach, whether it is our Patriarchs and Matriarchs praying for a child, or Bnei Yisroel crying out to Hashem in Egypt. Rain is the symbol of all the goodness that comes down to us from heaven. In fact the word גשם/rain is the root of להתגשם/to materialize. In essence, rain is the physical materialization and result of our spiritual prayer. Praying for rain expresses our eternal dependence on the Creator.

Rabbi Lopian explains how rain teaches us this important lesson. He posits that while most of the world's functioning can be explained as natural and predictable, there are four functions, four keys, that remain exclusively in God's hands. A מפתח/key, is an acronym for the four unpredictable functions of the world, the keys that only God can unlock. מ=מטר /rain, פ=פרנסה /livelihood, income, ת=תחית המתים/resurrection, ח=חיה/childbirth. These four cannot be accurately predicted, whether it is the weatherman, or the doctor trying to help an infertile couple. Rain becomes the paradigm for this idea. Our prayers, like those of Adam, help unlock those keys, and we become partners with Hashem. [Interestingly, to access any function on a computer, you must hit a key. CKS]

Rebbetzin Smiles gave over a homiletic idea from Rabbi Sternbach's shiur about the current traumatic situation in Israel. There are gates in heaven as well as gates on earth. When the heavenly gates have been broken and our relationship with Hakodosh Boruch Hu has been severed. the gates below reflect that break and are also broken. So those evil ones could barrel through the boundaries and gates of our people down here. We have to know that our safety depends on our relationship with Hashem.

Rabbi Biederman offer a metaphor for this idea. A group of boys were riding in a jeep down the steep road from Har Hazeitim/Mt. of Olives. Within the jeep, it was frightening; would the jeep careen out of control? Then they were reminded that there is a safe and experienced driver at the steering wheel. They could feel assured that they would be safe. Likewise, Hashem is at the steering wheel of our world. Let us be strong and respond by putting our trust in Him and praying.

As the world was dependent on prayer from its very creation, so does the entire world continue to be dependent on our prayers, writes Rav Yerucham Levovitz in Daas Torah. Even when Hashem has promised children, as he did to our patriarchs, the promise is the potential waiting for our prayers. Through our prayers, we get what we need. The conduit is the gates; our prayers enter, and whatever we need comes out.

We need to daven every day, for nothing is guaranteed. [We need to keep putting gas in the jeep. CKS] Indeed, Hashem sometimes needs to awaken us to cry out to Him. He needs to send us challenges and troubles, for if we stop praying, the world will cease to exist, writes Rabbi Pincus. Tefillah is talking directly to Hashem.

When someone is ill, we automatically call a doctor. But do we remember to also pray to Hashem, asks Rabbi Lopian? We should be having a constant conversation with the Ribbono shel olam, a concept both Avraham Avinu and King David knew in their very essence. How often did Avraham Avinu raise his hand to God? And King David described himself as prayer personified, ואני תפלה.

Rain, coming directly from heaven without human intervention, becomes the symbol of creation and awakens man to Hashem's presence, writes Rabbi Eisenberger in Mesillot Bilvovom. We are forced to look heavenward. And on Shemini Atzeret, through praying for rain, we proclaim the greatness of Hashem, for we remember that everything, both big and small is completely in God's hands. [This is perhaps one message of the massacre happening specifically on Shemni Atzeret; a vivid reminder that Hashem is orchestrating everything from Above, Hamas is a tool in His Hands.]

Hashem's greatest desire is to give, and the best gift a person can have is a relationship with Hashem. This spiritual gift is far greater than any physical pleasure. It is through prayer that we access and form this relationship, writes Rabbi Menachem Nissel in Rigshei Lev. Our challenges and troubles, our pain, are catalysts for prayer. When we feel blessed, we should pray with gratitude, and when we are hurting, we should call out to Hashem in our pain. Life is cyclical, and we should use both the ups and the downs to connect to Hashem. Hashem is the driver of our jeep, but we provide the gas with our prayers.

The Sifsei Chaim points out that gratitude only comes after one realizes something had been lacking. Therefore Hashem planted Adam into a bleak world, spurring him to pray for rain. After the rains came and Adam saw the world blooming, he understood that all good comes from Hashem, and he could pray now from a sense of gratitude, not only from need.

Actually, if the world had been created totally perfect, Man would never feel grateful; he would always feel entitled by nature itself to have all he wants and needs.(!!) It is only through some deprivation that we internalize a feeling of gratitude for the gifts we get every day, for our very breath.

It was an absence of gratitude that forced Adam to be banished from Gan Eden, continues the Sifsei Chaim. After the sin, Adam chose to blame Hashem for giving him a wife instead of thanking Hashem for that gift. Hashem created Man to have a relationship with Him, but when we not only don't appreciate His gifts, but seem to throw them back in disdain, Hashem feels the need to pull back, to remove His trust in us. [Nevertheless, every morning in Modeh Ani, we validate that Hashem continues to have faith in us, as we have in Him-- the dual subject of רבה אמונתך. CKS]

Only through prayer and continuous gratitude can we form and build a relationship with Hashem. Hashem wants to come close to us, and waits for our call to respond. As we say regularly in our prayer, in Ashrei, "Hashem is close to all who call upon Him—to all who call upon Him sincerely."

As we call out to Hashem now in times of distress, may we merit to soon call out to Him in gratitude.