Praying for a Miracle

ain somchin al ha’nes — praying for a miracle

Rashi quotes from Chazal that Leah was supposed to have another son, but given that there were going to be only 12 shevatim, she realized that if she has a baby boy, it would mean that Rachel would be the mother of even fewer shevatim than the shefachos. Leah therefore davened that her baby be switched to become a girl, and Dinah was born.

The gemara asks how such a thing is possible. The Mishna in Brachos writes that a person who says a ye’hi ratzon and asks for his pregnant wife to give birth to a boy is wasting his breath. Once the fetus’ sex is fixed, there is no going back. The gemara gives two answers: 1) what happened to Leah was a miracle; 2) the sex of the fetus is fixed only after 40 days from conception and Leah davened within the 40 day window.

The Midrash Tanchuma raises the same issue but gives a very different answer. Nothing is impossible for G-d, says the Midrash (a very frum answer!) – even changing the sex of the fetus in utero.

Some of the meforshei Rashi understand that the gemara and Tanchuma are at odds. The Mishna holds that what Leah asked for was impossible; the Midrash holds that G-d can do anything. There must be some braysa or other Tanna out there that the Tanchuma relies on in contradiction to the Mishna. (It would be interesting to speculate what the nekudas hamachlokes here might be. Is this like the question of whether G-d can make a square circle? It doesn’t sound like the same question.)

The Taz (here), however, writes that there is no contradiction. The gemara in Brachos, explains the Taz, is addressing the question of how it is possible for the sex of a baby to change – a practical question. To that, the gemara answers that it must have been a miracle (or before 40 days). But there is another question that the gemara does not address: given that what Leah was asking for could only come about through a miracle, how could she ask for it? Why was it not a tefilas shav, a waste of breath, like the case in the Mishna? It must be, says the Taz, that there is a difference between saying a ye’hi ratzon for the baby to be born a boy when you know the fetus is a girl vs. asking Hashem to change the sex of the fetus. One is a request for a square circle — a girl that is a boy. The other is a request for the circle to be transformed into a square — a different metziyus. True, that would take a miracle — but, explains the Tanchuma, there is nothing that says you can’t pray for a miracle.

Ain somchin al ha’nes, says the Taz, only applies to the realm of action. When it comes to tefilah, you can shoot for the stars, even if it would take a miracle to get what you want. (See Maharasha in Kidushin 29b as well).

One other point on tefilah: “Vayizkor Elokim es Rachel vayishma eileha Elokim…” (30:22) At first glance you would expect the two clauses to be reversed, i.e. first “vayishma,” Hashem would hear Rachel’s tefilah, and then “vayizkor,” he would remember to do something for her. But that’s not how it works. The Ohr haChaim explains that first there is the “vayizkor,” Hashem “remembering” that he wants to do something for Rachel. But, as we discussed back here also from the Ohr haChaim, even when Hashem wants to give a person something, it’s not a freebie — the person still has to earn the gift. Hashem helps out by providing the opportunity to do so. Rachel still had to do her part, in this case davening, so that “vayishma eileha…”

Saturday Sabbath prayers

Saturday (Shabbat) morning prayer

Shema, Yisra’el! YHVH ELOHAYNU YHVH echad. U’ahavtah YHVH ELOHAYCHA, v’kole levav’cha, v’kole nefeshcah, v’kole meod’cha; v’ahav’cha l’reacha kemo’cha. Baruch atah ADONAI ELOHAYNU, melek ha’olam, asher natan lanu derek ha’teshuvah.

Hear now and do, Yisra’el! YHVH our ELOHIYM, YHVH, is one. And you shall love YHVH your ELOHIYM, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all yourself; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Blessed are you ADONAI and ELOHIYM, king of all time, for giving us the path of restoration.

Saturday (Shabbat) noon prayer

Barachu ADONAI, ha’me’verach l’olam vaed, asher natan lanu pathach ha’malchuth shamayim B’MASHIACH.

Blessed are you ADONAI, forever and ever, for giving us the doorway to the kingdom of heaven in Messiah.

Saturday evening prayer

Baruch atah YHVH TSEVA’OTH, bara ha’shamayim v’ha’aretz, ELOHAYCHEM shel Avraham, Yitshaq, v’Ya’akov, ELOHAYNU v’ al qadosh echad Yisra’el, ELOHAI, v’yishei, asher natan lanu derek ha’yeshua, emet b’ha’torah, v’ chayim olam b’dami shel EASHOA MSHEEKHA.

Blessed are you YHVH of the armies, creator of the heavens and the earth, the ELOHIYM of Avraham, Yitshaq, and Ya’akov, our ELOHIYM, the Holy One of Yisra’el, my EL, and my salvation, for giving us the way of salvation, the truth of the Torah, and eternal life in the blood of EASHOA MSHEEKHA.

