From time immemorial, man has searched for innovations to improve his quality of life in the physical world. It has been said that “necessity is the mother of invention,” and so over the course of history, basic human needs and the desire for comfortable living have been catalysts for tens of thousands of inventions. To this day, man is still seeking to maximize efficiency for himself and the world around him. Whether it’s more mileage per gallon of gasoline, more bushels of produce per acre of land, or the proper nutrients to maximize our own energy, we are always on the lookout to transform our lives for the better.
If this is true for physical matters, then we should most definitely be probing how to elevate our level of ruchniyus. For this, we have the help of countless seforim based on Chazal and Tanach for enhancing our spiritual level. One of the three pillars upon which the world stands is avodah, which in the times of the Bais Hamikdosh was the bringing of the korbanos. Today, in its absence, it includes the study of korbanos and the service of the heart, which is tefillah. In this week’s sedrah, there is a key element that can enhance the potency of our tefillos immeasurably.
“Va’avaditem es Hashem Elokeichem uveirach es lachmicha v’es meimecha – And you shall worship Hashem, your G-d, and He shall bless your bread and your waters” (Shemos 23:25). The posuk begins with “va’avaditem,” in the plural, yet it concludes with “lachmicha,” your bread, in the singular. Why the switch?
The Baal Haturim says that it starts with the plural to teach us that for a tefillah to be most effective, it has to be done in public with a tzibbur. As the Gemara says, Hashem does not turn away the tefillah of a tzibbur (Brachos 8a). It changes to singular to indicate that if we daven properly, Hashem will answer each individual for his own particular need (Kesubos 67b).
The Chofetz Chaim elaborates on the importance of tefillah with the tzibbur. One of the points he makes is that the tefillah of a yochid is examined in heaven precisely. Because of daily pressures, it is very rare to find someone who davens a full tefillah properly with full kavanah, and it is likely that his davening will not be accepted. The power of the tzibbur is so great that even a tefillah without kavanah is accepted (Shemiras Halashon, Volume 2).
However, even if someone davens with a tzibbur and even with full kavanah, there are different levels of potency of his tefillah. One can daven as a lone individual amidst the tzibbur or one can daven in a way that his own personal needs become the needs of the tzibbur and then it’s as if the entire kehillah is davening for him.
Rav Elya Lopian explains that if one is a man of the tzibbur, caring for other people’s needs and davening on behalf of others, then he is needed by the public at large and we know that the needs of the tzibbur are more assured of being answered than that of an individual. Especially during the Yomim Noraim, Rav Elya would advise people to daven for all of their friends. In that way, their own personal supplications would be set amidst the needs of the rabbim, thus adding more potency to their tefillos.
Another tried-and-true method of having one’s tefillos answered is illustrated by the following. A well-known dignified businessman and askan approached the great gaon and posek, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. It was obvious that he had a problem that was weighing heavily on his heart. He told Rav Shlomo Zalman that with the help of Hashem, he was able to support a sizable kollel of talmidei chachomim and he paid their monthly stipend out of his own pocket. Of late, however, he faced certain hardships in his business and found it very difficult to fulfill his commitment.
The fear of not being able to pay had become such a pressure on him and was so overwhelming that he couldn’t sleep at night. It wasn’t long before his health was adversely affected by this and he had to go see a doctor. After a thorough exam, the doctor told him that the problem is the stress he is under and the only remedy is to give up his beloved kollel. Only then would he be relaxed with peace of mind. Now he asked Rav Shlomo Zalman if he should indeed do that.
Rav Shlomo Zalman was silent for a few moments, engrossed in thought, and then he answered: “There is no doubt that you have to rid yourself of the intense pressure. It’s not healthy nor is it proper that you should live with such constant strain. But is the only viable solution to close down the kollel? I have another alternative, an excellent idea for you, and a remedy that can work wonders.”
The man listened intently, anxiously awaiting the advice. Rav Shlomo Zalman said, “I want to reveal a secret to you that is capable of relieving you or anybody, no matter their situation or the inner pressures that are troubling them. Get a small notebook that you can keep in your pocket throughout the entire day. Call it ‘the notebook of thanks.’ Any time during the day when you feel that Hashem helped you, or cheered you up, or you clearly saw His Hashgacha, jot it down in the pad. When you daven and you reach Modim, have in mind that you’re thanking Hashem for all of these chassodim that He did for you. If you do this, you can rest assured that in a short period of time you will see great yeshuos and your worries and anxiety will melt away.”
