Parashas Vayeilech

We are now in the midst of a period of special Divine favor – the Ten Days of Repentance. I present here a segment from the Maggid’s commentary on this week’s parashah that discusses what we should focus our prayers on during such periods.
David HaMelech declares (Tehillim 63:2-3): “O God, You are my God; I seek you earnestly. My soul thirsts for you; my flesh longs for You, in a parched and thirsty land with no water. I indeed would seek You in the sanctuary, to behold Your might and Your glory.” The Maggid explains this passage with a parable. A person lost in the desert came upon a wrecked ship cast out from the sea, all its crewmen and passengers dead. The ship was filled with food and various treasures. The wanderer partook of the food for a few days and then got ready to resume his search for the way home. He pondered what he should take with him from the ship, given the limit on what he was able to carry. He was in a dilemma: If he took the gold and silver items rather than the food, he would starve in the desert, and if he took the food, he would arrive home empty-handed. In the end, he decided to take the food, so as not to risk dying of starvation on his way home. He bitterly lamented that it was in a desolate area far from his home that he found the ship, so that he was forced to leave the treasures behind. Had he found the ship close to home, he surely would have taken an ample stock of gold and silver.
The parallel is as follows. When a period of Divine favor comes upon us, we have a special opportunity to turn to Hashem with requests. What should we ask for? Ideally we would ask for precious spiritual blessings. But we are faced with pressing worldly needs; as David puts the matter, it is as if we are in a parched land, desperate for water. If only we could seek Hashem in the sanctuary – if only the period of Divine favor arrived while we were settled in our homeland, lacking nothing, as in the days of yore! Then we would ask Hashem to draw us close and allow us to behold His might and His glory.
In truth, any person who can see straight knows that spiritual benefits are more valuable than worldly benefits. Especially during a period of Divine favor, it seems so foolish to lay aside matters relating to the eternal world and focus instead on matters relating to the temporal world. We know that we ought to turn to our compassionate and gracious Father and plead with Him to rebuild Yerushalayim and the Beis HaMikdash, gather all Jews in from exile, and restore the Davidic monarchy. We understand well that if the central needs of the Jewish People as a nation are met, each individual will benefit. But we hesitate to pray for these needs. We are afraid that Hashem will not grant requests of such major proportions. And we say to ourselves that if we do not instead put forward the more modest request that our personal worldly needs be met, we will be left with nothing.
However, says the Maggid, this reasoning is misguided. The truth is reflected in the prayer Shlomo HaMelech offered when the First Beis HaMikdash was completed (Melachim Alef 8:38-39):
And any prayer and any supplication of any man from among Your entire people Yisrael, each man knowing the afflictions of his heart, when he spreads forth his hands toward this house, may You hear in heaven, Your dwelling-place, and forgive, and act, and render unto every man according to all his ways, as You know his heart – for You alone know the hearts of all people – so that they may fear You all the days that they live upon the land that you gave to our forefathers.
In this passage, Shlomo speaks of how Hashem knows all the hidden thoughts in each person’s heart. Hashem is well aware of the anguish a person feels as he struggles to meet his family’s physical needs and spare his children from hunger. This being so, it befits each person to have enough faith in Hashem to set aside his worldly concerns and focus his prayers on loftier matters, for even if Hashem does not grant the lofty blessings he is asking for in his spoken prayer, He will not turn him away empty-handed – Hashem, being aware of all the person’s concerns and troubles, will at least grant him his immediate worldly needs. In this vein, David HaMelech declares (Tehillim 21:3): “You have granted him his heart’s desire, and the request of his lips You have not withheld, Selah.” Here, “his heart’s desire” refers to the personal concerns that a person keeps hidden in his heart without expressing them, while “the request of his lips” refers to the blessings he is asking for explicitly in his spoken prayer. Hashem grants a person his immediate personal needs even if he decides to set them aside and focus his supplications on the needs of the Jewish People as a whole; spreading forth his hands, in Shlomo’s words, toward the Beis HaMikdash and praying for its restoration. At the same time, Hashem does not disregard the person’s spoken request; when the proper time comes, He will grant this request as well.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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