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EMUNAH STORIES
 

as seen from  Rabbi Ashear's Emuna Daily Transcript

#1. EMUNAH

Rabbi Fischel Schachter told the story of a woman, a Holocaust survivor, who settled in America after the war and was married for twelve years without having children. One day she was sitting in a doctor's office on Madison Ave. in Manhattan, and the doctor, going over her charts, said to her, "Madame, please listen to me. I am saying this for your own benefit - give up. Medically speaking, there is nothing we can do so you can have children. When hair will grow from my palm, that is when you will have a child."

 

The woman left and boarded the Madison Ave. bus. During the ride, she contemplated her life. She recalled the horrors she experienced as a young girl in Poland, when the family had a trap door beneath the dining room table and they would go and hide under the floor when the Nazis approached. She volunteered to be the one to close the door, put the carpet over it and then hide on top of a piece of furniture. She would sit there, all curled up, and listen in terror as the Nazis searched the house, smashing furniture as they went from room to room. Time and time again, the family was saved. But finally, the Nazis noticed a soft spot on the floor, and they discovered the trap door. This young girl watched as the Nazis dragged her family away. She was the only one who survived the war.

 

Once she got to America, she desperately wanted to begin a family. And now, after twelve long years, her hopes were shattered.

 

She said to herself, "I have no reason to get off this bus." And so she stayed on the bus, sitting there the rest of the day. Finally, the driver informed her that he was driving the bus to the garage for the night, and she needed to disembark.

 

"I have nothing to live for," she muttered.

 

"Listen, lady," the driver said, "I've had a hard day. I don't know what your problem is, but you're not going to solve it by staying on this bus."

 

She got off the bus and said, "Master of the world, You were with me all along. You saved my life countless times. You brought me here. You let me start my life over, and so it is in Your hands. I have no right to give up. The bus driver is absolutely right - You didn't save my life for me to live on the Madison Ave. bus. Please tell me what to do. I won't give up. I will continue serving You no matter what."

 

A year later, she had a child.

 

That child grew up, got married, and has his own grandchildren. By the time this woman passed away, she had enough great-grandchildren to make that doctor's hair stand up.

 

Rabbi Fischel Schachter added that he heard this story firsthand from the woman herself , whom he knew quite well. She was his mother.

 

The Rabbi concluded by saying that there are going to be times in our lives where our hopes will be shattered, and everything we've been banking on will suddenly be lost. At such moments, we can easily fall into despair and feel a sense of betrayal. But we must not give up. We should instead say, as his mother did, "Hashem, I don't have to understand, but everything in my life is in Your hands. I will try my hardest to succeed in the difficult position You have put me in." If we can do that, then we have emunah, and we open the doors to salvation and blessings that would never have been available to us otherwise.

#2 IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE

We hear stories all the time of people who experienced difficult problems which were solved as a result of their emunah and prayers. We have heard of people facing financial distress who relied on Hashem and He came through for them. We have heard of ill patients whose doctors despaired, but were miraculously cured. We have heard stories of childless couples who suddenly had a child after years of waiting and unsuccessful treatments.

 

These are all powerful stories that can strengthen our emunah. Each such story that one hears reinforces his faith and reminds him that he, too, can be saved from whatever troubles he faces, no matter how hopeless the situation seems. These stories make us think, "If a person can finally find a zivug after so many years, then I, too, can find my zivug"; "If Hashem gave that couple a child after twelve years, then I, too, can still be blessed with a child." The more stories we hear, the more hope we have, recognizing that ישועת ה' כהרף עין, Hashem's salvation can arrive in the blink of an eye.

 

We are so fortunate to know that we have Hashem who can do anything, who is not limited by any odds or statistics, and has a solution for every problem. This recognition gives us hope which allows us to get through even the most difficult situation, for we always know that tomorrow the situation could change. 

At the same time, however, there is also a danger in hearing so many stories with beautiful, happy endings. One who hears so many stories might feel resentful and begin wondering, "Why doesn't this ever happen to me? I relied on Hashem for help, and I was let down. I thought I prayed so hard, but I didn't see any results." Such thoughts can cause people to lose emunah and lose hope. We must remember that Hashem is the source of all kindness, and everything He does is kind, regardless of whether or not we recognize how. He listens to every word of prayer we recite, and He knows every feeling we experience in our hearts and every thought that passes through our minds. Even when we do not see the results we were hoping for, this, too, is a manifestation of Hashem's kindness.

 

When a person responds with emunah when he did not receive what he wanted despite relying on Hashem, this is one of the greatest acts of service to Hashem that one can perform. The holy books describe the towering spiritual heights that one reaches when he says, "I don't know why this is happening, but I know Hashem loves me, and I will continue to believe and draw closer to Him." Such people attain greatness, and the entire world rests of their shoulders. And every time they reinforce their emunah, they grow to even greater heights. If a person was praying for a long time but still did not get the help he asked for, and he is ready to despair, his next prayer to Hashem is so much greater than any other tefillot he has recited. And if even then he does not see the desired results, his next prayer is an even greater spiritual accomplishment.

 

This is what it means to live with emunah - recognizing Hashem's greatness, learning about His kindness, looking to Him for hope, knowing that He can help, but at the same time trusting that He knows what He is doing even when we do not receive what we want, and continuing to serve Him with joy and serenity 

 

                                                                #3 My Help Comes From Hashem 

At the end of this week's parashah, we read that Yaakov Avinu was sent to the house of his uncle, Lavan, in order to marry one of his daughters. Hazal teach that as Yaakov was traveling, his nephew Elifaz came and seized all his belongings. He had been carrying diamonds and jewels loaded upon camels, but they were all taken. He was left with nothing other than the shirt on his back and his walking stick, as the pasuk says, כי במקלי עברתי את הירדן הזה ("for I crossed this [river] the Jordan with just my stick"). Yaakov was now going to a man - Lavan - who cared only about money. Nothing else concerned him. He was not interested in having a good son-in-law with a fine character and religious values. The only thing that spoke to him was money. And now Yaakov was arriving at his home penniless to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage. He had no engagement ring, and no means of supporting himself.

 

The Midrash tells that Yaakov, recognizing the gravity of the situation, looked up and said, אשא עיני אל ההרים מאין יבא עזרי - "I raise my eyes to the mountains - from where will my helpmate [עזר] come?" He said to himself, "I don't see any possible way for this work." But then he said, "Why should I lose my faith? עזרי מעם ה' עושה שמים וארץ - My helpmate will come from Hashem, Maker of heaven and earth." Matches are made in heaven, and no matter how impossible the situation seemed, Yaakov recognized that Hashem, who created the heavens and earth from nothing, can also get him married. And, as we know, Yaakov in the end married two wives.

From the Midrash's presentation it appears as though Yaakov at first entertained doubts, and had to then remind himself that Hashem is capable of helping. The question naturally arises as to why Yaakov would have harbored any doubts at all. He was the greatest בוטח בה' of all; nobody had greater faith than Yaakov Avinu. Why was he on the verge of desperation before pulling himself together and reinforcing his faith?

The Shem Mi'Shmuel explained that in truth, Yaakov never entertained any doubts. But there are two ways a person can cope with a very difficult situation. One way is to escape via denial, to put the problem out of one's mind and hide under the guise of emunah. Such a person says, "Everything will be ok, Hashem is helping," but this is not what he is really thinking. He sounds righteous, but in truth he is emotionally escaping by denying that there is a problem. The other response is to be fully aware of the gravity of the situation, analyze it very carefully, and recognize that there does not appear to be any possible way out of the problem. But the person knows that Hashem can do anything and can save him from any problem, no matter how hopeless it seems. This is the reaction of the true בוטח בה'. And this was Yaakov Avinu's response, as described by the Midrash. Yaakov wasn't about to despair. Rather, he examined the situation and recognized just how serious it was, how there was no natural way for him to be able to marry one of Lavan's daughters. Then he said, "Fortunately, I have Hashem who is עושה שמים וארץ, who made the universe from nothing, מאין, and He can help me in an instant."

 

There are times when we confront situations that appear hopeless, whether it's a financial problem, health issue, or any other sort of crisis. A person can either go into denial and make believe he has faith, while deep down he despairs, or say, "I have Hashem, and nothing is too hard for Him. I am not going to give up. I will continue praying, thinking positively, and relying on Hashem for help."

 

A woman recently told me that a family member was about to decide to do something that would have grave consequences for the family's shalom bayit. This decision would be something he would likely regret for the rest of his life, but nobody could convince him out of it. But the woman never gave up hope, firmly believing that Hashem can turn the situation around in an instant. Suddenly, without explanation, the man changed his mind. Everything went back to normal, just like that. People were saying that the situation was hopeless, but she knew that Hashem could help. No matter what the situation is, we must not despair, because Hashem can solve any problem.

#4. Yesurim/hardships/tests

It might appear that if somebody is afflicted with suffering, this is a sign that Hashem is angry with him. But the Gemara in Masechet Berachot teaches that the precise opposite is true - those whom Hashem loves the most endure hardship, as the pasuk says, כי את אשר יאהב ה' יוכיח (Hashem reprimands those whom He loves).

 

The Shechinah rests upon somebody who is afflicted. The Torah tells that Yaakov Avinu offered sacrifices לאלקי אביו יצחק - "to the G-d of his father, Yitzhak." The Midrash comments that although Hashem generally does not associate His Name with a tzadik until after the tzadik's death, He nevertheless allowed Himself to be called אלקי יצחק during Yitzhak's lifetime because Yitzhak was enduring suffering.

 

Yisurim (afflictions) cleanse a person and bring him atonement. Rabbi Yaakov Galinsky told the story of a certain gravely ill patient who had no relatives and suffered terribly, having to be connected to a respirator. The physician attending to him, who was not religious, decided on his own that no purpose was served by having this man continue to suffer, and so he pulled the plug. Several days later, the man came to the doctor in a dream and said, "I was supposed to live for another four days, and the suffering I was to endure during those four days would have allowed me to go straight into Gan Eden. But because of you I missed those afflictions." The doctor was shaken up and became a ba'al teshuvah.

