הרב שי טחן  כה אדר א, תשפד05/03/2024

Coming back to recent events, we should all understand that Hashem wants something from us, as a catastrophe doesn't occur in the world without a spiritual reason

During times of conflict, individuals are urged to employ every means at their disposal to ensure victory. This encompasses acquiring the finest equipment, ammunition, intelligence, and other resources. However, these endeavors, termed as hishtadlut, constitute merely our earthly efforts in the grand scheme of things, but it's crucial to recognize that Hashem operates behind the scenes, orchestrating all outcomes. By engaging in hishtadlut, we fulfill our nature duties while maintaining Hashem's hidden
role. It's a delicate balance: Hashem remains concealed, expecting us to uncover Him through our actions.
In addition to fulfilling our earthly duties, we are also obligated to engage in spiritual efforts, such as deepening our understanding of Torah, intensifying our prayers, and meticulously observing the commandments. Let's focus on the significance of prayer in this article, highlighting how it can genuinely aid our soldiers and nation in achieving victory during wartime.
Hashem Desires Our Prayer.

In times of peril, our sages teach us that the danger may be a catalyst for Hashem's desire for our prayers. While we often perceive prayer as a response to our needs, the cause and effect relationship can sometimes be reversed. Hashem may engineer circumstances that evoke feelings of urgency and desperation within us, prompting our prayers for deliverance.
In simpler terms, while we typically view prayer as our request to Hashem and His subsequent response, the relationship between prayer and events can often be reversed. Sometimes, Hashem engineers situations where we experience fear or desperation, prompting us to pray for salvation. Thus, prayer becomes the response to the circumstances that Hashem has orchestrated.
אמר רבי יצחק: מפני מה היו אבותינו עקורים? מפני שהקב"ה מתאוה לתפלתן של צדיקים.(יבמות דף ס"ד)
We recognize this principle from our patriarchs and matriarch who faced infertility. Chazal explain that this difficulty was ordained by Hashem to elicit their prayers, and upon praying, they were granted children. However, one might argue that this principle applies only to individuals who have personal needs, such as desiring a child. It may not seem relevant to situations where Hashem places us in grave danger, as is the case in our current times. Yet, Chazal elucidate that this principle extends to such situations as well, as we can glean from the following Midrash Raba (שמות כא, ה’) :
“When the nation of Israel saw that they were surrounded on three sides – the sea blocking them, the enemy in pursuit, and the beasts in the wilderness – they raised their eyes to their Father in heaven and cried out to Him, as it is stated: “The children of Israel cried out to Hashem.” Why did He do this to them? It was because Hashem desires their prayers.

