Shabbos Parashas Acharei Mos / Kedoshim – The Maggid on Prayer, Part 6

Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar HaTefillah, Chapter 3 (end)
In a well-known teaching, R. Eliezer declares (Sanhedrin 6b): “A man who steals a seah of wheat, grinds it into flour, bakes the flour into bread, and separates challah from the bread for the Kohen, what berachah should he recite? Any berachah he might recite would not be a blessing, but an act of blasphemy. In this regard, it is written (Tehillim 10:3, homiletically): ‘The robber who blesses, he has blasphemed Hashem.’” We can gain a deeper understanding of this teaching in light of our discussion above. As we explained, the main purpose of a berachah is to enable a person to partake of this world without being considered a thief. Thus, if a person has already stolen some item, there is no point in his reciting a berachah over what he produces from it. What could the berachah possibly accomplish? Someone who offers such a berachah would be like a person who feels pity for a pauper with a torn coat and decides to mend the tear, but in the process makes a worse tear in the coat, and gives it back to him that way. Surely the pauper would be incensed over this mockery. Similarly, Hashem is incensed when someone recites a berachah over stolen property.
Perhaps our previous analogy about buying on credit and failing to pay can serve to explain the teaching in Nedarim 81a that the reason a Torah scholar’s sons do not become Torah scholars themselves is because they did not recite [properly] the berachah on the Torah before his daily Torah learning. We can say that since the scholar did not properly “pay” for exercising his learning ability, Hashem declined to extend further “credit” and grant his sons similar learning ability.
We can now understand well why our Sages spoke in such extreme terms, calling a person who partakes of this world without a berachah a compatriot of the man who brings ruin – of Yeravam ben Nevat, who sinned and caused Yisrael to sin. One who partakes of this world without a berachah causes a reduction in the flow of bounty into the world, and thus causes a reduction in Torah study as well, for, as Avos 3:21 teaches, “if there is no flour, there is no Torah.” He thus steals from Hashem and from Knesses Yisrael. Indeed, Hashem wants nothing more than to grant good to His creations; His “enjoyment” in granting us blessing exceeds our enjoyment from what we receive. When Hashem is held back, so to speak, from bestowing bounty, His “enjoyment” is diminished, and this is clearly what the Sages meant when they spoke of “stealing from Hashem.” The concept of “stealing from Hashem” cannot be understood in any other way, for He has the power to bring into being whatever He wills.
When a person prays to Hashem, he should pray primarily for the general welfare of the entire community, and he will ultimately receive his due share. In this connection, our Sages teach that if one prays on behalf of someone else, and he himself needs the same thing, Hashem provides for him first (Bava Kamma 92a). The same idea is reflected in the following episode recorded in the Gemara (Berachos 5a):
R. Elazar fell ill and R. Yochanan went in to visit him. He noticed that he was lying in a dark room, and he bared his arm and light radiated from it. He thereupon noticed that R. Elazar was weeping, and he said to him: “Why are you weeping? Is it because you did not study enough Torah? Surely we learned: ‘The one who offers a large amount much and the one who offers a small amount are equal in merit, provided that each of them directs his heart to heaven.’ Is it perhaps lack of sustenance? Not everybody has the privilege to partake from two tables [Torah and worldly blessing]. Is it perhaps because of [the lack of] children? This is a bone from my tenth son!” He replied to him: “I am weeping on account of your beauty which is going to rot in the earth.” He said to him: “On that account you can surely weep.” And they both wept.
The meaning of this episode is as follows. The Torah relates (Bereishis 25:21): “Yitzchak entreated Hashem before his wife, for she was barren.” The Midrash in Bereishis Rabbah 63:5 elaborates, teaching that Yitzchak prayed on his wife’s behalf, and his wife prayed on his behalf. The Midrash states:
Yitzchak was bowing down in one section of the room and she was bowing down in another section. He said: “Master of the Universe! Let all the children that You are giving me come from this saintly woman.” And, similarly, she said: “Let all the children that You will eventually give me come from this saintly man.”
Similarly, when R. Yochanan visited R. Elazar, R. Elazar made up his mind to pray on R. Yochanan’s behalf, in the hope that doing so would lead Hashem to heal him from his own illness. R. Yochanan perceived what R. Elazar was thinking, and he said to him: “On that account you can surely weep.” He was telling him: “I know that your weeping is prompted by your own plight, not by mine.” R. Yochanan then began praying on R. Elazar’s behalf, and the two of them wept together.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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