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Friday, January 18, 2019 12 Shevat 5779





LIVING WITH
THE TIMES

The first Lubavitch/Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, author of the Tanya and Code of Jewish Law, once remarked that a Jew must "live with the times." His son explained the meaning: A Jew must live with the Torah portion of the week - i.e., he must assimilate the lessons of the weekly Torah portion
B"H
 
 
 
BE SILENT!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Pharaoh has told the children of Israel to leave. The fledgling Jewish nation leaves Egypt seeking freedom, but alas, Pharaoh has a change of heart and gathers his people to pursue his freed slaves. Finding themselves sandwiched between the Red Sea and the pursuing Egyptian forces, the Jewish people were terrified and cried out to G-d.
 
However, G-d is unhappy with their prayers. He instructs Moses to give the following message to the children of Israel: “G-d will wage war for you and you shall be silent.”  The Aramaic Midrashic-translation, known as Targum Yonoson, renders this verse as: “Be silent and give glory and praise and exalt your G-d.” Another Midrashic work, the Mechilta, translates it differently: “You shall be silent and cease praying.”
 
The Rebbe explained, based on the Midrash, that their prime mission was to continue their journey toward Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. Indeed, the entire Egyptian Bondage and subsequent Exodus were divinely designed to prepare the children of Israel for receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. Hence, G-d told them that although prayer is usually a most felicitous and desirable activity, this was neither the time nor place for it; it was time to focus on their overarching mission to march forward towards Mount Sinai.
 
 
 
 
 
 
However, Targum Yonoson’s approach, that they were to sing G-d’s praises, begs us for an explanation. Weren’t they already praying?  Upon deeper reflection, it seems that Targum Yonoson’s explanation, that they should sing praises, was indeed intended for those who prayed to G-d. As good as their prayers were, G-d wanted them to focus on a higher form of prayer.
 
Classical Torah sources teach us that there is a twin dynamic to prayer. The first is pleading with G-d to provide us with our needs with the intention that He will satisfy them for us. The second component of prayer is pure praise of G-d for His kindnesses, compassion and, particularly, His miracles.
 
One of the differences between the aspects of request and praise is that the former is usually done with tears, while the latter is with joy. When we plead to G-d for our needs, we are asking for G-d to change the past. Our prayer implies that we are lacking and hurting, and we implore G-d to change our situation. When we sing praises to G-d, however, we revel in His goodness and the miracles we have experienced.
 
When the children of Israel saw the miracles G-d had performed for them in the past, they should not have needed to implore G-d for the future. Although the miracle of the splitting of the Sea had not yet happened, they should have raised their voices in jubilant singing, as though the miracle had already come to pass. Consider the fortunate person who knows that he or she has won the lottery but who has yet to collect the prize. It stands to reason that he or she will rejoice even before the check is deposited into their account.
 
The lesson here is that while we must still cry out to G-d, Ad Masai, how much longer? our primary expression of prayer should be of praise for the miracles we have already experienced; they are a portent of the miracles we will soon experience.
 

There is no question that, in the last few decades, we have witnessed all sorts of miracles, from the collapse of the Soviet Union to the “small” miracles we have experienced in our individual lives. We must react to them all by showing our gratitude to G-d and by publicizing His wondrous acts. In addition, we must also express our anticipatory gratitude for the miracles to come, as if they had already happened.

 


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