On Friday, November 12, the seventh and eighth grade students at the Bais Yaakov Academy of Queens were treated to a special program. Mrs. Sarah Bergman, General Studies Principal, organized this program to infuse the girls with love for davening. She greeted the students and introduced the guest speaker, Rebbetzin Raizy Gutman, teacher and speaker from Eretz Yisrael and a former graduate of the Bais Yaakov of Queens.
First, Rabbi Mordechai Ginsberg, Menahel of the Bais Yaakov of Queens, shared a d’var Torah about t’filah. He explained the halachah about not davening a worthless prayer. He shared examples like not being allowed to daven for a baby to be a certain gender when a woman is already expecting. Also, if someone comes to a city and hears a cry coming from a house, he can’t daven that it’s not coming from his house. These prayers would be considered worthless because you can’t daven for something that already took place in the past. He shared the famous question of how then could Leah, who was already expecting a baby, daven that it should be a girl?
Chazal teach that the baby was originally a boy, and Hashem answered Leah’s prayer and turned it into a girl, Dinah. The Gemara explains that only someone on the level of Rachel or Leah could say such a t’filah, because Hashem would perform a neis for them. We wouldn’t be allowed to, because we aren’t on that level. The Gemara also says that Hillel HaZakein once heard a screaming when he came to his town and he said, “I trust that it’s not coming from my house.” In this case he didn’t daven for it. The commentators explain that he knew no one in his house would scream like that. They would be davening to Hashem, and they would be in control.
We also learn the power of t’filah from Leah. She was told she would marry Eisav, and she cried and prayed. It says in the Torah that her eyes were weak, which is interpreted that she cried. Not only were her t’filos answered, but she ended up being the mother of half of the Sh’vatim. “The power of t‘filah is enormous.” Rabbi Ginsberg taught that Chazal tell us how important it is to daven, especially Minchah, because that is in the middle of the day. You have to put everything around you aside and focus on speaking to Hashem. That special avodas ha’leiv in the middle of the day gives Minchah an enormous special power for our prayers to be answered. He concluded with a brachah to the students that “our prayers should always be answered l’tovah.”
Next, Rebbetzin Gutman shared an inspiring shiur launching the Minchah program for the junior high school. “We should understand what davening is. The one message to walk away with is that nothing in this world happens without t’filah.” She added that if you received something without davening for it, then one of your grandparents or great-grandparents may have davened for it for you. If our t’filah is not answered, we need to know that Hashem knows what is best for us.”
She spoke with passion as she assured the girls. “Hashem saves every word of davening and puts it in a special place. He’ll give it to your great-granddaughter if you don’t receive the answer. No t’filah ever goes unanswered!” She then reminded the girls of the three things that can change any decree: t’shuvah, t’filah, and tz’dakah. These three stand on top of the world. These can change nature, because you have to change your nature to do these three things. T’shuvah means you do something against your nature. Hashem says that if you change your nature, then I’ll change nature for you. When a person gives tz’dakah, she moves out of her comfort zone and gives up her time or money, so again Hashem says: If you change your nature, then I’ll change nature for you. With t’filah, when a person davens, she goes against her nature of needing to be in control, so again Hashem says: If you change your nature, then I’ll change nature for you.
Hashem is beyond nature. He can do anything, even things that are not natural. So, when a person really davens and understands the words she is saying, those words are powerful. A person can change nature, as Leah did. She was supposed to marry Eisav, but her prayers changed that. It says in the Torah that Rachel was barren and it was impossible for her to have children. Leah davened and Hashem changed nature and she married Yaakov. Rachel davened and she had children. She also did an unbelievable act of tz’dakah when she gave over the signs to Leah so Leah wouldn’t be embarrassed. She went out of her comfort zone, so Hashem changed nature for her.
“What is t’filah?” Rebbetzin Gutman asked. “It’s avodah of the leiv. This is t’filah!” She shared that if you daven just with your mouth, then your davening isn’t changing you. Davening is meant to change you. When you daven with your heart, you feel close to Hashem, like you are talking to your friend. If you talk to your friend about things in your heart, you will have a deeper relationship. “T’filah is talking to your best friend.” Davening helps us do what we are supposed to do in this world. We are all here to make a relationship with Hashem! Hashem hides in our lives, and it is our job to find Him. We can get busy with everyday distractions, and this is the yeitzer ha’ra.
She then shared a touching story that took place when her son was little. One Shabbos morning, the wind was blowing very hard in Yerushalayim. He said, “Mommy, what’s that noise?”
She said, “Hashem is making the wind.”
He said, “I hear Hashem talking to me. Hashem is saying, ‘Avigdor, I love you.’” Suddenly, there was a crack of lightning, and he said, “See? He just took a picture of me. I told you He loves me.”
Rebbetzin Gutman taught that t’filah is the greatest gift we have. “I can’t imagine going through a whole day and not davening.” When we daven Minchah, we get so much reward. It’s stopping in the middle of the day and saying, “Hashem, I love you!” When we daven, we are saying, ‘Hashem, I want to have a connection to You.’ When we daven Minchah in the middle of a busy time of day, we are stopping and putting our heart in the right place. The Torah says, how great is the reward of a person who davens Minchah. “Daven with your heart!” You also need to understand the meaning of the words.
She added that “Davening is something you are going to do every day of your life, so its worthwhile to invest so it is done properly.” We have siddurim with English translations so we can understand the words. “You can change things in your life. T’filah is unbelievably powerful. The Anshei K’neses HaG’dolah had ruach ha’kodesh when they wrote the words in our t’filos. She suggested that every day we focus on the meaning of one of the words we are saying.
“The Gates of Tears are never locked. So, if you daven with tears, it goes straight up. This is because if you daven with tears, you are putting in your heart.”
She concluded, “Davening should be the highlight of your day. Remember you are talking to Hashem.
May every time you daven be special!”
She gave the girls a brachah, “You should always feel connected to Hashem and davening Minchah should always be special for you.”
The program ended with the students, teachers, and principals davening a stirring Minchah together.
Mrs. Bergman announced that there will be time now set aside every afternoon for the junior high school girls to daven Minchah.
By Susie Garber