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Sunday, 6 July 2014

Getting G-d’s Attention


Taanis 25

We’ve previously discussed the problem with prayer.  Most people are simply frustrated.  They’ve tried it in the past and it doesn’t work.  So why bother trying again?

Of course, if every time you prayed, a miracle happened, the world would be a crazy place.  Many well-meaning individuals are asking for the wrong things.   Think, for example, how the world would look if every person who prayed to win the lottery was answered?  A million dollars wouldn’t be enough to survive if everyone had it!  And how could everyone win the same lottery?!?

But there is one simple trick to get your prayers answered more frequently.  Here’s the secret:

Our Rabbis taught: It is related of Rabbi Eliezer that in response to a drought, he ordained thirteen fasts upon the community.  But alas no rain fell.  
In the end, as the people began to depart from the synagogue, he exclaimed, “Have you prepared graves for yourselves?” The people heard this and broke out in tears.  As a result of this repentance, the rain fell.

It is further related of Rabbi Eliezer that on another occasion of drought, he went to the front of the synagogue to lead the services.  He recited the twenty-four benedictions for fast days, but his prayer was not answered.
Rabbi Akiva then stepped forward to lead and exclaimed, “Our Father, our King, we have no King but You.  Our Father, our King, have mercy upon us for Your sake.”  Sure enough, the rain then fell.  The rabbis began to spread the word that Rabbi Akiva is much worthier than Rabbi Eliezer.

Suddenly, a Heavenly Voice came forth and announced, “The prayer of this man was not answered because he is greater than the other man; rather, because he is a forgiving person and the other is not a forgiving person.”

The Almighty will treat you as you treat others.  If you want Him to be benevolent to you, you’ve got to be benevolent to others.  If you want Him to forgive your misdeeds and answer your prayers, though you may be undeserving, you must be ever-forgiving of other people’s behaviour.  If you forgive easily, G-d will easily forgive.

In fact, Rabbi Paysach Krohn goes so far as to understand this Gemara as teaching that the Almighty ignores the person as he sins and doesn’t let it faze Him!   He writes, “Someone who looks away when others hurt or insult him merits that Hashem looks away when he does something wrong.”  That’s pretty powerful, don’t you think?  If you ignore other people’s indiscretions, G-d will ignore your indiscretions. 

But forgiving other people’s behaviour or insult means to the extent that you would help them in their time of need and respond to them, no questions asked.  Indeed, the Torah forbids us to perform netirah, which is the practice of telling someone that you will help them despite what they did to you.  Believe it or not, you may not so much as remind them of their misbehaviour!  If you can act in such a benevolent, forgiving fashion, then G-d will act the same way to you when you request your needs and wants from Him. 

Prayer works.  You simply need to remove all the impediments to prayer that you’ve amassed over the years.  Unburden yourself of any ill-feeling you may have towards any other human being.  Let it go.  Set them and yourself free.  And your prayer-experience will be forever changed!