Thanks, Love, Sorry and Praise

(Torah Portion: Vayaira) Thanks, Love, Sorry and Praise

The Torah relates that our forefather Avraham prayed to G-d to save the wicked people of Sedom and Amorah in the merit of righteous people that lived there. It turns out, there weren’t even ten righteous people living in the cities, and thus they were unworthy of Avraham’s entreaties.
On the surface, it appears that Avraham’s prayers were meaningless since the cities were destroyed in spite of his prayers.

Avraham’s prayers did not even save his nephew Lot from the destruction, for Lot had been destined to be saved even before he prayed.

Question: what happens to prayers that seem to go unanswered?

The holy Belzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yisachar Dov Rokeach o.b.m. related the following beautiful idea. The Talmud, searching for the source of our three daily prayers, tells us that Avraham established our morning prayer. This is derived from when he stood in prayer on behalf of Sedom and Amorah. This means that Avraham’s prayer which seemed unfulfilled was actually the catalyst for establishing our daily morning prayers forever!

Our Sages tell us that every prayer is held dearly by G-d, however some are answered sooner than others.

Commentators ask, inasmuch as G-d knows our inner thoughts, why do we have to speak, enunciate and hear our prayers?

My wife Malki shared with me the following insightful idea from Rabbi Abraham Twerski, M.D., which she used as part of an introduction to a class on prayer.

There seems to be an inner resistance within human beings to acknowledge gratitude. Adam, the first human being, already expressed his ungratefulness. Later on, we find our leader Moshe reprimanding the Jewish Nation for being ingrates.

Tosfos, the great Talmudic commentators, explain that the nation did not want to acknowledge their gratitude to G-d because they did not want to be beholden to the Almighty.

Says Rabbi Twerski, it is more difficult to feel obligated and beholden to another human being than to G-d. However when we accustom ourselves to pronouncing the words, “I thank you,” frequently in our prayers to G-d, we lower the resistance to saying them to another person. This is an advantage of verbalizing our prayers and hearing the words we say!

Within our prayers, we express and declare our love to G-d as well as His love for us. People often resist expressing their love to their parents, children and even their spouses.

When we declare our love to G-d in prayer we express our feelings verbally, although we know that we love G-d and G-d knows that we love Him. This should encourage us to accustom and familiarize ourselves to verbally express our feelings to the people we love.

In prayer we confess our sins to G-d. We express our regret for having done wrong and pledge not to repeat our sins.

In human interaction, it is difficult for one to admit he was wrong. By saying to G-d, “I have sinned and I ask Your forgiveness,” we reduce the resistance of saying it to other people as well.

When one looks at the formulation and structure of our prayers, he finds them replete with all sorts of praises to the Almighty. Verbalizing and expressing praises of G-d also guides us to articulate compliments to others, coaches us to express our admiration of others, and educates us to show appreciation to others.

It is not enough to meditate gratitude, love, remorse and praise. Hearing ourselves pronounce these words and ideas within our prayers chips away at our tendency to shy away from expressing them to others. This will greatly enhance our interpersonal relationships.

Wishing you a most uplifting, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks