“The Power of Prayer”

by Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald

In this week’s parasha, parashat Va’etchanan, we read of Moses’ powerful prayers to be allowed to enter into the land of Israel, and G-d’s refusal to accede to his request.

The rabbis, in Midrash Rabbah in Deuteronomy 1:1, speak of the extraordinary powers of Moses’ prayers to be allowed to enter the land of Israel. Say the rabbis: At that moment, what did Moses do? He dressed himself in sackcloth and sprinkled himself with ashes and stood in prayer, beseeching the Al-mighty G-d, until the heavens and earth and the orders of creation began to quake.

In response, the Al-mighty decreed that the gates to all the seven firmaments be sealed and that all courts of law refuse to accept Moses’ prayers, because the Divine decree was final.

The angels of heaven hastened to lock all the gates of the firmaments of heaven because Moses’ prayers had already risen so high they were like a sharp sword, and as powerful as uttering the Divine name, ripping through everything in its way.

At that moment, Moses’ prayers matched the description found in Ezekiel 3:12, “Then a wind lifted me up and I heard behind me the sound of a great noise, ‘Blessed is the L-rd’s glory from His abode,’” There can be no greater sound than that uttered by Moses.

Rabbi Shimshon Dovid Pincus in his collection of insights into the weekly parasha, entitled Tiferet Shimshon on Deuteronomy, notes that the power of Moses’ prayer recalls a discussion in the Zohar.

The Zohar on parashat Balak states that scriptures mention three actual instances of “prayer,” the prayer of Moses, the prayer of King David and the prayer of the עָנִי , the poor man.

In Psalms 90:1 we find, תְּפִלָּה לְמֹשֶׁה אִישׁ הָאֱ־לֹקִים , the prayer of Moses, the man of G-d. This prayer is incomparable amongst human beings. In Psalms 17:1, we find the prayer of King David, תְּפִלָּה לְדָוִד . This prayer has no equal amongst kings. Psalms 102:1, תְּפִלָּה לְעָנִי כִי יַעֲטֹף , speaks of the prayer of the poor person when he faints and collapses.

The Zohar asks which of these three prayers is the most significant, and declares that the prayer of the poor person is even greater than the prayer of Moses and the prayer of King David, and precedes all prayers in the world. Why? Because the prayer of the poor person comes from a broken heart.

As Psalm 34:19 states, קָרוֹב השׁם לְנִשְׁבְּרֵי לֵב , the Al-mighty is close to those who have a broken heart. G-d listens to their words and it is the poor person’s prayers that has the power to open the windows of the firmaments.

Despite the overwhelming power of Moses’ prayer, אִישׁ הָאֱ־לֹקִים , the man of G-d, whose prayer was like the utterance of the Divine name, and was able to rip and slice like a sword, it is still unable to compare to the powerful prayer of the poor person with a broken heart.

Rabbi Pincus urges every person to appreciate the importance of the petitions of the poor, and to never ignore them.

In addition, he advises that the most effective method to achieve a good and happy life is that every person should always see themselves as standing before the Al-mighty like a person with a broken heart. These prayers have the power to open up the windows of heaven and bring out the Al-mighty’s abundant blessings of salvation and success.

Moses’ prayers were able to make the heavens tremble, but there is nothing more powerful than the prayers that emanate from a broken heart.

Especially during the “Nine Days,” the period of intense mourning that precedes Tisha b’Av, we have a unique opportunity to seize the mood of the time, to offer truly meaningful prayers with our broken hearts.

May you be blessed.

Please remember: The observance of the fast of Tisha b’Av marking the destruction of the Jerusalem Temples, starts on Monday night, July 31st and continues through Tuesday night, August 1st, 2017. Have a meaningful fast.

The Shabbat after Tisha b’Av is traditionally known as “Shabbat Nachamu,” in deference to the first of a series of seven Haftarot (prophetic messages) of consolation, drawn from the book of Isaiah, and read between Tisha b’Av and Rosh Hashana. “Nachamu, Nachamu Ami,” be comforted My nation, are the opening words of Isaiah 40.

This year, the joyous festival of Tu b’Av, the fifteenth of Av, is celebrated on Sunday night and Monday, August 6th and 7th, 2017. Happy Tu b’Av.