(Torah Portion Vayairah) Prayers Revolutionized
When G-d informed Avraham about His plan to destroy the Cities of Sedom and Amorah – Avraham immediately engaged himself in prayer, hoping that G-d would cancel His plan.
Avraham begged, “Perhaps there are 50 righteous people living in the cities and through their merits it will help avert Your plan?” This number of righteous people did not exist so Avraham asked if there are 45; 40; 30; 20 and finally 10 righteous people to protect the cities. When there weren’t even 10 righteous people, Avraham stopped asking G-d for mercy.
Reb Tzodok Hakohain makes the following observation: Although prayer was established and instituted by Adam – when he prayed to G-d for rain, until this point in history when Avraham was 99 years old, no one ever prayed to G-d to change a decree.
Noach, when he was told about the impending flood and throughout the 120 years that he worked on building the Ark, didn’t pray to G-d to change His plan. He felt that only if the people would change their decadent ways could they evoke G-d’s mercy. He did not consider prayer an option.
Although Avraham and his wife Sarah were childless for many years, never did they ask G-d outright to have mercy on them and grant them a child. They viewed it as their own destiny and did not pray to change it.
Avraham is known as the pillar of Chesed; when he heard that so many people of Sodom and Amorah would be destroyed, he introduced the concept that through the power of Prayer, G-d would listen and might stop His plan.
Once this concept was introduced we find the Torah relating that Avraham’s son Yitzchok prayed to G-d for a child when his wife Rivka could not conceive.
The Torah relates that the next morning, after the cities of Sedom and Amorah were destroyed, Avraham awoke and stood in the same spot where he spoke to G-d the day before. From this verse our Sages derive that Avraham established morning prayers.
Reb Tzodok points out that only after Avraham introduced the concept that prayers have the potency and capacity to change what is destined, was he worthy of establishing the morning prayers. This was so, despite the fact that Avraham was not successful in saving the cities.
There were three people who were saved from Sedom and they were Avraham’s nephew Lot and his two daughters. Although Avraham did not specifically pray for their salvation, they were saved in his merit.
The Torah relates that because Lot’s daughters thought the entire world was destroyed, they had relations with their father and they bore two boys, one named Moav and the other Ben Ami.
Their son Moav was the progenitor of the nation of Moav. Many years later, a princess of Moav by the name of Ruth converted to Judaism and became the great-grandmother of King David.
Reb Tzodok points out that it is no coincidence that King David was born as a result of Avraham’s merit and prayer – since a good majority of our daily prayers are taken from King David’s Book of Psalms.
As we mentioned previously, the first person to pray was Adam. King David is linked to Adam in a very special way as well. The Talmud tells us that King David was destined to live for just a few hours. Adam was aware of this with his prophetic abilities, and he donated 70 years of his life to King David. Adam was destined to live for 1000 years and instead he lived for 930.
Because of his devotion to G-d and His honor, G-d awarded King David that just as the first blessing in the daily Amidah prayer concludes with the words, “Magen Avraham” – Shield of Avraham, so too, one of the blessings after a Haftorah is chanted concludes with the words, “Magen David” – Shield of David!
We believe that prayer can bring about simple and even incredible and unbelievable requests. But even more important, through prayer we have the unique opportunity to communicate and stay in touch with the Almighty Himself!
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks