Gleaned from the Sfas Emes

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Parshas Vayishlach

Ya'akov's Prayer

Before meeting Esav, Ya'akov prays...

"And Ya'akov said, G-d of my father, Avrohom, and G-d of my father, Yitzchok! The One who said to me..." (32:10)

Ya'akov Avinu, in his prayer to G-d, does not 'beseech', 'cry out', or 'implore'. There is no underscoring, no escalation of emotion, no special efforts to reach a closeness to G-d. If in time of need, we do beseech, cry out, and implore, perhaps the crisis has caused us to feel distant from G-d. Or perhaps, we were not near before. But Ya'akov Avinu was constantly with G-d. Crisis situations had no effect, for better or worse, on this relationship. Ya'akov was always on the highest, closest level to G-d; to communicate with Him was simply a matter of speaking.

The Talmud (B'rochos 26b) tells us that Ya'akov instituted Ma'ariv prayers. It also states (B'rochos 27b) that the Ma'ariv prayer isn't obligatory. (Ma'ariv, later became a self-imposed obligation - Yad haChazakah, Hilchos T'fillah, 1:6). Ya'akov, who was ever prepared for prayer, instituted a prayer appropriate to his level. But not everyone is capable of this level, therefore its obligation was not uniform. (Sfas Emes Vayishlach, 5643)

In the summer of 1844, the Chidushei haRim, zt"l, made a lengthy trip into Russia to visit Rav Yisroel Ruzhiner in the town of Sadigur. Rav Yisroel Grossbard, zt"l, who accompanied him, told the following incident: Descending a steep mountain, the coachman lost control of the horses. It looked as if the speeding carriage would overturn and crash. The screams of the passengers drew the Chidushei haRim out of his deep thoughts. "What is the yelling about?" he asked. "How can we not yell, when our lives are at stake?" they answered. Calmly, he replied, "Every Jew is required to live each second of his life with the fear you feel now. If we do, then what difference is there now, that we should cry out to G-d more than at any other time?"


"Gleaned From the Sfas Emes"- excerpts adapted from a soon to published book, G-d Willing, by Simcha Leib Grossbard.Rabbi Grossbard is author of "The Sfas Emes Haggadah"(Targum Press) and "Kasheleg Yalbinu", a two volume (Hebrew) work based on Sfas Emes.


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