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Prayer At The Height Of The Universe
Length: 17 min
These parshios of the Chumash that describe the process of Yisroel's freedom from slavery bring to mind a fascinating Midrash Tanchuma. Our Chazal tell us that HaShem saw that the Bnei Yisroel didn't possess the good deeds that would merit their freedom and He redeemed them. (M.T. Shmos 12). It would seem that the end of the verse contradicts the beginning. The Ramban resolves the problem by stating "that even though the period that they were supposed to be in exile had ended, they were unworthy of being redeemed…but HaShem accepted their prayers in His infinite mercy" – His words actually reflect a Gemora, R' Elazar tells us that prayer is greater than good deeds; since even Moshe Rabbenu, who was certainly superlative in his performance of good deeds, nevertheless was answered by HaShem as a result of his prayers. (Brachos 32B). R' Aaron זצ"ל explains this to mean that prayer has the power to effect and to influence HaShem's decrees for us even when good deeds are unable to do so. He says that this is meant by the description of prayer as being at the "height of the universe" (Omdim B'Rumo Shel Olam). It so to speak, ascends to HaShem's throne to intercede on our behalf, while other mitzvos don't have the ability to do so. This is the meaning of Rashi who comments that "prayer ascends heavenward" – (B'rachos 6B). This sublime effect of prayer is also the reason that prayer can change a person's destiny. Our Chazal tell us that a person's life span, whether or not he'll have children, and his financial success is not dependent upon his merit, but rather upon his destiny (mazel) (Moed Koton 28A). Tosfos however, says that a very great merit can change even one's destiny (Shabos 156A). Our Chazal imply that t'fila is such a mitzva when they tell us that if one wishes to be successful in business he should pray to HaShem. (K'dushin 82A and Nidah 70B). There is another reason which also explains why prayer is considered to be at the "height of the universe". The Chinuch says that prayer inculcates, and reinforces a person's belief in HaShem, in His omnipotence and in Divine Providence. It strengthens our entire connection with HaShem. It therefore certainly is at the very height of the universe (Sefer HaChinuch 433). R' Aaron זצ"ל explains that this is why the Avos established the mitzva of regularly "davening" to Hashem three times a day (B'rachos 26B). Since their main objective was to spread the belief of monotheism and to bring mankind to a belief in a personal G-d, they realized that the mitzva of t'fila would be especially effective in accomplishing this goal. The Chinuch also explains that HaShem so designed the world, that all of our needs should be met as a result of our prayers. Our Chazal say that prayer is "Chiyei Shah", our temporal existence. Rashi explains Chiyei Shah to mean, health, livelihood, and peace (Shabos 10A). This is all dependent upon our prayers. This would be another reason why t'fliah is considered to be at the height of the universe. It is the essential cause of our existence in this world. Finally, we find in Chazal that the achievement of our spiritual goals in life, are also completely dependent upon prayer. Our ultimate success in the study of Torah is totally dependent upon Divine Aid (Megila 6B). If we don't pray for it HaShem will not grant it to us. The Ramban tells us that HaShem didn't cure Moshe Rabenu's speech defect because he didn't pray to HaShem to heal him (Sh'mos Ch. 4, 10) We also find that a person's Yetzer HaRah is constantly trying to destroy us; if not for HaShem's aid we would never be able to overcome him (K'dushin 30B). May HaShem help us to strengthen our t'fila to Him. May we recognize prayer as a powerful gift that can definitely and concretely influence our lives and the welfare of Klal Yisroel, a gift that is truly at the height of the universe.