 

Hazal teach us that the greatest level a person can achieve is accepting suffering with love. The Maharal says about this level, אין למעלה ממנו - there is no greater achievement. The Vilna Gaon had a daughter who died the day before her wedding, ל"ע. His mother came to him in a dream and said, "If you knew what you accomplished by accepting this tragedy with love, you would have danced at your daughter's funeral more than you would have danced at her wedding." The Midrash comments that if Iyov had accepted his suffering without complaints, then his name would have been added to the Amidah prayer; we would have recited, אלקי אברהם אלקי יצחק אלקי יעקב ואלקי איוב ("G-d of Avraham, G-d of Yitzhak, G-d of Yaakov, and G-d of Iyov").

 

Of course, this sounds to us very unrealistic. We cannot help wondering, how can we be happy when we're experiencing pain? But this is precisely why accepting yisurin with love is such a great spiritual achievement - because it is so difficult. And we must realize that this is not a matter of all or nothing. There are different levels of accepting yisurim. The Slonimer Rebbe comments that if a person is not on the level where he could accept suffering with joy, he can nevertheless achieve a great spiritual level simply by recognizing that he is supposed to accept it with joy.

 

This is certainly a very difficult challenge, and we obviously do not ask for suffering or wish it upon ourselves or anyone else. Even the Sages of the Gemara said, לא הן ולא שכרן - we prefer not to experience suffering and forfeit the reward it brings. The Maharal explains that the Sages were afraid of being unable to respond properly to yisurim. But if a person does experience hardship, he has the opportunity to reach the highest possible levels. Even if he cannot be happy, he achieves a remarkable accomplishment by not complaining and continuing to serve Hashem.

 

Rashi comments in Masechet Sanhedrin that if a person who involves himself in mitzvot, such as charity, experiences hardship and does not complain, and instead continues performing his mitzvot, he achieves the level of צדיק גמור (a completely righteous person). Everyone, on his or her own level, can become a tzadik by accepting hardship without complaint.

 

There was a Rabbi who needed to periodically undergo a certain painful medical procedure, and each time he would recite before the treatment, הנני מוכן ומזומן לקבל יסורין באהבה - "I am hereby prepared to accept hardship with love." And there are many ordinary laymen who live difficult lives but manage to retain their faith and remain religiously committed, continuing their efforts to draw close to Hashem despite the hardships they endure. These people bring a great deal of נחת רוח (satisfaction) to Hashem. Their accepting hardship not only yields great spiritual benefits, but also enables them to cope with life's problems, remain strong, and carry on their lives as usual.

 

                                                                             #5 A Heartfelt Prayer 

The holy books are filled with descriptions of many different segulot ("charms") and pieces of advice for obtaining what one wants in this world. But when all is said and done, we must realize that the most important and effective segulah is a heartfelt prayer. Rav Yerucham writes that the יסוד הבריאה כולה - the "foundation of all of creation" - is that everything is attained only through prayer. Whether it's our prayers, our parents' prayers, or our grandparents' prayers - everything we have, all our blessings, have been received because of tefillah. No matter a great a person is, he needs to ask in order to receive.

 

Our matriarchs were blessed with children only through tefillah. As we read in this week's parashah, Parashat Vayetze, וישמע אלקים אל לאה ותלד ליעקב בן - "G-d listened to Leah, and she bore a child for Yaakov." It similarly says regarding Rachel, וישמע אליה אלקים ויפתח את רחמה - "G-d listened to her, and opened her womb." Our ancestors' redemption from Egypt was the result of their tefillot, as the pasuk states, וישמע אלקים את נאקתם - "G-d heard their pleas." Even though He had promised the avot that He would release their descendants from bondage, their freedom nevertheless depended upon their heartfelt prayers. And after the sin of the golden calf, Hashem decided to annihilate Beneh Yisrael, and they were saved only through the prayers of Moshe Rabbenu. In Egypt, Moshe had to pray for the plagues to end, and Yaakov Avinu had to pray to be saved from Esav. Everything needs tefillah. We must repeatedly reinforce our belief that whenever we want something, we have to ask for it.

 

Hazal also teach us that when Hashem answers our prayer, we should not stop praying. We should enjoy and celebrate what we've received, and thank Hashem with all our heart, but also continue asking for more. After Leah delivered her fourth child, she proclaimed, הפעם אודה את ה' - "This time I shall thank Hashem" - whereupon she stopped having children. The Ibn Ezra explains that Leah at that point felt she was already blessed with her share of children, and therefore stopped praying for children. And once she stopped praying, she stopped conceiving.

 

The Rambam writes that a person should always express gratitude to Hashem for the past and pray for the future. If we are blessed with health, intelligence, a livelihood and children, then we should constantly express our appreciation to Hashem and thank Him with all our heart, recognizing that He is the one who has given us all these wonderful blessings, and everything we have. But we must also continue praying to Hashem that He continue blessing us. The pasuk says in Tehillim, לך אזבח זבח תודה ובשם ה' אקרא - "I offer to You a thanksgiving sacrifice, and I call out in the Name of Hashem." We first bring a sacrifice to express gratitude to Hashem, and then we pray to Him for continued success in the future.

 

When Rachel finally bore a child after many years of infertility, she said, אסף אלקים את חרפתי, thanking Hashem for eliminating her shame. But she did not name the child Assaf to commemorate this proclamation. Instead, she prayed for yet another child - יוסף ה' לי בן אחר - and named her child Yosef. The commentators explain that Rachel did not want to just thank Hashem for what she was given, and instead offered a prayer for the future, and she chose a name to commemorate both elements, incorporating both the gratitude for the past and the prayer for the future.

 

Hashem loves when we thank Him and express our appreciation for what He does for us, but also when we realize that we depend on Him for our future success. And this is why tefillah is so important.

 

This is our job each and every day - to recognize the kindnesses Hashem performs for us, to thank Him with all our heart, and then continue begging for continued blessing.

 

#6 Hope In Hashem 

There are people who have been waiting for years to get married, and after so many years they begin thinking to themselves, "Why should I even bother trying anymore?  It's hopeless.  I've been trying.  I've been praying.  I've done everything possible for twenty years now, and nothing worked.  It must be I missed my chance."

There are other people who have been waiting for years to have children.  They think to themselves, "We've tried everything.  We've prayed, we've gone to doctors, we've gotten blessings from Rabbis, but still we have no children.  It will never happen."

We must constantly remind ourselves that with Hashem, there is always hope.  As long as we have hope, He has hope.  The pasuk says, וידעת כי אני ה' אשר לא יבושו קוי - "You shall know that I am Hashem, that those who place hope in Me are not ashamed."  

Somebody told me of a story that appeared in Binah magazine about a woman who had her first child at the age of 52.  Many years earlier, when she was much younger, she had received a blessing from a Rabbi that she would one day have a son.  Because of this blessing, she never gave up hope.  She kept telling herself, "Hashem will answer my prayers; I have to be patient."  Nearly 900 attended the berit, and she is now pushing a stroller with her very own child.  We must never lose hope.

The Midrash tells that Hannah prayed for 19 years to have children.  Everyone else gave up hope.  Even her husband Ekanah urged her to give up, and said to her, "Aren't I better to you than ten sons?"  But Hannah did not listen.  She said to herself, "I still have Hashem.  I am going to continue praying."  And through her tefillot she was blessed with children.

The pasuk states, וקוי ה' יחליפו כח- those who place their hope in Hashem always have renewed strength.  They are always upbeat and optimistic, because they know they can always be helped.  We constantly need to reinforce this belief.  The Gemara says:

אמר רב חנא בר חנינא: אם ראה אדם שהתפלל ולא נענה, יחזור ויתפלל

Rav Hana bar Hanina said: If a person sees that he prayed but was not answered, he should pray again.

Rav Hana cites as the source of this concept the verse in Tehillim, קוה אל ה' חזק ויאמץ לבך וקוה אל ה' - "Hope in Hashem" - and if you are not answered, then "strengthen and reinforce your heart, and hope to Hashem."  Reinforce your faith, and pray again.  

Continuing to pray even when the situation feels hopeless not only brings one the salvation he needs, but also constitutes a great act of service to G-d in its own right.  The Sefer Ikrim writes that having hope in Hashem is greater than any praise a person can possibly give Him.  He cites the pasuk, ואני תמיד איחל והוספתי על כל תהילתך - "I will always hope [for Hashem], and I will add onto all Your praises."  David speaks here of "adding" onto G-d's praises, despite the fact that elsewhere in Tehillim he says, לך דומיה תהילה - it is proper to refrain from praising G-d, as it is impossible to give Him befitting praise; any praise we give will be woefully deficient.  How could David say he will add to G-d's praises, if we are discouraged from singing G-d's praises?  The Sefer Ikrim explains that having hope in Hashem is a greater expression of praise than any words we can possibly say.  When we pin our hopes on G-d, we show our belief that He is capable of doing anything.

Another pasuk says, טוב ה' לקויו - "Hashem is good to those who hope in Him."  One should never say, "I must have missed my chance, it's too late."  It's never too late.  The Rabbis teach that Leah was supposed to marry Esav, and everybody knew that this was the case.  It seemed like a foregone conclusion.  But Leah prayed and cried, and in the end she not only married Yaakov, but also became the mother of the Kehunah, of the Jewish kingship, and of the Torah scholars.  It's never too late, so we must keep on praying and trying.  May we all be granted the privilege of witnessing and experiencing Hashem's salvation in our own lives.

 

