How Does Prayer Influence?
As a memorial to R’ Mordechai Eliyahuzt”l, here is a translation of the introduction to his siddur, “Sefatei Tiftach”:
How Does Prayer Influence?
One must read well the verses that speak about the creation of man in order to understand man’s mission in this world:כו וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ וְיִרְדּוּ֩ בִדְגַ֨ת הַיָּ֜ם וּבְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֗יִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה֙ וּבְכָל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וּבְכָל־הָרֶ֖מֶשׂ הָֽרֹמֵ֥שׂ עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃ כז וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃ כח וַיְבָ֣רֶךְ אֹתָם֮ אֱלֹהִים֒ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר לָהֶ֜ם אֱלֹהִ֗ים פְּר֥וּ וּרְב֛וּ וּמִלְא֥וּ אֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ וְכִבְשֻׁ֑הָ וּרְד֞וּ בִּדְגַ֤ת הַיָּם֙ וּבְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּבְכָל־חַיָּ֖ה הָֽרֹמֶ֥שֶׂת עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃
26: And G-d said, “Let us make man in our image, similar to our likeness, and they will have mastery over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals, all the land, and every crawling thing which creeps on the land.
27: And G-d created man in His image, in the image of G-d He created him; male and female he created them.
28: And G-d created them and G-d said to them, “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and control it, and have mastery over the first of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all living thing which creeps on the land.
— Bereishis 1
Man must have “mastery” in the world and all its creatures. Not in the sense of exploitation, only in the sense of leadership and using it for a purpose. “Put your mind to not ruining and destroying My world.” (Qoheles Rabbah 7:19) This was G-d’s purpose in creating man. This is the simple and initial understanding of the concept “tzelem Elokim — image of G-d”.
What must man do in order to fulfill his duty?
In order to fulfil this important duty man must know why G-d created the world? In what way does the world reach its destiny? This is the reason why we learn the Words of Hashem as they appear in the Torah, Neviim and Kesuvim.
Our Sages of blessed memory understood the great responsibility that man has to fulfill his mission. Therefore they invested all of their abilities and time into this study, to know the ways of Hashem. In this they followed the way of Moshe Rabbeinu who begged from G-d, “הֽוֹדִעֵ֤נִי נָא֙ אֶת־דְּרָכֶ֔ךָ — Inform me please of Your Ways.” (Shemos 33:13) That I may be able to walk in Your Ways and not lead Israel in an erroneous path.
“And you will walk in His Ways”
Moshe taught the ways of Hashem, but that is no enough. In order to walk in His days one requires the middah of anavah. Corresponding to Moshe, who was “anav me’od mikol adam asher al penei ha’adamah — much more modest than any person on the face of the earth.” Bil’am established that he too knew the says of Hashem. “Veyodei’ah da’ad elyon — and knows the Higher Knowledge”, knows that G-d wants — and does the absolute opposite. Someone who wants to be of the students of Moshe Rabbeinu a”h must make a treasure for himself of the middah of anavah. To remember that even though we are partners of the Holy One blessed be He in the Act of Creation, we can not say like the words of the snake “veheyisem ke’elohim — and you will be like gods” doing what you want.
We must remember that man is in truth so short of time in contrast to the Infinity of G-d. He is so limited in his understanding and strength in contrast to Divine Wisdom, in contrast to its Essence. Just from within that [thought] is he able to fulfill his mission. This is how Moshe was. “Rabbi Yochanan said: The Holy One, blessed be He doesn’t rest His Shechinah except on someone who is mighty, rich, wise and an anav.” (Nedarim 38a). Wise, mighty and wealthy — that he is worthy of bringing the Word of Hashem. A master of anavah — that he knows his place.
This is not simple!
It is not simple to reach this [plane]. Moshe’s first encounter with G-d was in the [burning] bush. The first sentence that G-d says to Moshe: I am readying to fulfill the oath which I made to the forefathers, to take the Israelites out of Mitzrayim and to bring them to the land of Israel. Are you ready to be partners in this great work? Moshe didn’t comprehend where he would discover the ability to say something so great. “וַיֹּ֤אמֶר מֹשֶׁה֙ אֶל־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים מִ֣י אָנֹ֔כִי כִּ֥י אֵלֵ֖ךְ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה וְכִ֥י אוֹצִ֛יא אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃ — And Moshe said to G-d, ‘Who am I that I would go to Par’oh, and that I would take the Benei Yisrael out of Egypt?'” (Shemos 3:11).
