Thursday, January 8, 2009

158 - Vayechi

Just before Yaakov's passing, he tells Yosef, "I have given you Shechem as an additional portion, which I captured from the Emori with my sword and bow" (Bereishis 48, 22). Rashi offers an enigmatic explanation; "my sword and bow" refer to Yaakov's wisdom and tefillos. What is the connection between a sword and wisdom and between a bow and tefillos?

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) explains the analogy as follows. A sword is sharp and slim and it is therefore an apt description for wisdom. Words of wisdom are clear and concise. A bow is the tool which propels the arrow to great lengths. Similarly, our mouths are the bows which propel our tefillos toward Hashem.  We do not need philosophical proofs to authenticate that there is a Creator. The very fact that we daven "into the air" and our tefillos are answered is clear-cut proof of the Omnipresent!

The Mashgiach related that he got to know a Russian convert who shared an amazing story with him. This convert recounted that when he was a student in university he was plagued by many questions and doubts with regard to religion. He was a truth seeker, and these issues bothered him to the extent that he would pray, cry and fast, with the hope of unraveling these mysteries. At some point, he fell asleep during one of his tearful prayers. In his dream the answers to his many questions were revealed to him. This was the impetus for his eventual conversion to Judaism. Tefillah has the quality of an arrow: a true prayer hits its mark and is answered.

Yaakov Avinu felt that the victory in his war against the people of Shechem was due to his Torah study and his tefillos. Yes, he had to pick up a sword and fight (see third Rashi ibid.), but the ultimate determinant as to who would win the war lay in the hands of those who prayed. At the present time, when many of our brothers in Israel are under fire and others are putting their lives on the line fighting in enemy territory, it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to make use of the "ammunition" in our possession. If the situation bothers us as it should, we will make a point of davening in a manner that will give our tefillos the potency of an arrow, thereby protecting our brethren and ensuring a victory for our soldiers on the battlefront.

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