#7 Throw your burden on Hashem 
The pasuk says in Tehillim, השלך על ה' יהבך והוא יכלכלך - "Cast your burden upon G-d, and He will sustain you."
The Maggid of Duvna explained this verse by way of an analogy to a poor man traveling with a very heavy bag on his back.  As he walks along the road, suffering from the weight of his bag, a wealthy man with a spacious carriage drives by, and takes note of the poor traveler.  He stops his carriage and generously offers the poor man a ride.  The poor man steps into the carriage, and it resumes its trip.  After a few moments, the wealthy man notices that his guest is still holding onto his heavy bag.
"My friend," he says, "why don't you put your bag down on the floor?  Why are you still holding it?"
"You're nice enough to offer me a ride," the poor man says.  "I don't want to make you carry my bag for me, too."
"You fool," the wealthy man says.  "My horses are pulling the weight of your bag regardless of whether or not you hold them.  It won't make any difference to me if you put them down!"
The Maggid explained that so many people act like that poor man.  They carry heavy burdens in life unnecessarily.  We must realize that Hashem is carrying us anyway  let Him carry your burden as well.  The Midrash Tehillim, commenting on this pasuk, notes that Hashem is not like human beings.  When a person asks his fellow for a favor, the fellow will likely be happy to do it.  When he is asked a second and third time, he will likely agree to the favor, but with less enthusiasm.  Already by the fourth time, though, he will likely say, "Enough already!" and refuse.  Hashem isn't like that.  Whenever we "throw our burden" on Hashem, הוא יכלכלך - he responds favorably.  Not only does He not get worn out by our repeated requests for help, but to the contrary - קרוב ה' לכל קוראיו, He gets closer to us the more we call out to Him.  He loves when we ask Him for favors, and the more we ask, the more He loves us.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation and we wonder how it will ever work out; it seems impossible.  We are so fortunate that we just need to turn to Hashem for help.  As the Torah says, ומי גוי גדול אשר לו אלקים קרובים אליו כה' אלקינו בכל קראנו אליו - whenever we call to Him, He is eagerly waiting to help us.
Sometimes we feel overwhelmed, having too much to do and not having any idea how it will all get done.  A person told me he was given extra responsibilities at work, and the situation was just impossible.  There were simply not enough hours in the day to complete all he needed to do.  Suddenly, a two-hour period which he had reserved for a separate project freed up.  It was unmistakably the yad Hashem (hand of G-d).  He didn't lose any money, and now has time to get everything done.  No burden is too heavy for Hashem.  We have the greatest source of help available to us at all times.
People sometimes think, "I don't want to bother Hashem with this one; it's too trivial a problem."  There's no such thing as too trivial a problem.  He can't wait for us to come and ask Him for help.  We can bring Him any "load" we have.  And the more we have for Him to "carry," the more He is willing to take on.
If we feel worried and anxious, then this shows that we are still holding on to our bags, and refusing to put them down and let Hashem carry them for us.
If a person gives his fellow a bag of precious diamonds and asks him to watch it for him, the man might understandably refuse, not willing to take on such a responsibility.  But if the person gives him the bag to watch and runs away , he will accept the responsibility, feeling he has no choice. When you totally let go, the other party feels more of an obligation. The same is true with Hashem, כביכול.  The more we "throw" on Him, the more "responsibility" He is willing to take on, as it were.   השלך על ה' יהבך והוא יכלכלך - we need to put down our bags, and Hashem will happily carry them for us.

#8 JUST ASK HASHEM

The Zohar writes (in Parashat Vayikra) that a person should ask Hashem for everything he needs, at all times. A prayer for a small need is especially meaningful because it demonstrates the person's belief in Hashem's involvement in every aspect of his life, even his ordinary, day-to-day affairs. If a person is in a rush and sees that his car is blocked, he can recite a brief prayer asking Hashem to help allow him to leave without further delay. When one utters such a prayer, he shows how he believes that Hashem can put the thought in the car owner's mind that he should come move his car. And this is what makes the tefillah so meaningful and so powerful.

 

Somebody told me that his wife recently gave birth, and her roommate in the hospital room made lots of noise. She could hardly sleep the whole night. The roommate left the next morning, but soon after she left the woman saw a nurse come in and start preparing the other bed. The nurse explained that another patient would soon be arriving. The woman turned to Hashem and prayed, "Hashem, there are many available rooms on this floor. Please arrange for the other patient to sleep somewhere else so I can finally get some rest." Twenty minutes later, the nurse returned. The woman asked why the other patient had not yet come, and the nurse said, "I have no idea why, but for some reason it was decided that she would stay in a different room."

 

We can recite these brief tefillot whenever we want, at any time during the day. The great Rabbis recite these tefillot numerous times each day, and are thus constantly nurturing their connection to Hashem.

 

We read in this week's parashaוירא אדוניו כי ה' אתו - Potifar, Yosef's master, noticed that G-d accompanied Yosef in all his endeavors. The Midrash Tanhuma asks, how did Potifar know that Hashem accompanied Yosef? Was he capable of seeing theShechinah? The Midrash answers that whenever Yosef would arrive to serve his master, he recited a brief prayer asking Hashem to help him find favor in his master's eyes. Potifar would then ask Yosef what he was mumbling, and Yosef would explain that he was asking G-d for help. The very next words in the Torah are,וכל אשר הוא עושה ה' מצליח בידו - "everything he did - Hashem brought him success." Asking Hashem for help is the key to success.

 

Many people are embarrassed to ask G-d for help for the "little," trivial needs they have. We need to realize that Hashem is not only מלכנו ("our King"), but also אבינו("our Father"). And when it comes to tefillah, we need to feel as though we are speaking to our father. He loves each and every one of us as a parent loves an only child. If we need something, and our father has millions of that item, would we hesitate for a moment before asking him for one? Of course not. We wouldn't be afraid that we might be bothering him, or that we don't deserve it. He's our father, of course he'll be happy to give us whatever we need as long as he is able to. Hashem has far more than millions of absolutely everything we can ever possibly need or want, He loves us more than any parent loves his or her child, He takes immense pleasure in our approaching Him for help, and He can help us with no effort whatsoever. He can turn any situation around in an instant. Why shouldn't we ask Him? And why should we have any hesitation? We can and should ask for anything we want, at any time.

 

A person told me he was short on cash, and so he prayed to Hashem that a certain fellow who owed him money would quickly repay the debt. The very next day, a different person handed him a check. That person also owed him money since a long time before then, and the man had long since given up on ever getting that money returned.