G-d said to Moshe: Do not worry, I am with you. “כִּֽי־אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה עִמָּ֔ךְ — for I will be with you” (v. 12). But this was not enough for Moshe. He didn’t see how all of this would materialize. The situation said otherwise; Par’oh ruled, and Israel was so enslaved to him they weren’t thinking at all about redemption. “וַיַּ֤עַן מֹשֶׁה֙ וַיֹּ֔אמֶר וְהֵן֙ לֹֽא־יַאֲמִ֣ינוּ לִ֔י וְלֹ֥א יִשְׁמְע֖וּ בְּקֹלִ֑י כִּ֣י יֹֽאמְר֔וּ לֹֽא־נִרְאָ֥ה אֵלֶ֖יךָ ֽה’׃ — And Moshe replied and said, ‘And they won’t believe me and they won’t listen to my voice, for they will say: Hashem did not appear to you.'” (4:1)
Moshe the man of G-d
It took seven days for HQBH to convince Moshe, at the end of them he trusted that Hashem would be with him. “E-hyeh asher E-hyeh — I Will Be Who I Will Be”. He accepted even the reality that the Benei Yisrael who were wallowing in the 49 gates of tum’ah would believe in redemption and would be partners to Your praise. He took the staff of G-d in his hand, and went to take the Israelites from Mitzrayim.
Moshe did and succeeded. Hashem was with him. The Benei Yisrael believed. Hashem split the sea. Listens to His Voice. Brings the plagues through him. Gave the Torah through him. Moshe on His side says, and correctly, “And we, what are we?” We are nothing. Everything is from Him.
Moshe passes the responsibility on to Israel
At the end of his days, Moshe passes the responsibility on to Israel. He writes sifrei Torah and gives them to the Benei Yisrael. He carves them on stone. Teaches them; places it in their mouths. It is possible to pay attention and see that in all of the later parshios of the Torah, from the parashah of “Ki Savo” until the end of parashas “Haazinu”, Moshe tells Israel about the way G-d behaves. In this way he tells them at the outset what will happen in history. He teaches them the ways in which G-d leads the situation of the Nation of Israel.
Moshe tells them this as part of passing the responsibility. You must know the ways of Hashem in order that you would be able to work together with G-d, “‘…כָּעֵ֗ת יֵֽאָמֵ֤ר לְיַֽעֲקֹב֙ וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מַה־פָּ֖עַל אֵֽל׃ — At the time it will be said to Yaaqov and Israel: What does G-d do?’ (Bamidbar 23:23) Rabbi Yirmiyah ben Elazar said: In the future, an echo of a [prophetic] voice will blow through the tents of the righteous and say: Whomever works with G-d — let them come and take their reward.” (Yerushalmi, Shabbos 39b)
The inheritance of Moshe
The inheritance that Moshe passed on to us is both the Torah and also the leaving from exile to redemption. “אם אין אתה גואלם אין אחר גואלם — if you do not redeem them no one else will redeem them.” (Shemos Rabba 3:3) Moshe passed on to us the power of prayer. Moshe was the person whose prayer is mentioned in the Torah more than any other petitioner. Numerous times he prayed to save the nation from extinction and was answered. He prayed with mesirus nefesh (personal sacrifice) “וְאִם־אַ֕יִן מְחֵ֣נִי נָ֔א מִֽסִּפְרְךָ֖ אֲשֶׁ֥ר כָּתָֽבְתָּ׃ — [And now, if You carry their sin,] and if not, please erase me from Your book which You wrote” (Shemos 32:). He prayed for his sister, “אֵ֕-ל נָ֛א רְפָ֥א נָ֖א לָֽהּ׃ — please G-d, please heal her” (Bamidbar 12). He prayed 414 prayers in order to enter together with Israel into the land.
The prayers for entering the land were not accepted. He had complete those which were answered. The liturgy of prayer which we have is built on this order. Leaving exile, entering the Land of Israel, progress within it fto redemption, blessing and peace. The gemara depicts this order as it is reflect in the blessings of Shemonei Esrei as they were coined by “120 elders, and among them numerous prophets” (Megillah 18b).
These men were the greatest sages of the Nation of Israel. They used ever hidden wisdom from generations ago of the Jewish Nation in order to reach the exact liturgy of prayer. They studied will the prophecies of Moshe and the other prophects. They delved into them deeply to know the Will of Hashem, His Plans. All this knowledge they layered into the words of the prayer. When we pray in the morning in this liturgy, we remind ourselves not just the process of the world, we remind ourselves what we must do today. When we acknowledge every morning before we do anything what the purpose and function of our activity. When we pray at the end of the day, we pray specifically that liturgy, we pray and inspect whether indeed we did what we thought in the morning. And we acknowledge what is incumbent on us to complete tomorrow.