The man thanked Rav Shlomo Zalman sincerely and left the room already feeling happy. He immediately bought a small notepad and started to jot down every chesed Hashem did for him. “I unexpectedly found a lost item that I had been missing for some time. I went to the store early in the morning because we had run out of milk. Just as I arrived, a milk truck parked in front of the store to make a delivery and I felt that Hashem had sent it for me just at the right moment. Thank You, Hashem, that my son received an excellent report card that made me happy the entire Shabbos. Somebody sent me an unexpected donation for the kollel, 2,000 shekel.”
Believe it or not, exactly the way the rov predicted, he experienced a great change in his life. The notebook worked wonders. Miracles upon miracles began to occur. After a short period of time, the man realized that the fear and anxiety had dissipated and he felt relaxed. Furthermore, he was able to see clearly how Hashem was sending him considerable profits in his business, thus enabling him to continue supporting his kollel.
This is the wonderful secret that Rav Shlomo Zalman left for each and every one of us. Keep a notebook of Hashem’s chassodim. Look at them before davening and thank Hashem during Modim for each and every chesed.
Rav Shimshon Pincus writes in his sefer She’arim B’tefillah that if a person who thanks Hashem during times of trouble, the gates of salvation and abundant chesed are opened for him. The Ramban writes that the purpose of creation is that we believe in Hashem and thank Him for creating us, for there is no greater desire for Hashem than to have man realize that Hashem created him and to thank Him for it (Peninei Parshas Hashovua).
Thank You, Hashem… What important words, the tachlis of the briah. Out of all the brachos of Shemoneh Esrei, we should be paying most attention to this brocha. We don’t stop to think about the things we take for granted. Every aspect of the human body is a miracle. We should be grateful for every breath, every step we take, all of the sights that our eyes take in, and so much more. Every time we are able to make a bank deposit, every time we are able to make a purchase in a store, should be followed by an expression of thanks to Hakadosh Boruch Hu and a tefillah that He continue to bestow upon us His blessings. Every day that passes uneventfully without pain or sorrow should elicit from us feelings of gratitude. Nothing should be taken for granted.
And while we speak of being thankful, we mustn’t take for granted the great chesed of Hashem that we have a president and administration with conservative ideas that are in sync with old-time family values and are favorable to religion in general and frum Yidden in particular. It is clear to anyone following the news that the Democrats have been taken over by radical left-wing extremists who are a threat to our sacred way of life.
That President Donald Trump rose to the presidency without any previous experience in politics is an act of Hashgacha on our behalf. The pundits said it would never happen, but much to their shock and dismay, it did. You don’t have to agree with all of his tactics or even all of his policies, but you can’t deny what an incredible job he has done. Whether it’s the economy, energy, adding jobs, or border control, he is slowly but surely bringing many improvements to the country. For years, America has been plagued by liberal judges who contribute to a breakdown of morality, law, and order. We are witness to the rise of crime and violence in New York and other cities run by liberals. The president has quietly been appointing conservative judges in various courts, a major enhancement to the justice system.
He is instilling pride in America, standing up to China, and arranging fair trade deals with other countries. For years, we have forfeited these advantages for the sake of political correctness. The president is strong on foreign policy, a great friend of Israel, and is willing to deal with our adversaries with an iron hand. And he has not been hindered by the prison called public opinion.
All of this has been accomplished despite the machinations of the Democrats. For the last three years, they have accomplished nothing, as they have been preoccupied with bringing down the president. From the moment he was elected ,these crybabies have plotted against him together with their lackeys, the news media. The sham of the impeachment debacle is finally over, but, undoubtedly, the Democrats will come back for more. The president’s fortitude and perseverance are remarkable, and we have to be grateful to Hashem for giving him strength.
How sweet it was to hear excerpts of the president’s State of the Union address and about Nancy Pelosi’s meltdown when she tore up the printed speech. And how sweet it was to see the incompetence – or was it corruption? – in the Iowa caucus. But this is not a time for overconfidence. We must continue to be grateful to Hashem and daven for the welfare of the malchus.
Even successful administrations with a high approval rating can suddenly lose favor with the public. Such was the case with President George Bush Sr., who after the first Iraqi war enjoyed one of the highest popularity ratings ever. Shortly after, he lost the presidency. The Democrats then, like in the present, were scrambling to find a candidate who could be somewhat competitive against him. They came up with a relatively unknown governor from Arkansas, Bill Clinton, who ended up winning the election. A downward turn of the economy or an insensitive comment can turn the tide in the other direction. All is in the Hands of Hashem.
The Democrats, as they have already shown, will stop at nothing to unseat this president. They will use the most underhanded tactics. Let us not take this chesed for granted. Let us thank Hashem and daven that the president will be victorious again for our benefit and that of the entire country.