 

We can't imagine how effective our tefillot can be. We need Hashem for everything, so let us accustom ourselves to talk to Him all the time, and, as the Zohar says, to constantly ask Him for anything and everything we need.

 

                                                          #9 Hashem I always Need You with me. 

The pasuk says in Tehillim, ה' ישמור צאתך - "Hashem shall guard you when you leave." We leave our homes for many different reasons - work, prayer, learning, errands, etc. - and sometimes we are just going down the block. David Ha'melech here does not specify the reason one is leaving on a trip - because all departures, no matter where one is going, require Hashem's protection. We should never take anything for granted. In fact, studies show that most car accidents happen within five minutes of a person's home. There are no guarantees. We need Hashem's protection at all times, no matter where we are going.

 

This point was obvious to the great tzadikim. When Avraham sent his servant, Eliezer, to find a wife for Yitzhak, Eliezer asked him what he should do if the suitable girl does not want to come with him to marry Yitzhak. The Midrash comments, based on the pesukim, that at that moment Avraham offered an impassioned prayer to G-d asking that his servant's trip would be successful. Avraham was world famous and fabulously wealthy. We might have expected him to think that people would be lining up to join his family. But this is not the way he approached the situation. He knew there are never any guarantees. We always need Hashem's help.

 

The Torah warns against the feeling of כחי ועוצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה - "My strength and the power of my hand made for me this wealth." We are to remember that הוא הנותן לך כח לעשות חיל - it is Hashem who gives us the capacity to acquire wealth. The Targum Onkelos translates this phrase to mean that it is Hashem who gives us the ideas with which we obtain wealth. If somebody had a good idea how to grow his business and he made money, it was Hashem who put this idea in his head so he could succeed. We have to accustom ourselves to this kind of thinking - that we always need Hashem's help. No matter how smart a person is, how wealthy he is, or how charismatic he is, everything he has was given to him by the Almighty, and he needs the Almighty in order to keep it.

 

The Otzar Midrashim tells the story of a wealthy man who was very charitable but believed that he was successful because of his intelligence and hard work. Once he was on his way to purchase animals for his business, when Eliyahu Ha'navi met him along the road, appearing as another merchant. Eliyahu asked him where he was headed, and the man explained he was going to purchase animals for his enterprise.

 

"You know," Eliyahu said, "you should say that you are going 'be'ezrat Hashem' - with G-d's help."

 

"Why?" the man asked. "I have the money, I know how to negotiate. I'll do just fine on my own."

 

"If you think like that," Eliyahu warned, "you are not going to be successful." The man ignored him and walked away. As he walked, his wallet fell out of his pocket, and Eliyahu picked it up and placed on a nearby stone.

 

The man went to the market, worked very hard finding the perfect animals, and negotiated a terrific price. But when it came time to pay, he realized he did not have his wallet, and the deal fell through.

 

He returned home to get more money and put it in a new wallet. On his way back to the market, he again encountered Eliyahu, who this time had disguised as an old man. Once again, he asked the man where he was going, and the man explained he was going to buy animals for his business. As in the previous instance, he did not say that he was going "be'ezrat Hashem." Eliyahu gave him another warning, but the man still ignored him.

 

Feeling very tired, the man sat down and took a nap. As he slept, Eliyahu took the wallet from his pocket, and placed it on the same rock. When the man woke up, he found his wallet was missing, and was dismayed. At that point he realized that he needed Hashem's help, and all his business acumen and experience guaranteed him nothing.

 

When he came back a third time, he met Eliyahu who was now disguised as a young boy. The boy asked where he was going, and he told him he was going to buy animals for his business, "with G-d's help."

 

"If you need help bringing the animals back to the town," the boy said, "please let me know, as I am available to help."

 

The man went to the market, found the animals he needed for a good price, made his purchases, and then asked the boy to help him get home. As they walked, one of the animals left the herd and ran away, stopping by that rock. The man came to the rock and saw the two wallets he had lost.

 

"Baruch Hashem," the man said, "Hashem gave me back all my money."

 

The more we recognize how much we need Hashem's help, and the more we ask for His help, the more help He will give us.

#10- Hashem weaves together random events into a beautifully woven tapestry

Events that appear to us as random and insignificant are really manifestations of Hashem's providence, which guides us toward where we need to go and toward those whom we need to meet.  While we do not always recognize how this is, there are times when Hashem shows us how He works, and how seemingly insignificant events which happen to us were sent by Him for a purpose.

The following remarkable story was told by Rabbi Duvi Bensoussan( taken from Rabbi Binyamin Pruzansk's book) which he experienced as a student in Israel which demonstrates how Hashem weaves together random events into a beautifully woven tapestry.  Duvi's friend, Shelomo, received a phone call from his wealthy uncle in America who told him that he was contacted by an orphanage in Haderah which was in need in financial assistance.  The orphanage invited the uncle to come and take a tour of its facility so he could consider offering his help.  The uncle told the orphanage that he would send his nephew who was in Israel at the time, and the nephew would tell him his impressions.  Shelomo invited Duvi to join him, and they arranged that they would meet at the central bus station for the 2pm bus to Haderah.  Duvie wanted to run a couple of errands first, so he left his dormitory early, and headed first to the barber to take a haircut.  He walked into the barber shop, removed his jacket and gloves, rubbed the cold out of his hands, and explained to the barber that he had an important meeting later that day and needed to look his best.

