Parshas Vayeira 5757 - '96
Prayers and Children
1. The Extreme Student
The Kav Hayashar
relates one of his characteristically mysterious stories, in the name of
Rabbi Yehudah Chasid. The Ramban had a student who learned Torah with a
tremendous zeal and fervor -- to extremes. He would not sleep, had a book
opened when he ate; his eyes were always in the book. He refused to pray,
as well; the davening took him away from his learning. The Ramban warned
him: "Eat when it's time to eat, sleep when it's time to sleep, pray when
it's time to pray -- you will live and not err. If not, the Torah itself
will seek your punishment." Especially, the Ramban warned him regarding the
The student did
not pay attention. One day, when he went to the market to make some purchase,
he returned to find his daughter had been attacked, in his own house. He
mourned for many days. The Ramban said to him: "I told you not to forsake
the prayers, where it is stated, 'Save me today, and every day ... from an
evil person ... and an evil encounter ...' "
From then on,
the student was always aware of "hashgacha pratis b'bitul hatefilah" --
providential supervision regarding missed prayers.
This story is
most peculiar! For one thing, the failings of the student were not only in
his prayers, but his entire attitude. For example, his refusal to sleep was
mentioned, and the Ramban reproved him concerning it. Yet, the story only
seemed to focus on the refusal to pray. Even more interesting was the story's
conclusion: 'From then on, the student was always aware of "hashgacha pratis
b'bitul hatefilah" -- providential supervision regarding missed prayers.'
Your 'happily ever after' story would have said, "From then on, the student
was always careful to pray three times a day..."
2. Prayer and the Expression of Will
intrinsically linked to will, energy, effort, desire, exuberance and love
of life. The student did not want to state his will and desires, as if he
didn't have any. Yet, he went to buy something -- he obviously had needs.
What about his family? When his daughter was attacked -- it became apparent
that he had neglected responsibilities. All this can be summarized with
"hashgacha pratis b'bitul hatefilah" -- providential supervision regarding
missed prayers. The prayer is not three times a day, but constantly -- prayer
is the expression of will.
Each of the
forefathers remained unconvinced of the many assurances they received from
Hashem. The reason was "shema y'gorem hacheit," perhaps sins will intervene.
They were afraid that they or their children would err, and thus lose the
merit of the promises. Of course, parents should always be concerned about
their children, and there can be no absolute way of knowing how they will
we find in the Talmud and Medrashim that Avraham and Yaakov were blamed for
not trusting Hashem in these instances. What was the blame? Quite the contrary,
what is the meaning of these 'assurances?' How can a person be assured regarding
his children? They will certainly have their own choices...
3. Sarah and the Angels
greets the angels, they appear as Arabs. According to Rashi, he suspected
them of being idolaters. He tells his family to hurry and prepare food. They
ask regarding Sarah. Who are these strange men? Asking about his wife, no
less? "Sarah will have a child this time next year." What, at age ninety?
She laughs, deep within her soul, so that no one would hear. "Why did you
laugh? Is there anything that Hashem cannot do?"
This is "hashgacha
pratis b'bitul hatefilah" -- providential supervision regarding missed prayers.
When you hear a blessing -- possible good news, say, "Amen -- may it only
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein -- PC Kollel
1 Babbin Ct. Spring Valley, NY 10977
firstname.lastname@example.org Ph. 914-425-3565 Fax 914-425-4296
© Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Genesis, '97