Thursday, December 26, 2013

399 - Chayei Sarah

Sometimes a Rebbi is on such a lofty spiritual level that even many of his students have difficulty properly understanding him. Yet, it is often possible to decipher the Rebbi's intentions by observing the behavior of his closest disciple. Our forefather Avraham was a spiritual giant and it is difficult for us to comprehend his way of life. Taking a look at how his foremost disciple, Eliezer, conducted himself, will give us a window through which we can perceive Avraham Avinu. 

One who reads through this week's parsha, writes Rav Wolbe (Da'as Shlomo), will notice the amount of tefillah and interaction Eliezer has with Hashem. Avraham sends him to Aram Naharayim on a mission to find a wife for Yitzchok. The very first thing he does when he enters the town is to offer a heartfelt prayer to Hashem: "Hashem, the G-d of my master Avraham, please . . . do kindness with my master Avraham" (Bereishis 24, 12). Shortly thereafter Rivkah approaches. In response to Eliezer's request for a drink of water, not only does she give him to drink, she draws water for his entire caravan of camels. When Eliezer asks her for her name and she introduces herself as a relative of Avraham, he immediately prostrates himself before Hashem. Finally, when he hears that Rivkah's father agrees to the match, once again he immediately bows down in gratitude to Hashem. 

This behavior of Eliezer was a product of living in his master's house. One of Avraham's primary chiddushim was the concept of davening. The Torah tells us, "He built a mizbeiach and called out in the Name of Hashem," and the Targum translates this to mean, "And he davened in the Name of Hashem." 

From the behavior of both Avraham and Eliezer, we can gain insight into the essence of tefillah. Tefillah is calling out to Hashem. If in whatever difficulty a person finds himself he calls out to Hashem, he demonstrates that it is only Hashem Who has the ability to provide true assistance. The most fundamental aspect of tefillah is this cognizance that one is speaking to Hashem. 

Rav Chaim Soleveitchik writes that there are two types of kavana that one must have while davening. He must concentrate on the meaning of the words he is reciting, and he must be cognizant of the fact that he is standing before his Creator. He points out that while knowing the meaning of the words is only m'akeiv during the first berachah of Shemoneh Esrei, the knowledge that one is standing before the Creator is m'akeiv throughout the entire Shemoneh Esrei! One who exerts much effort concentrating on the meaning of the words but fails to acknowledge that he is standing before Hashem, might be "learning the siddur," but he is not davening! Following the dictate of Chazal to spend a few moments contemplating what he is about to do before starting to daven, can change one's entire experience in Shul. Instead of simply "spending time" every morning davening, each tefillah can be used as an opportunity to create a stronger relationship with Hashem. It's an investment of a few moments that reaps immeasurable reward and satisfaction!

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