Fifteen minutes later, when the barber was finished, Duvi rushed out of the shop to the Mahaneh Yehudah market to buy some candy for the children of the orphanage.  He bought 200 pieces of chocolate and proceeded to stuff them into his jacket pocket, when he suddenly realized that he did not have his gloves; he left them at the barber shop.  It was a very cold December day, but he did not have time to return to the barber shop to get his gloves.  Instead he went to catch his bus, and two hours later he and Shelomo reached Haderah.  When they got off the bus, they saw a Yemenite man selling his wares out of a cardboard box, and Duvi noticed he was selling a very interesting pair of elbow-length gloves.  They were peculiar, but Duvi was desperate for gloves and did not want to wait until he returned to Jerusalem, and so he purchased these gloves.

They proceeded to the orphanage, where they were given a very warm greeting.  At one point in the tour, their guide escorted them to the director's office, and as they waited outside, a 10-year-old boy emphatically ran from the room with a huge smile, congratulating himself for having received a 100 on his Humash test.  Duvi went over to the boy, looked at the test paper, and was very impressed.

"Wow," he said to the boy.  "That's fantastic."  He then glanced at the name of top of the paper, and noticed that the boy's name was Yitzhak Alfasi - the same name as the Rif, one of the most famous and influential Sephardic Sages, whose commentary is found at the back of every Gemara.

"Did you know you have the same name as the great Rif?" Duvi asked the boy.

"Sure," the boy replied.  "He's my great-great-great-great grandfather.  That's why my father named me Yitzhak."

Duvi couldn't believe it.  If this child was a descendant of the Rif, he figured, he must have great potential.  He asked the director how much Torah was taught at the orphanage, and the director told him that they did not have sufficient funding for serious Torah instruction.  All they can do is bring a Rabbi once a week to learn Humash with the boys.

Duvi then turned to the boy and asked, "What would it take for you to agree to learn Torah every day, if I could find a Rabbi to come learn with you?"

"Well," the boy said, "I really like the gloves you're wearing.  If you give them to me, I'll learn every day."  Duvi happily took off his elbow-length gloves and gave them to the boy.  The boy put them on, and they reached his shoulders...

Duvi and Shelomo left the orphanage with a very good feeling about their visit, and especially their encounter with this promising young boy.

Upon returning to Jerusalem, Duvi proceeded immediately to the barber shop to try to get back his gloves.  He arrived just as the barber was closing up his shop.  He asked the barber if he had seen gloves, and the barber went over to a drawer, pulled them out, and gave them to Duvi.

The barber then proudly announced, "Now everyone will know that Moshe Alfasi is an honest man!"

"Your name is Alfasi?" Duvi said.  "Do you have a son?"

"I prefer not talking about it," the barber said.

"Please," Duvi implored.  "Please tell me."

The barber sadly told of how he had once been married, but his wife had serious problems and mistreated their son.  The courts stepped in and took their son away from them, placing him in an orphanage.  Even after the couple divorced, the courts refused to tell Moshe where his son was.

"I haven't seen him in five years," he lamented.

"Is his name Yitzhak?" Duvie asked.

"Yes," the man affirmed.

"I just saw him today, in Haderah!  He looks terrific, and is doing great.  He showed me the 100 he received on his Humash test!  And he agreed that he would learn Torah every day."

Moshe was overjoyed.  He ended up moving to Haderah to be with his son, and became very involved in his son's life.

Hashem brought the boy and his father together through an extraordinary sequence of seemingly insignificant events.  Duvi was invited to visit the orphanage, he needed a haircut, he forgot his gloves in the shop, he happened to be standing outside the office just  when the child ran out with his test paper, he returned to the barber shop right before it closed, and Moshe just happened to mention his full name.

Nothing in life is random.  Everything has a purpose and has been carefully calculated by our Creator.


#11 Never underestimate the power of tefillah 

Imagine if somebody arranged for us a meeting with one of the most powerful and influential people in the world, giving us the opportunity to sit down with that person and talk about anything we want for 30 minutes.  How much money would such a meeting be worth to us? 

 To give us an idea of how much value people ascribe to such meetings, Rabbi Eisenman noted that on May 14, 2013, a bidding auction was held, and one of the prizes was having a cup of coffee with the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, who was ranked by Forbes magazine as the 19thmost powerful man in the world.  An anonymous bidder paid $610,000 for this privilege.  Imagine - somebody paid over $600,000 to have a short conversation with another human being.  This bidder likely hoped to improve his financial standing through this meeting.  But imagine somebody had a life-threatening medical condition which only the best physician in the world was able to treat.  How much would the patient be willing to pay to have a meeting with that doctor?  Imagine a country was bracing for war, and there was somebody with a secret that could guarantee them a swift, resounding victory.  How much would the leaders be willing to pay to enlist that person's help?  Let us bear in mind that the United States has spent over $1.5 trillion on warfare since 2001.