Today’s Prayer

Tuesday morning prayer

Shema, Yisra’el! YHVH ELOHAYNU YHVH echad.  U’ahavtah YHVH ELOHAYCHA, v’kole levav’cha, v’kole nefeshcah, v’kole meod’cha; v’ahav’cha l’reacha kemo’cha. Baruch atah ADONAI ELOHAYNU, melek ha’olam, asher natan lanu simcha YHVH, v’ha’tiferah EASHOA, v’berekah shel ha’RUACH HA’QODESH.

Hear now and do, Yisra’el! YHVH our ELOHIYM, YHVH, is one.  And you shall love YHVH your ELOHIYM, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all yourself; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Blessed are you ADONAI and ELOHIYM, king of all time, for giving us the joy of YHVH, the beauty of EASHOA, and the blessing of the RUACH HA’QODESH.

Tuesday noon prayer

Barachu ADONAI, ha’me’verach l’olam vaed, asher natan lanu RUACH SHALOM, b’RUACH MASHIACH.

Blessed are you ADONAI, forever and ever, for giving us the spirit of peace, by the Spirit of Messiah.


Tuesday evening prayer

Baruch atah YHVH TSEVA’OTH, bara ha’shamayim v’ha’aretz, ELOHAYCHEM shel Avraham, Yitshaq, v’Ya’akov, ELOHAYNU v’ al qadosh echad Yisra’el, ELOHAI, v’yishei, asher natan lanu ha’RUACH GEVURAH.

Blessed are you YHVH of the armies, creator of the heavens and the earth, the ELOHIYM of Avraham, Yitshaq, and Ya’akov, our ELOHIYM, the Holy One of Yisra’el, my EL, and my salvation, for giving us the Spirit of Strength.

The Baladi-rite Prayer

 

The Kotel-The Western Wall

 

Question: Does the Kotel (Western Wall) have any special sanctity?

Answer: Our Sages (Midrash Shemot Rabba, Parasha 2) taught: “Hashem’s divine presence has never moved from the western wall of the Holy Temple.” Our Sages added, “The verse states, ‘Behold, he stands behind our wall’-this refers to the western wall of the Bet Hamikdash which Hashem swore would never be destroyed.” The Midrash Eicha explains that our enemies wished to destroy the Western Wall, however, it was decreed in heaven that it shall never be destroyed, for the divine presence of Hashem rests in the west. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l explains that this refers to the Western Wall of our days and he proceeds to support this based on the words of all of the commentaries who write that the Western Wall refers to the wall of the Temple Mount and this is the wall from which the presence of Hashem never budges, for this wall is directly opposite the Holy of Holies within the Bet Hamikdash which, in turn, is directly under the Heavenly Bet Hamikdash. (Chazon Ovadia-Arba Ta’aniyot, page 441)

Pirkei De’Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter 35) states that when one prays at the Western Wall, it is as if one has prayed before Hashem’s Throne of Glory, for in this place, there is an opening for all of the prayers of the Jewish nation to be accepted, as the verse states, “This must be the house of G-d and this is the gate of Heaven.”

It is therefore customary among the entire Jewish nation to pray from the depths of one’s heart to Hashem next to the Kotel, the last remnant of the bet Hamikdash and founded by King David. It is for this reason that theKotel was not destroyed, based on the teaching of Rabbeinu Moshe Chagiz (in his Sefer Eleh Mas’ei) who writes that “this wall has never been destroyed because build on the foundations that King David laid and which no enemy ever had control. Indeed, we can clearly see that these stones still stand whole in their place as if they had just emerged from the hands of a Heavenly craftsman who placed them there almost in a miraculous manner, for it is unnatural [for it to remain standing so long] based on their height and thickness. It is almost impossible for something like this to be built by man without Heavenly assistance.”

Indeed, the great Ari z”l supported the custom of praying next to the Kotel. Although in those times there were individuals who knew exactly the parts of the Temple Mount where it was permissible to pray in purity, nevertheless, they did not follow their hearts to pray there, for there is no greater prayer in Jerusalem in our times than at the Western Wall where the divine presence of Hashem rests.

We should point out that in the past several years, three additional rows of the Kotel’s stones have been discovered deep in the ground. The newer looking top eighteen rows of stones were built by Sir Moses Montefiore zt”lto protect the preexisting, sacred Kotel stones from being damaged and ransacked by enemies. (Chazon Ovadia, ibid, page 443)

Summary: One who wishes to pray in the sacred parts of Jerusalem may do so at the Western Wall, for the divine presence of Hashem does not move from there. This was indeed the custom of the greatest luminaries of the Jewish nation already from the times of the saintly Ari z”l who would pray only there and not anywhere else on the Temple Mount.