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: To what is this matter comparable? It is to a king who was travelling on
the way and a princess was screaming to him: ‘Please, save me from the highwaymen.’ The king heard and rescued her. Sometime later, he sought to take her as a wife. He desired that she speak to him, but she did not want to do so. What did the king do? He incited the bandit against her so that she would scream and the king would hear. When the bandit beset her, she began screaming to the king.
The king said to her: ‘This is what I desired, to hear your voice.’ So Israel, when they were in Egypt and the Egyptians were forcing them to work, they began screaming and raising their eyes to the Hashem, as it is stated: “It was during those many days…they cried out” (שמות ב,כג). Immediately, “Hashem saw the children of Israel” (שמות ב, כה).
Hashem began taking them out from there with a powerful hand and an outstretched arm. He sought to hear their voice another time, but they did not wish to cry out. What did He do? He incited Pharaoh to pursue them, as it is stated: “Pharaoh drew near.” Immediately, “the children of Israel cried out to the Hashem.” At that moment He said: ‘That is what I wanted – to hear your voice.’ As it is stated: “My dove in the cleft of the rock […sound me your voice]” (שיר השירים ב, יד).”
But why does Hashem care whether we pray to Him, and why does He desire our prayer? Additionally, how do we explain the notion that Hashem didn't give our patriarchs children so they would pray? Didn't they pray beforehand? It seems evident from the Midrash Raba that, just like a king desires a close relationship with his princess, so too does Hashem desire a binding relationship with us. In fact, this is what the commentators explain about the meaning of prayer (Tfila) - a binding attachment relationship. We derive this concept from the reason Rachel named her son Naftali. She said it's because the word "נפתולי" is a variant of the word "פתיל" as in "צמיד פתיל," meaning a tightly fitted lid (במדבר יט, טז). Rachel meant that her bond with her husband contained spiritual and religious dimensions, making their connection immeasurably stronger. (Rashi, Rabenu Bechayey)
Accordingly, we can understand that since Tfila comes from the word "patil," which means attached, the attachment to Hashem has various levels, just like any attachment can range from loose to tight to very tight. Thus, when Hashem desired the Tfila of our patriarchs, although they obviously prayed before, there is always room to strengthen the attachment with Hashem. You can only reach your full potential when Hashem tests the person.
א"ר יצחק: לָמָה נמשלה תפילתן של צדיקים כעתר? מה עתר זה מהפך התבואה ממקום למקום, כך תפילתן של צדיקים מהפכת מידותיו של הקב"ה ממידת רגזנות למידת רחמנות. (יבמות סד, א)
There is a question about prayer that is very challenging. Since we believe that Hashem does whatever is best for us and puts us in the best possible scenario at all times, why would I pray to change my circumstances? Moreover, why would Hashem change it if that is the best for me?
Or we can present this the way Rabbi Yosef Albo asked(ספר העיקרים מאמר ד’ פרק יח) : "Either Hashem has determined that a given person shall receive a given benefit, or He has not so determined. If He has determined, there is no need of prayer; and if He has not determined, how can prayer avail to change Hashem's will that He should now determine to benefit the person, when He had not so determined before? For Hashem does not change from a state of willing to a state of not willing, or vice versa. For this reason, they say that right conduct is of no avail for receiving good from Hashem. And similarly, they say that prayer does not avail to enable one to receive a benefit or to be saved from an evil which has been decreed against him".
The answer is that indeed the conditions I'm in at any given moment are the best for me for that moment, but many times they are painful and hard to tolerate. Therefore, we ask Hashem in our prayer to elevate us to a new level, to a place that is very different from where I am right now. In that scenario, I'm in a new place and that will require new challenges which are easier or more comfortable to tolerate.
This principle is explained in the Gemara(יבמות סד,א) that prayer has the power to change the status of a person and thus change the heavenly decree. Rabbi Yitzchak said: Why are the prayers of the righteous likened to a pitchfork? Just as a pitchfork turns the grain from one place to another, so too the prayers of the righteous turn the heavenly attributes from the attribute of anger to the attribute of mercy.
Rabbi Albo elaborates on this concept, explaining that when a benefit is determined in favor of anyone, it is conditional upon a certain degree of right conduct. This principle applies generally to the promises in the Bible. Similarly, when a certain evil is determined upon someone, it is also conditional upon his being wicked to a certain degree or being predisposed to it. If the degree of wickedness or predisposition changes, the pre-determined event or fate necessarily changes for the better or worse accordingly.
Another approach is that the good destined for a person is already prepared for him, but it can only be utilized if he prays for it; then Hashem brings it down for him. Otherwise, it remains waiting for him unused. This is the explanation of Rabbi Yosef Albo: For the influences from above come down upon the recipient when he is in a certain degree and state of preparation to receive them. And if a person does not prepare himself, he withholds the good from himself. For example, if it has been determined from on high that a given person’s crops shall prosper in a given year, and he neglects to plow or sow his land that year, then God may bring the most abundant rain upon the land, but his crops will not prosper, seeing that he has not plowed or sowed. He withheld the good from himself because he did not prepare himself to receive it.
This principle is exemplified in the creation of the world, as the verse states (בראשית ב, ה) that although Hashem had created plants and trees, they weren't fruitful yet because there was no man to pray for them to bring forth. This teaches us that many times the potential is there, but it awaits prayer to bring it forth.
Coming back to recent events, we should all understand that Hashem wants something from us, as a catastrophe doesn't occur in the world without a spiritual reason. Therefore, it's crucial to try to discern what Hashem desires from us. In previous generations, we would turn to our great rabbis, who could guide us in understanding Hashem's will. However, in a generation like ours, where guidance may be elusive, we need to return to the fundamental roots. The most basic principle is that we need a relationship with Hashem, and we foster that relationship through intimate prayer.