The Power of Will
The essential purpose of prayer is to awaken our will so that is desired the Will of HQBH. To praise Hashem, to be connected to Him. When our will is attached to Hashem’s will — action is created. This influences thew will of other people. This influences reality. “Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehudah haNasi would say: … Make His Will like your will, so that He will make your will like His Will. Nullify your will before His Will, so that He will nullify others’ will before your will.” (Avos 2:4)
The power of will is so strong that at times there is no need to move lips. Strong and true will is enough. “וְהָיָ֥ה טֶֽרֶם־יִקְרָ֖אוּ וַֽאֲנִ֣י אֶֽעֱנֶ֑ה ע֛וֹד הֵ֥ם מְדַבְּרִ֖ים וַֽאֲנִ֥י אֶשְׁמָֽע׃ — and it will be before they call I will answer; while they still speak, I will listen.” (Yeshaiah 65:24) However for most people this is not enough; they need also the utterance of the lips. Still in every case the Will is the deciding factor for all of them.
If a person doesn’t really want to go with Hashem — he won’t go. Therefore, the exodus from Egypt began only when they cried, when we truly wanted: “כג וַיְהִי֩ בַיָּמִ֨ים הָֽרַבִּ֜ים הָהֵ֗ם וַיָּ֨מָת֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם וַיֵּאָֽנְח֧וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל מִן־הָֽעֲבֹדָ֖ה וַיִּזְעָ֑קוּ וַתַּ֧עַל שַׁוְעָתָ֛ם אֶל־הָֽאֱ-לֹהִ֖ים מִן־הָֽעֲבֹדָֽה׃ כד וַיִּשְׁמַ֥ע אֱ-לֹהִ֖ים אֶת־נַֽאֲקָתָ֑ם וַיִּזְכֹּ֤ר אֱ-לֹהִים֙ אֶת־בְּרִית֔וֹ אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֖ם אֶת־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶֽת־יַעֲקֹֽב׃ כה וַיַּ֥רְא אֱ-לֹהִ֖ים אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיֵּ֖דַע אֱ-לֹהִֽים׃ — And it was after many days and the King of Egypt died, and the Israelites wight from the slavery, and they cried out; and their plaint went up before G-d from the slavery. And G-d heard their groaning, and G-d remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac with Jacob. And G-d saw the Benei Yisrael, and G-d Knew.” (Shemos 2)
The power of crying out
G-d wanted to bring them out even without crying. He wanted to fulfill his oath to the forefathers, but it is impossible to fulfill it without the will of the Nation of Israel. They are not an “object” that one moves from place to place. They have to want, to cry. It is hard to remove them from Egypt if they are tied to eggplant, zucchini and onions. [A reference to the lament in Bamidbar 11:5, when “the complainers” got tired of a steady diet of manna. -micha]
The truth is that also after the Benei Yisrael’s cry in Egypt there were levels on which the Benei Yisrael wanted to return to Egypt. ” נִתְּנָ֥ה רֹ֖אשׁ וְנָשׁ֥וּבָה מִצְרָֽיְמָה — let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt” (in the sin of the spies, Bamidbar 14:4) These moments were more dangerous than the war against Amaleiq. The Nation of Israel must guard the will of redemption for the entire length of the journey. The cry must be from the deeped place of a person. The most true. So that even if he grows tired and finds difficulties in the journey, he will not fail. “כִּ֣י ׀ ה֣’ אֱ-לֹהֶ֗יךָ ה֚וּא הַֽהֹלֵ֣ךְ עִמָּ֔ךְ לֹ֥א יַרְפְּךָ֖ וְלֹ֥א יַֽעַזְבֶֽךָּ׃ — For Hashem your G-d is the One Who goes with you, He will not fail you nor abandon you” (Devarim 31:6) — “He will not let you fail so that you leave Him.”
FOr this reason we pray every day three time. From the whole heart. With full intent. With full seriousness / will. When we do everything in our ability, HQBH will complete the work. “אֶ֭קְרָא לֵֽא-לֹהִ֣ים עֶלְי֑וֹן לָ֝אֵ֗-ל גֹּמֵ֥ר עָלָֽי׃ — I will call out to G-d Most High, to G-d who accomplishes it for me.” (Tehillim 57:3)
Amein. So may it be His Will.
HaGaon haRav Rishon leTzion Mordechai Tzemach ben Mazalzt”l
23 Adar I 5689 – 25 Sivan 5770
תהי נפשו צרורה בצרור החיים