Dedicated in Memory of My Grandfather
Harav Hagaon R Shmuel Dovid Warshavchik ztl
Rosh Hayeshiva of
Yeshiva Rabeinu Yaakov Yosef
the Occasion of his Yahrziet
To Dedicate Please Contact Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
And Hashem said to Moshe why do you cry out to me? Speak to the children of Yisroel and let them journey. (Shemos 14:15)
We are certainly aware that prayer is a fundamental aspect of our religious service. This is seen clearly from the fact that we are obligated to pray three times a day. We may thus ask, how can it be that Hashem instructed Moshe at the sea of reeds not to pray? Chazal teach us that Hashem listens even to the sincere prayers of the wicked and does not send them away empty handed, certainly then we could assume that Hashem would desire to hear the prayers of Moshe and the entire Jewish people at this critical moment.
A similar question may be asked with regard to Avraham Avinu. When Hashem instructed Avraham to sacrifice his beloved son Yitzchak, Avraham complied without hesitation. The commentators are troubled as to why we dont find Avraham praying to Hashem that He spare the life of his son. It may have been true that Hashem would deny his request but nevertheless, doesnt such a harsh decree warrant the heartfelt prayer of a father?
In order to answer these questions we must understand the difference between prayer and faith. When we pray, we remove ourselves from the activity of life. At least three times a day we stop what we are doing and spiritually prepare ourselves with the tool of prayer. On the other hand, faith is an attitude and belief that we express, as we are actively involved in our daily activities or as the happenings of life affect us. Faith is the tool that we act and respond with. We faithfully believe that all will turn out for the best or that all that happens is the will of Hashem even if we cannot comprehend the reason.
Chazal teach us that the sea of reeds did not split until we jumped in. To jump into a stormy sea at command of Hashem knowing that the possibility of drowning was likely required us to embrace a challenge and not hide from it. Thus, jumping into the sea was an act of faith. We now understand that Hashem told Moshe that now is not the time for prayer but the time for faith. We may now revise our question, Why did Hashem tell Moshe to act with faith and not prayer?
Likewise when Hashem instructed Avraham to sacrifice his son, our question may be revised, why did Avraham act with faith in that he willingly sacrificed his child instead of first praying on his behalf?
When a person finds himself in a difficult situation he must look at the cause of the problem. At times a problem arises not due to any special reason. In this case prayer is certainly appropriate. However, many times a person creates his own problems. We may further break down this category of self-created problems into two parts. At times a problem is the product of prior actions. Here again prayer is appropriate. However, at other times a problem is an outgrowth of a previous expression of faith.
In this case we may suggest that prayer is not appropriate, rather the solution lies in expressing more faith.
For example: A person sincerely takes it upon himself to study Torah realizing that as a consequence, it will later be more difficult for him to find a livelihood. Indeed, at a later point in times he finds himself in this difficult situation. This person can focus on one of two things, either he may invest an inordinate amount of time for prayer in hope that Hashem will provide him with a livelihood or just faithfully face the challenge. In this example the source of his difficulty was an act of faith, therefore he need not focus on prayer. Here the solution lies in expressing more faith, that being, facing the challenge. To review, if the source of a problem is past expression of faith then the solution is to express more faith. Otherwise, the approach is prayer.
The proof to this concept is the aforementioned questions. The Jewish people found themselves facing a great peril. The enemy was pursuing them from behind, the sea of reeds was in front of them and they had nowhere to go. We may ask, what was the cause of their situation. Why didnt the Jewish people just remain in Egypt? If we look back at the posukim we will discover that when Moshe first informed the Jewish people that Hashem has come to redeem them, the posuk records their response with the words the people had faith (Shemos 4:31). Thus, the cause of the problem that they faced now was an expression of faith, therefore the solution was to express more faith, that being, speak to the children of Yisroel and go forward.
Likewise with regard to Avraham, Hashem was about to take the life of his son Yitzchak. We may ask, what was the source of Yitzchaks life? When Hashem appeared to Avraham who was physically incapable of bearing children and informed him that he would miraculously have a child, the Torah records Avrahams response with the words he had faith in Hashem. (Bereishis 15:6) Thus again, since the very foundation of Yitzchaks life was that of faith the only thing needed now was more faith, that being to go forward with the akeidah.
May we merit, to properly utilize these two powerful tools.