Shabbos HaGadol – The Maggid on Prayer, Part 2

Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar HaTefillah, Chapter 1 (end)
Our Sages highlighted the value of prayer. For example, R. Yitzchak teaches (Yevamos 64a): “Why were our forefathers barren? Because Hashem yearns for the prayers of the righteous.” R. Yitzchak does not say that Hashem “wants” these prayers or “desires” them, but rather that He yearns for them – R. Yitzchak uses a term that expresses intense desire. In chapter 2 of Bereishis, the Torah speaks of the time when vegetation had not yet sprouted forth from the earth, because Hashem had not yet brought rain. The Torah then explains why Hashem had not brought rain: “for there was no man to work the soil.” There was no man yet on earth to recognize the benefit of rain, and therefore there was no rain. Only when Adam HaRishon prayed for rain did it fall (see Rashi on the passage in Bereshis). Throughout the generations, whenever a prophet or righteous man was in distress – even when he eminently deserved to be saved – Hashem granted him relief only after he prayed for it. For example, when the Jewish People stood at the Sea of Reeds, Hashem split the sea for them only after they prayed to Him for help. Similarly, when the Jewish People were in the wilderness, it was only after the people prayed for help that Hashem brought them the manna, the miraculous traveling well, and the other blessings that He granted them at that time.
The power of prayer is exceedingly strong. It can reverse a harsh decree and turn it into a merciful decree. The Jewish People have experienced situations where Hashem’s wrath was kindled against them, and He cast upon them a decree of annihilation, but prayer reversed the decree. In the Gemara passage in Yevamos cited above, R. Yitzchak teaches further: “Why are the prayers of the righteous likened to a pitchfork? To teach us that, just a pitchfork turns the stalks of grain over and moves them from one place to another, so, too, the prayers of the righteous leads Hashem to reverse His stance, to set aside the Attribute of Wrath and take up instead the Attribute of Compassion.”
A person should constantly remember the following saying: “Prayer is heard when the soul is submissive, the eye weeps bitterly, shedding tears, and the heart feels remorse.”
Chapter 2 (beginning)
There are two basic types of prayer: praising Hashem for blessings He granted in the past, and pleading to Hashem to grant aid in the future. Each of these types has several forms. There are several terms for praise, including  רון, שיר ,שבח ,הלל, הודיה, זמרהand a few others. Similarly, in Devarim Rabbah 2:1, our Sages teach that there are ten different terms for prayer: שעוה, צעקה, נאקה ,רנה ,פגיעה ,ביצור ,קריאה ,נפול ,פלול, תחנונים. We are not going to define these various terms and analyze the differences between them. We simply note that, just as the human body is a single unit with many different organs – each one with a distinct name, in accordance with its function – so, too, prayer is a general heading embracing in a single term many different forms of expression, each with its own unique character.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

1 Comment

  1. David Zucker:

    In the original version of this post, one term of prayer was inadvertently omitted from the list of ten: צעקה. Many thanks to R' Reuven Frank for catching the error.

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