The Rebbe, R’ Nachman M’Breslov, zt”l, writes: “The level of hisbodedus [isolation] is higher and greater than everything. In hisbodedus, a person sets aside an hour or so each day to be by himself in a room or in a field, to speak out everything that is on his heart between himself and his Maker. He should put forth all sorts of logical arguments and excuses using graceful, charming, and appeasing words. And he should ask and beg Hashem that He should bring him close to Him to serve Him in truth. And this prayer and conversation should be in one’s everyday language.”
The key to prayer is sincerity. This means that the supplicant believes that only Hashem can help him. Therefore, he turns his heart to Him, understanding that any other avenue is only part of his hishtadlus, his effort. This was a required action by the metzora as a means for him to do t’shuvah and it is something we should do each and every day, although it is equally important to never forget that any and all results can only be brought about by Hashem.
“His face is pale and every hair is gone. But his peiyos have not been touched!”
A wonderful example of the power of prayer may be discerned from the following incident that took place not long ago. One day, a young kollel yungerman, a budding scholar who studied in one of the distinguished kollelim in Bnei Brak, presented himself, together with his 7-year-old son, at the home of R’ Chaim Kanievsky, shlita. People had a hard time not staring at the little boy, as it was apparent he was going through a difficult trial.
The man waited until the crowd had cleared out and then he took his place before the rav. “Rebbe,” the young man said, “I would like to relate to his honor a moving, incredible story that occurred concerning my young son here. As one can see, my son was diagnosed a short while ago with the dreaded disease. As part of his treatment, the doctors agreed that he would have to undergo several rounds of heavy chemotherapy. Among the many side effects that he would suffer, they told us, losing all of his body hair was a certainty. Well, my wife and I were beside ourselves, but our young son accepted Hashem’s decree of strict justice with great love, far beyond a child of such young years. He gives us all great chizuk. Yet, despite his incredible emunah and bitachon in the Almighty that whatever is decreed for him is all for the good, he became hysterical when he heard that he would lose his hair. He told us, ‘I do not care about the hair on my head, even if it will look strange and the other children might look at me in a ridiculing manner. I cannot, however, tolerate losing my peiyos. My peiyos maintain my appearance as a Yiddishe boy. How can I live without my peiyos?”
The father continued to relate how his son cried and cried and prayed and prayed. Each and every day he would seclude himself in his room and open his young heart to the Almighty. He supplicated Hashem with the following words: “Av Harachaman, Merciful Father in Heaven, I know that everything You do to me is for the good. No one has greater compassion than You. This is what my parents have taught me and I accept it without question and with the utmost love. I accept everything that is connected with this disease, everything that I am stricken with, because I know that You will not forsake me. I am even willing to lose my hair, even though I will be greatly embarrassed by it.”
R’ Chaim looked at the young boy tenderly, as the father continued to speak. “But then, suddenly, my son burst out into bitter weeping. As he sobbed, he cried out, ‘Hashem, I will give it all up – just not my peiyos! How can I be without peiyos? I cannot overlook my peiyos. They are what make me look like a Jew. Please, Hashem – leave my peiyos!’
“I watched,” said the father, “as my son davened like this for over an hour, repeating his entreaty amid bitter wailing. It was truly heartbreaking to listen. But Rebbe – lo and behold – Hashem must have heard his cries! Look at my son. The chemo and medications have ravaged his body. His face is pale and every hair is gone. But his peiyos have not been touched! They are as full and as long as any other child’s! Hashem listened to my son’s pure prayers!”
R’ Chaim was so taken aback by this incident that he immediately summoned all the members of his family who were in the house to come to see the power of innocence, the power of sincerity, the power of prayer from a pure heart.
Rabbi Dovid Hoffman is the author of the popular “Torah Tavlin” book series, filled with stories, wit and hundreds of divrei Torah, including the brand new “Torah Tavlin Yamim Noraim” in stores everywhere. You’ll love this popular series. Also look for his book, “Heroes of Spirit,” containing one hundred fascinating stories on the Holocaust. They are fantastic gifts, available in all Judaica bookstores and online at http://israelbookshoppublications.com. To receive Rabbi Hoffman’s weekly “Torah Tavlin” sheet on the parsha, e-mail Torahtavlin@yahoo.com