Parashas Vaeschanan

This week’s parashah begins with Moshe describing his (unsuccessful) prayers to Hashem to be allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael. This prompts the Midrash to present various teachings regarding prayer, and the Maggid follows suit. I present here a selection from the Maggid’s teachings about prayer in his commentary on the parashah; this teaching ties in with the teaching from the Maggid’s commentary on Megillas Eichah that I presented in my last d’var Torah.
The Maggid poses the question of why we have a fixed daily schedule of prayer. We might well think that a person needs to plead to Hashem for help only when he is in a situation of misfortune, and since such situations arise only episodically, we do not need a regular prayer schedule. The purpose of the fixed prayer schedule can be explained in various ways. Here, the Maggid explains that it befits a person to pray not only over his own misfortunes, but also over the misfortunes of others. Thus, when Iyov cried out to Hashem over his suffering, he cited as a point in his favor the concern he showed previously for others in distress (Iyov 30:25): “Did I not weep for those in hardship? Did I not show sorrow for the destitute?” The Gemara in Berachos 12b says that one who is aware of his fellow man’s distress but does not ask Hashem to show the person mercy is a sinner. At any given time, within the sphere in which a person lives, there are many people suffering misfortune, and so there is never any lack of something to pray about. Accordingly, a regular prayer schedule makes eminently good sense. The Maggid adds that if a person makes it his practice to pray on behalf of others, then on occasions when he is in distress and others are praying on his behalf, Hashem answers these prayers.
The Maggid links the discussion above with a teaching in Berachos 6b. The Gemara says that if someone sets for himself a fixed place for prayer, the God of Avraham is his aid, and when he dies, people say about him, “Alas, a humble man, a pious man, a disciple of our forefather Avraham.” When a person sets for himself a fixed place for prayer, this shows that he takes the daily prayer schedule seriously, and it is thus clear (since he himself is not always in distress) that he takes care to pray on behalf of others. And then, measure for measure, Hashem grants him aid when he suffers trouble. Moreover, when he dies his neighbors earnestly mourn his death, for they recognize the concern that he showed for them.
The Maggid adds further that a prayer that someone offers on behalf of others is more easily accepted than a prayer he offers on his own behalf. The Maggid explains this principle with a parable. A man is traveling around a city collecting charity for a needy neighbor. In the marketplace, he runs across someone who hates him. He says to him: “Don’t refuse to give me a donation in order to cause me grief. I am not collecting for myself, but for a neighbor. You will not be doing me any good turn if you give, and you will not be causing me any harm if you refuse – you will only be helping or harming the person I am collecting for.” The parallel is as follows. When a person prays for himself, his prayer is opposed by accusing angels who argue that, on account of his sins, he does not deserve to be answered. But when a person prays for someone else, the angels do not step in to block the prayer; instead, they offer their support.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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