 

אשרנו מה טוב חלקנו - we are so fortunate that we can meet with the most powerful Being in the universe, the one who is
בורא רפואות, creating cures that aren't yet in existence; who is
בעל מלחמות - the master of wars; and who is
מצמיח ישועות - capable of rescuing any person from any situation.  We can speak to Hashem at any time any day.  And not only do we not have to pay any money for the meeting, Hashem wants us to speak to Him so badly that He even pays us when we call out to Him.  Whenever a Jew has a problem and cries out to Hashem, he is credited with amitzvat aseh
- fulfilling an affirmative Torah command, the value of which is priceless.  The person earns this reward for all eternity.  And thus every single "meeting" with Hashem is guaranteed success, regardless of whether we see the results we ask for.
The Midrash Rabbah (Parashat Devarim) comments that sometimes Hashem wants to hear numerous
tefillot from us before granting our request, because sincere, heartfelt prayer is so valuable and beneficial.  But we must realize that the closer we get to completing all the prayers wanted from us, the more the
yetzer ha'ra tries to dissuade us from praying.  Our evil inclination puts in our minds thoughts like, "Why should I bother praying again?  I've been asking and asking, and nothing happened!"  The harder it gets to continue praying, the closer we are to being answered.  And every tefillah we recite brings us immense benefit, if not today, then tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, then maybe in a year from now.
A grandson of the Steipler Gaon zt"l once mentioned to his grandfather that he was going to the Kotel. The great Sage asked, "Please mention my name in your prayer. "The grandson was astonished.  "What?  I have to mention you to Hashem?  You are so much closer to Hashem than I am!" "Please listen carefully," the great Gaon said.  "אין שום תפילה חוזרת ריקם  
no prayer ever goes unanswered."  It's a fact of creation.  Every single word of prayer that leaves the mouth of a Jew accomplishes something - maybe not now or tomorrow, and maybe only in 10 days or in 100 years.  But results are always produced. We must take advantage of this priceless opportunity that is available to us at all times.  We must never underestimate the power of tefillah.  And we must pray, pray some more, and then pray again.  Success is guaranteed.

#12 Chizuk for Rosh HaShana
 

היום הרת עולם - Rosh Hashanah is the day of the world's "birth."  The Rabbis teach us that every year on Rosh Hashanah, the world is recreated.  We start again fresh.  Whatever was before Rosh Hashanah has nothing at all to do with what will be after Rosh Hashanah.  We say, תכלה שנה וקללותיה, תחל שנה וברכותיה - "May the year end with its curses, may the year begin with its blessings."  Please G-d, those who are sick will be healthy; those who are not yet married will find their shidduch; those who are struggling to make a living will find good jobs; childless couples will be granted the blessing of children.

On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we read the stories of Sarah and Hannah, who went years without any children until finally, on Rosh Hashanah, Hashem changed everything and blessed them with children who lit up the world with their piety.  We must first recognize that Hashem is the King, that אין עוד מלבדו - there is no one and nothing besides Him.  As thepasuk says, אני ראשון ואני אחרון ומבלעדי אין אלקים - Hashem existed before the world's creation, He will remain after everything ceases to exist, and there is nothing besides Him.

In one of the High Holiday hymns we say, הודאי שמו כן תהילתו- the more one believes that there is nothing besides Hashem, the more powerful his prayers will be.  Recognizing Hashem's kingship can bring all the salvations which we need.

The Gemara in Masechet Berachot tells us which prayer Hannah recited which resulted in her being blessed with a child: רבונו של עולם, מכל צבאי צבאות שבראת בעולמך קשה בעיניך ליתן לי בן אחד.  Hannah said, "Master of the world, You created everything - the sun, the moon, the stars, everything that exists.  Is it so difficult for You to grant me one child?"  The Gemara draws an analogy to a poor man who stood at the doorway of a lavish royal feast and asked for a piece of bread.  After his request was ignored, he pushed his way to the king and exclaimed, "My dear king, out of this huge feast, is it so difficult for you to give me just one piece of bread?"

The question arises, why was specifically this prayer answered?  After years of praying, why was this prayer the one that succeeded in having Hannah's request granted?

The work Ki Atah Imadi explains by noting, based upon a Midrash, that the word צבאות has a connotation of order and protocol.  In the Gemara's story, the poor man's plea was ignored because the feast was carefully arranged in a particular order.  Every nobleman and official was seated at his assigned place, and all the food was set up and distributed according to a strict protocol.  Nobody could just come in and sit down where he wanted or take whatever food he wanted.  But then the poor man ran up to the king and said, "I understand there is a protocol, but all this is made in your honor, to bring you glory.  Everything is here because of you.  And can't you find me a place and include me?"

This was Hannah's plea.  After many years of tearful prayer, she came to the conclusion that everything in the world is arranged in a set, detailed order according to a system.  Some people are meant to raise children, and others aren't.  Each person has a different mission to fulfill.  But then Hannah said, "Who is this order for?  Why are we all given missions to complete?  It is all for You, Hashem!  You are the king.  So can't You find a way to give me the job of raising children?  Can't You let me honor You that way?"

This mindset, that everything is from Hashem, He is in charge and He can change anything in an instant, that there is always a solution, is what brought the Hannah the answer to her prayers. הודאי שמו כן תהילתו.  The extent of Hashem's kingship became so clear to her.

On Rosh Hashanah, our job is to focus our attention on Hashem, to understand more fully what it means that He is the king of the world.  And the more we focus on Him, the more He will focus on us.

כתיבה וחתימה טובה