Davening for Someone Else

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By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld


The posuk tell us that Yitzchok davened to Hashem  “across from his  wife.” The Rashbam explains that Yitzchok davened for his wife because she was barren. The Meshech Chochma explains that Yitzchok was confident that he would have children since Hashem had promised his father Avrohom that He will make a bris with his son Yitzchok and Yitzchok’s children. Yitzchok understood from this promise that he was guaranteed to have a child. His concern was that in order for that to happen he might have to marry another woman. That is the reason the Midrash says that Yitzchok davened to Hashem. He was requesting that all children that he would have should come from Rivka, the tzadekes. The Seforno concurs and says that Yitzchok davened that despite the fact that Hashem promised him children to inherit him, he still davened that it should come from his wife who was standing opposite him.

Rashi explains the word “Vayetar” as meaning that Yitzchok davened a lot and he davened very strongly “hirba vehiftzir.” Rashi tells us on the posuk where Hashemlistened to Yitzchok’s tefilla, that Hashem became convinced and acquiesced to his request from his strong davening. What can we learn from this? The Gemara in Yevamos, daf samech daled, amud alef says the reason why our Avos were barren was because Hashem wants the tefillah of Tzaddikim. What is so special about their daveningTzaddikim would daven to Hashem regardless if they were barren or not. The posuk in Tehillim says, “a tefillah to a poor person… before Hashem he pours out his davening.” From this posuk we see how beloved every tefillah is to Hashem; even the tefillah of a poor person.

The Gemara in Brachos, daf yud bais, amud bais says that if one is able to daven for someone else and doesn’t do so, he is considered a sinner. The question may be asked, isn’t everyone able to daven for someone else? How could everyone be considered sinners? Reb Elyashiv explains that this Gemara is only referring to a person who knows that his tefilla will be accepted. The obvious question is; how can someone know that his tefillah will be accepted?

We could explain these concepts with the following conditions that are needed in order for a tefillah to be accepted. The first condition is that the tefilla has to come from the depth of a broken heart as the posuk says, “Hashem is close to the broken hearted.” This condition is important, but only if it accompanies the second condition, which is that a person needs to truly believe that the only one who is able to help him is Hashem and that he has no other choice but to daven to Hashem.

To fulfill the first condition is quite common, but to have it accompanying the second condition, may be more difficult; the person must be a true maamin and a yarei shomayim. The description of Yitzchok’s davening was that he davened very, very hard. This can be compared to two types of poor people collecting money. The first person feels he can get money in other places besides the person he is currently asking, so when he collects, he takes his money and leaves. The second type of poor person is not as confident he will get money elsewhere and so he will continue to ask for more and keep on bothering the rich man until he gets his money.

This is why Hashem loves the davening of tzadikim. The tzadikim are able to fulfill both conditions, having a broken heart and possessing the implicit trust that the help can only come from Hashem. This test of a true broken heart can only come when one davens for someone else and he does not really need it, but is able to have a broken heart. That is the highest level of tefillah. This kind of tefillah, combined with the knowledge that the help will only come from Hashem guarantees that the tefillah will be accepted. That is pshat in the words “kol hamispalel al chaveiro vehu tzarich le’oso davar.” One who davens for his friend as if he is the one who needs that thing, then “hu ne’ena techila,” he is answered first.

Chazal say that the tefillah of a choleh who davens for himself is accepted first. When davening for someone else and you feel the person’s pain, it is as if you are the choleh yourself. Hashem will listen to you like he listens to the choleh.

May all of our tefillos be niskabel.

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