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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Zos Habracha

How To Ask For Something

And he said: G-d came from Sinai, He had already radiated for them from Se'ir, had dawned from Mount Paran and then come from Myriads of Holy ones, from His Right Hand they had fire become law.

It became King in Jerusalem. In as much as the heads of the people gathered together to it, the tribes of Israel became one union.(DEVARIM 33:2, DEVARIM 33:5)

A poor woman who sold fruit at the market approached Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz (author of Divrei Chaim). She burst into bitter tears and asked him to help her, saying that she was a widow with many children to feed. Rabbi Chaim was astonished at her request, since he knew that she had a regular source of income by selling in the market. Then the woman revealed what had happened.

"Rabbi, I do have an income, but something terrible has happened to me. I bought a wagon full of apples, and a rumor has gone around that my apples are rotten and sour, and now no one wants to buy from me," the woman lamented.

The Rabbi replied, "Who said that your apples are not good? Go bring your apples to the market and I will arrive shortly."

The woman did as the Rabbi told her, and the Rabbi kept his word.

He came to the market, and stood by the woman's apple cart, hollering out as loudly as any of the merchants: "Jews! Buy good and sweet apples. These apples are praiseworthy and the best there are!"

When the Jews of Sanz saw their beloved Rabbi standing beside the apple cart, extolling their quality, hundreds of people gathered around, and the apples were all sold at a good price, since no one would haggle over the price with the Rabbi standing right there. Thus the woman's livelihood was quickly restored, and when she profusely thanked the Rabbi for helping her, he smiled. Then he added, "You see, your apples were not bad at all!" (OLAM CHESED BANEH,vol. 11, p. 54)

Even though Rabbi Chaim fulfilled the poor woman's request very generously, often people are reluctant to do a favor. Thus when we ask a favor from our spouses, we must know how to ask.

"And he said, 'G-d came from Sinai.'" The verse is telling us that when Moshe started speaking, he did not begin by telling the needs of Israel, but rather he started with the praise of G-d.

This is similar to a parable of an advocate who was hired by someone to speak on his behalf before the king. The advocate did not start speaking about the person's needs, but rather he began by praising the king. He said, "Happy is the world in which he is the king, happy is the world in which he is the judge, upon us does the sun shine, upon us does the moon shine." Everyone thought highly of his speech. Afterwards he began to speak of the needs of the man who had hired him, and before he ended he returned to speak more praise of the king.

The same approach applies to Moshe Rabbenu. He did not start with the needs of Israel until he had spoken of the honor of G-d, as it is written, "And he said, 'G-d came from Sinai.'" Then he spoke of the needs of Israel, as it is written, "And there was a king in Yeshurun." And then afterwards he continued to praise Hashem, as it is written, "There is no one like G-d, Yeshurun."

And even in the silent Amidah prayer that the Sages composed, they did not start with the needs of Israel until they spoke of the praise of G-d, as it is written, "Hashem, the mighty, the great, and the awesome; He releases prisoners," and then, "You are holy and Your name is awesome." And then, we make our requests, such as, The Healer of the sick." And then, [at the end we return to praising Hashem], "We thank You."(YALKUT 951 par. VA-YOMAR)

Why is it necessary to praise before a person articulates his requests? Isn't this something like bribery, and is it possible to bribe G-d? Also, why is it necessary to return to praising G-d after we finish petitioning Him for our needs?

Praising G-d makes us realize how great He is. Once we internalize such a recognition we will pray and ask for our needs to be met with much more fervor. When we praise Him, we begin to understand that He is capable of providing our requests, and hence we pray with greater intensity. The praise is not in any way bribery, for it is impossible to bribe G-d. He is completely just and besides, He is the Master of everything so there is nothing we could possibly give as a bribe. But the praise is for our own benefit, so that we realize the greatness of the One to whom we are making our requests.

In the parable of our Sages, the king is praised. This was in order to remind the king of his powers, and that she should reflect upon the fact that it was possible for him to grant the advocate's request if he so desired. But in order to properly apply the lesson of the parable, we should be aware that the realization of the heavenly King's great power is meant not for the One who can give, but rather for the one who is asking, whether it is Moshe Rabbenu or any Jew praying to Him.

Concluding with praise after asking that our requests be granted, shows G-d our praise to Him will not be diminished even if our requests might not be granted. Rather, our praise to Him is unwavering and is not dependent on the results of our prayers. He will decide what is best for us, since our limited minds cannot possibly know this. We request what we think we need, but the final judgement is left to Him. It is this recognition which is the purpose of the praise with which we conclude our prayers.

Be Tactful and Praise Your Spouse Before Making a Request

Then we request something of our spouses, we should use the same method as when we ask Hashem for anything in mind. We do not deserve anything from our spouses any more than we deserve something from G-d. Therefore a request to a spouse should be preceded with a word of praise. In that way we are showing that we are not demanding anything, rather we are asking a favor. It is so much more pleasant to hear a request when it is enveloped in pleasant words rather than when it is arrogantly demanded as a right.

When a person asks for something from his spouse as a demand, it shows that he thinks greatly of himself. Such a demand is an expression of a feeling that one deserves immediate gratification. Arrogance is abhorrent to Hashem and also to people. Our Sages teach us: G-d says that He cannot live in the world together with someone who is arrogant. When a person acts arrogantly towards his spouse, it causes a rift in their relationship. Why should a spouse think of himself as such an important person, when we know that everyone has so much to improve, and that there is no place at all for such arrogance?

Of course, we should ask in a pleasant manner just for the sake of chesed alone. We are doing chesed with our spouses when we ask in the proper way. This way we are causing a pleasant feeling in the hearts our spouses, which is definitely considered a chesed. But for those of us who need an extra incentive, it really is much more expedient to ask for something from our spouses nicely. By doing so we stand a much better chance of getting what we want.

Instead of saying, "Serve me dinner," we could say, "I really like your cooking. What do you have to eat?" Or instead of, "I am waiting for you!" we could say, "I love to go out with you. Perhaps you could hurry a bit?" Instead of a wife saying, "You are so sloppy!" she could say, "I love the way you know how to arrange everything in such an orderly fashion. Perhaps you could do it now?"By adding a compliment before we ask for something from our spouses, we are doing an extra chesed. Not only are we asking in the correct manner, but we are also raising our spouses' self-esteem. Instead of just demanding from our spouses, in this manner we make even the taking also giving. By choosing the right words before we speak, we are constantly doing chesed to our spouses.

The addition of these words convey so much love for our spouses, that it is certainly worth the extra effort it takes to say something tactfully and pleasantly.

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