Parashas Vayishlach

This week’s parashah describes Yaakov’s encounter with Eisav upon returning from Charan. The Midrash relates (Bereishis Rabbah 75:13):
Yaakov saw Eisav coming from a distance. He lifted his eyes upward, cried, and prayed to Hashem for mercy. Hashem heard his prayer and promised to save him from all his troubles in the merit of Yaakov, as it is written (Tehillim 20:2): “Hashem shall answer you on the day of trouble; the Name of the God of Yaakov shall raise you on high.”
We previously presented a segment from the Maggid’s commentary on this Midrash. Here we present another segment, which focuses on the verse from Tehillim that the Midrash quotes.
Our Sages teach (Sanhedrin 44b): “A person should always pray ahead of time, before misfortune strikes.” Shlomo HaMelech, speaking in Hashem’s name, presents the reason (Mishlei 1:27–28): “When your dread arrives as sudden darkness, and your misfortune comes like a storm, when trouble and distress come upon you – then they will call me, but I will not answer, they will seek me, but they will not find me.” Two questions arise regarding this passage. First, why the repetitive language? Second, and more seriously, what does it mean that “they will not find me,” given that Hashem is present everywhere? Hashem is not like a mortal man who must be sought and found; He is constantly right at our side whenever we wish to call to Him. His degree of closeness to a person depends only on the degree to which the person brings himself toward Him. If a person’s prayer is pure, and he seeks Hashem with his heart and soul, and has faith in His saving power, then his salvation is near. If our hearts are properly prepared, Hashem will hear us (cf. Tehillim 10:17): The Torah tells us that if we seek Hashem with our entire heart and soul, we are sure to find Him (Devarim 4:29).
Now, if a person waits until misfortune strikes to pray to Hashem, it will hard for him to gain Hashem’s aid, for his heart will be clouded with the pain of his suffering and with tempestuous thoughts that undermine his belief in Hashem and disrupt his faith in His providence. This is the lesson behind the message from Hashem that Shlomo conveyed in the passage from Mishlei that we quoted above. When a person seeks Hashem amidst agitation, his heart does not properly sense Hashem’s presence – his faith in Hashem is shaken.
We can now understand easily why our Sages tell us to pray ahead of time, before misfortune strikes. Once we in the throes of misfortune, our situation is desperate. Thus, David HaMelech entreats (Tehillim 20:10): “Hashem save! May the King answer on the day we call.” David is pleading with Hashem to help us even though we are already ensnared in affliction. How can we gain Hashem’s help when we are in such a state? In the verse that the Midrash quotes, David tells us: “Hashem will answer you in the day of misfortune; the God of Yaakov will raise you up.” In times of misfortune, when it is hard for us to gain Hashem’s help through our own efforts, we can still gain relief by drawing on the forces of salvation that our forefather Yaakov generated for us.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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