Posted on | July 20, 2006 | By Guest Contributor | 5 Comments
At a Tehillim gathering in Kew Gardens Hills last night, Rabbi Yakov Haber from YU addressed the audience with words to arouse our hearts in this time of extreme danger for the Jewish People. You can listen to the Divrei Hisorerus here. Here is a summary of what was said.
We Must Feel That We Outside of Eretz Yisroel are at War
Rabbi Herschel Schachter points out that, according to halacha, Jews from all over can be drafted to fight a war, no matter where they live. The only reason we are not drafted is that it’s not practical. Nonetheless, we have to realize that we are all at war and subject to the draft. Even though we’re not actually fighting we have to feel the urgency that those of us outside of Eretz Yisroel are also at war. If we don’t feel that urgency, we have to do soul searching and make sure that we don’t feel separate from the Tzibur, which according to the Rambam would brand us as apikorsim. We have to truly feel that we are at war and are sharing in the battle.
If We Are Not Actually Fighting, We Need to Support the Soldiers with The Spiritual Merit of Tefillah and Torah Study
The Rambam writes that if somebody does not go to war because he is faint hearted, then the blood of those who perish in battle is on his hands. Perhaps this does not apply only to those who are actually fighting, but also to those who are fighting in different ways. We know that when Yaakov battled Esau he prepared for war, tried political appeasement and also davened. We see that in the time of Yehoshua there was also an obligation to learn Torah, when not fighting. Certainly, If we are not actually fighting, we should engage in more Torah study and Tefillah for the merit of those that are actually fighting. Rambam writes that in times of danger, a soldier should sense an obligation to fight courageously, because if he doesn’t more causalities will be suffered. We need to have the same attitude and think that if we don’t daven or learn properly, we will G-d forbid, cause more causalties to be suffered.
Tehillim Requires Higher Levels of Kavannah to Be Effective
Both the Meshech Chochmah and the Brisker Rav say that in the incident of Shechem, Yaakov was davening for the brother’s success. And the Torah uses the terms sword and bow to describe his prayer. They explain that a sword can cause damage if you just swing it without the greatest precision, but a bow and arrow, on the other hand, requires skill and application in order to be effective. So too our davening. Our fixed Shemoneh Esrai is like a sword. It has tremendous power even without the highest level of kavannah. This is because of the power invested in the Shmoneh Esrai by the Men of the Great Assembly. But the extra prayers and Tehillim we say are like a bow and arrow, if we don’t have the proper kavannah when saying them, they won’t be effective. Included in the extra Tefillos is the Vehu Rachum portion of Tachunun that we say on Monday and Thursday. Vehu Rachum is a tremendous opportunity to daven and beseech Hashem. As long as the Beis Hamikdash is not rebuilt, we need to take advantage of this Tefillah and not rush it or be happy on days in which it is not said.
Saying Vehu Rachum With Kavannah
We need to understand the meaning of the words we are saying in Tehillim and our extra Tefillos (like Vehu Rachum). For the bow and arrow of these prayers to be effective, we need kavannah, which requires that we understand the words. In order for this type of davening to be effective we should take the time to learn the meaning of the words. Since most of us are not masters of the Hebrew language, we need to daven slowly in order to understand what we are saying. As the Shulchan Orach says, “Better a liitle with Kavannah, rather that a lot without”. Instead of rushing Vehu Rachum, perhaps we should say one paragraph slowly with kavannah. Since this is an extra prayer in the davening with a different level of obligation than the other parts, we need not say the whole thing if saying less will increase our kavannah.
Hashem’s Salvation and His Granting Us Success
In Hallel, we ask Hashem to both save us and to make us successful. Saving us refers to when we are not making efforts, like in the Gulf War where America insisted that Israel not even fire one missile. And Hashem did save us from the tens of incoming Scud missiles, with only one death. It’s easier to turn to Hashem when that is our only course of action. There are no atheists in a foxhole because there are no alternatives but to turn to Hashem. But when we are making efforts, like in the current war, we need to turn to Hashem in the same way. We need to have Bitachon and realize that it is all in His hands, even with the military might of Israel. Hashem alone is the Master of War.
Words of Consolation
In these times of danger, we should also add to our deeds of lovingkindness. We need to focus our Tefillos, our additional Tefillos, our Torah study and acts of lovingkindess for them to be effective. We don’t want the responsibility of not doing our part and, G-d forbid, causing any extra casualties. We should keep in mind that ultimately we will be successful in beating our enemies and rebuilding the Beis Hamikdash. But our Torah, Tefillah and Gemilas Chasadim will determine how much pain we will endure in the process. In a hesped delivered for a fallen soldier, Effie Eitan cited the prophecy of Bilaam that all the haters of Israel will perish and those who suffered will be resurrected in the time of Moshiach so that they will be able to see, with their own eyes, the victory of the Jewish People. Hashem should accept our Tefillos and the intense service of our soldiers to bring us to true peace, which will only occur with the building of the Beis Hamikdash. And we should remember that it is only our distance from Hashem that prevents this salvation from occuring.