Friday, August 3, 2018




A student of Rav Shmuel Berenbaum zt’l once approached his rebbe and cried bitter tears, as he relayed the bitter plight his family was suffering.
Sometime later, the student returned to tell Rav Shmuel that the crisis had thankfully passed. The student was sure that the salvation was the result of his Rebbe’s prayers, and he came to thank his rebbe.
While there he asked him what he had done on his behalf. Reb Shmuel replied that after the student had painfully related the situation, he felt devastated. He opened his Gemara and tried to begin learning: “Amar Abayei - Abayei says”, but then he stopped. He was so overcome that he couldn’t concentrate. He looked up and said, “Abayei, I know you well for over half a century. How many thousands of times have I repeated your name and your teachings throughout Shas. Abayei, you know I never asked you for anything. But now, I need your help. I have a student who is going through a terrible situation. I’m begging you to daven and intercede on his behalf.” Reb Shmuel concluded that after he said that prayer, he felt confident that salvation would come, and he was able to return to his learning.
There are many lessons to be gleaned from this anecdote, including the great merit of having a caring and loving rebbe, and the importance of returning to a rebbe/Gadol after meriting salvation to inform him and thank him for his prayers. But beyond that, it is also incredible that Reb Shmuel said that in fifty years he had never asked Abayei to intercede on his or his family’s behalf. He was only doing so now on behalf of a student.[1]

Moshe Rabbeinu called out to his beloved nation: “Listen Yisroel, you are crossing the Jordan today to come to inherit nations that are bigger and stronger than you...”[2]
The Medrash[3] notes that in his message Moshe was sending them a covert message: “Rabbi Tanchuma said - Moshe was throwing himself down in front of Yisroel, and saying to them: ‘You will cross the Jordan, but I will not cross it’. He was thereby giving them an opening, in the hope that perhaps they would plead to Hashem for mercy on his behalf. But they did not comprehend the message.”
The Medrash then relates a parable to a king who had many children with his queen. Then, after years of marriage, the king became angry at something the queen had done. He emphatically informed her that he was going to divorce her and marry a different queen. She asked the king who the new queen would be. After he told her she approached her children and informed them that their father would be selecting a new queen in her stead. She then asked them if they would be able to accept the new queen’s authority. They replied that they would.
In truth the queen was hoping that her children would go to their father and plead with him not to divorce their mother. But sadly, they did not get the hint. At that point the queen instructed her children to make sure they always respected their father and fulfilled his bidding.
When Moshe informed the nation that Yehoshua would take his place as leader and lead the nation into Eretz Yisroel, the nation accepted it. Moshe was hoping that they would not readily accept it and would beseech Hashem to allow him to lead them into Eretz Yisroel. When they failed to do so, he instructed the nation to follow Yehoshua and always be loyal to Hashem.
The commentators explain that Moshe could not directly ask the nation to daven for him that he remain the leader, because doing so would necessitate his expressing to them why he was irreplaceable in his ability to daven and be an advocate for them. That would have belittled Yehoshua and would appear as if Moshe was jealous.
The Imrei Emes added that Hashem had told Moshe to cease davening that Hashem allow him to enter the Land.[4] That instruction included any active effort to repel the decree, including asking the nation to daven for him. That’s why Moshe could only hint to it.
There is another Medrash[5] which also expresses this idea: “Rav Shmuel bar Yitzchak said: When Moshe was about to die, and the nation did not plead for mercy on his behalf, he gathered them and began rebuking them. He said to them, “One person rescued six hundred thousand (at the time of the sin of the golden calf, when Moshe davened that Hashem not wipe out the nation) yet six hundred thousand were not able to rescue one person?!””
The Medrash adds that it was based on that notion that Moshe declared, “But Hashem did not give you a heart to know until this day”. The fact that they did not think to daven for Moshe, demonstrates that they were lacking some insight.
Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt’l noted[6] that it’s clear from the Medrash that had the nation davened on behalf of Moshe, they would have been able to break the decree, and Moshe would have been able to lead them into Eretz Yisroel.
As great as the power of prayer is, the greatest form of prayer is when one does so on behalf of another. The sensitivity and love which one demonstrates for another is itself an incredible merit that bolsters the poignancy of the prayers uttered. 
By the same token, when we daven for our needs, if we can express how we will use what we are requesting to help others, that too adds efficacy to our prayers.
The more we live our lives thinking and caring about others, the greater we become.
Moshe Rabbeinu was the epitome of selflessness. He put himself on the line for Klal Yisroel time and again. The tragedy was that Klal Yisroel didn’t realize the power that they could and should daven for their leader.
It’s a reminder to us about the power we yield when we daven for others.

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Heard from Rabbi Pinchos Idstein, Camp Dora Golding, Tisha B’av 5778
[2] Devorim 9:1
[3] Devorim Rabbah 3:11
[4] Devorim 3:26
[5] Devorim Rabah 10:1; I am grateful to Rabbi Noach Sauber who enlightened me about this powerful Medrash
[6] Sichos Rav Nosson Tzvi


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