Special Current Events Issue – How To Act In These Troubling Times
“Hashem is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Tehillim 145:18)
This pasuk from sefer Tehillim (125:18) is repeated three times a day in the tefillah of “Ashrei”. The sefer Orchos Tzaddikim (Sha’ar Ha’emes) explains the simple understanding of the pasuk is that when one is in pain, he turns to Hashem. He realizes that Hashem is his only hope for salvation. The deeper understanding of the pasuk is that Hashem, who embodies the trait of Truth, brings close to him anyone who calls upon Him in truth. That refers to one who removes all worldly distractions from his heart and focuses on Hashem and cleaves to Hashem. The Orchos Tzaddikim continues, “This is what a man can attain when he sits alone in his room and contemplates”. The Orchos Tzaddikim as well as the Ibn Ezra and the Radak explain that to attain this special closeness to Hashem, one’s mouth and heart must be equal. His prayers can’t be mere lip-service while his mind wanders. He must totally concentrate on his prayers.
In a similar vein, we see the power of a totally pure and sincere blessing, even from a wicked person.
Lavan was a rasha, the embodiment of evil. When he chased after Yaakov Avinu and his family, Hashem told him not to harm Yaakov. Before Lavan returned home, he blessed his daughters and his grandchildren. Rav Henach Leibowitz zt”l explains the Sforno on the pasuk (Braishis 32:1). Until this point, Lavan’s wealth had been more important to him than his daughters were to him. He had not given them the accustomed dowry when they had married Yaakov. Not only that, he had sold them to Yaakov in lieu of Yaakov’s wages for attending to his sheep! Eventually Lavan realized that Yaakov had bested him. Lavan had tried to deceive Yaakov many times. Yaakov had left, with his family, and with his own wealth. Lavan realized that he could no longer harm Yaakov. At that point, there were no longer any outside considerations or deceit in his heart. That purity of heart, together with Lavan’s tzelem Elokim (his creation in the image of Hashem) gave power to his blessing, so that it would certainly take effect. This knowledge should inspire us! We should know and feel that our prayers are powerful. Such a rasha, as Lavan, was able to bless his children with a pure heart. Certainly, we can remove all other thoughts from our hearts, concentrate totally on Hashem, and daven with a pure heart. Then, as we say in Ashrei, “Hashem is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth”.
The timing of the current events is no coincidence. Hashem orchestrates events the way a master maestro conducts a symphony orchestra. It was right before Purim that there was a concern that the Coronavirus would spread in the United States.
A Jew, Esther, became Achashverosh’s new queen. Sometime after, Haman passed a law declaring the total annihilation of the Jewish People. The Jewish People were terrified for their lives. Esther & Mordechai declared that the Jews should fast for three days. During that time the Jews were immersed in heartfelt prayer. HaRav Dovid Leibowitz zt”l, explains, based on the Talmud (Megillah 15B), that there was something lacking in the heartfelt prayers of the Jews. Subconsciously, they may have had some false sense of security, feeling that they would be saved because a fellow Jew was the queen. Esther wanted to remove any such feeling that the Jews may have had. That is one of the reasons that she invited only Haman to a personal feast with her and the king. She wanted the Jews to totally lose hope in her willingness to save them. She wanted their prayers and repentance to be 100% total, so that Hashem would annul the decree against them.
Many of us are currently sitting alone. Let’s use this opportunity to remove worldly distractions from our hearts and focus on Hashem. This will raise our tefillos to a higher level, to the point that Hashem will be especially close to us. May Hashem answer all of our tefillos for good!