YomTov, Vol. I, # 64
Topic: The Tenth of Teves - The Power of Prayer and the Destruction
by Rabbi Yehudah Prero
In the second book of Melachim (Kings)[22:14], we find the following
incident: In the days of Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) the prophet, Yoshiyyahu the
king realized that the sins of the nation of Israel were great, and that if
the nation did not repent and find favor in the eyes of G-d, the destruction
of the Temple would occur. Therefore, Yoshiyyahu sent messengers to a prophet
to request the guidance of the prophet. These messengers were not sent to the
prophet Yirmiyahu, the greatest of the generation. They were sent instead to
Chulda, the prophetess, to request her intervention. Why were they sent to
Chulda and not to Yirmiyahu?
Rashi, the commentator, writes that 'Our Sages said (they went to Chulda)
because a women is more merciful than a man, and therefore they (the
messengers) were not sent to Yirmiyahu.' The Gemora in the tractate of
Megilla (14b) also discusses the choice of Chulda. There the question is
posed "How could Yoshiyyahu himself pass over Yirmiyahu and send the
messengers to Chulda? The members of the school of Rav Shila replied 'because
women are tender-hearted.' Because of this attribute that Chulda had by
virtue of the fact she was a woman, Yoshiyyahu sent the messengers to her, as
the commentator Maharsha says, so that she herself, out of her feelings of
mercy, would pray that the destruction not happen.
This explanation is still puzzling. The prophet Yirmiyahu was one of the
greatest men of his generation. He was a person who as a prophet knew
intimately of the great catastrophe that was going to occur if the nation did
not repent. He most definitely felt pain and anguish over the plight of the
nation of Israel. He most certainly prayed that the destruction should not
happen. His mercy was definitely aroused so that he prayed for the nation of
Israel constantly, with every fiber of his being. Why then did Yoshiyyahu
instead turn to Chulda?
Rabbi Henoch Leibowitz shlit"a said that we need to understand the nature of
prayer. The essential ingredient for prayer is "Kavana" - concentrative
intent. The more one truly means what he is saying to G-d, and the more one
truly feels that he is talking to G-d, the more concentrative intent one has.
The greater the concentrative intent is , the power of the prayer is greater,
and the acceptance of the prayer by G-d is greater. It is without doubt that
Yirmiyahu prayed to G-d with a great amount of "kavana" when asking for the
sparing of the nation of Israel from the prophecized tragedies. However,
Chulda had an edge over Yirmiyahu - she was by nature more merciful. This
added edge translated into Chulda being able to pray with slightly more
"kavana" than Yirmiyahu that the destruction of the Temple be averted.
Because the stakes were so high, Yoshiyyahu sent the messengers to Chulda,
the person whose prayers he knew would have greater impact because of the
added level of "kavana."
We see from the incident not only a lesson about prayer, and how to properly
pray, but a lesson in how to pray for the Temple as well. The Temple now lays
in ruins, and the nation of Israel is in exile. In order for our prayers that
the Temple be rebuilt and that the entire nation of Israel be returned to our
land to be accepted on the highest level possible, we have to truly mean what
we are saying. Mere lip service will accomplish very little. On the Fast of
the Tenth of Teves, our goal should be to mourn over the destruction, repent,
and pray to G-d with deep feelings. Hopefully, if each and every one of us
can arouse even a small spark of the "kavana" that our prophets had when
praying for the Temple, we will see the Temple rebuilt soon.
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For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.
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