When it comes to tefilah, many are focused on proper timing as dictated by the Shulchan Aruch. When can we start? When must we finish? Though there is a proper time frame for each of the tefilos, if we consider the question “When is the proper time for tefilah?” the answer might surprise us. The Rambam (Hilchos B’rachos 10:26) states: “A person should always cry out [to Hashem] over future possibilities, asking for mercy.” Therefore, the answer to our question is: ALWAYS. Whenever we have a need, the ideal and epitome is to always ask Hashem for help.
The greatest benefit we can derive from tefilah, and in fact the very purpose of life according to many, is d’veikus and bitachon, connecting or cleaving to Hashem and trusting or relying on Him exclusively. Practically, d’veikus means thinking about Hashem (at least subconsciously). The Meshech Chochmah (Parshas Eikev 10:20) actually defines d’veikus as bitachon.
One of the greatest paths to d’veikus and bitachon is to begin to apply the “Rambam” above to our daily lives. HaRav Moshe Wolfson, in his sefer Va’ani Tefilah, writes that asking Hashem for the “small stuff” is the “shpitz” – the pinnacle – of emunah. It is a demonstration that we, in fact, firmly believe that the outcome of even the smallest trivial matters is in the Hands of Hashem exclusively.
“It is not sufficient for man to daven Shemoneh Esrei three times a day. Rather, many times a day he should pour out tefilos and requests...from the depths of his heart... This tefilah will come forth with a depth of kavanah…and broken heart. A tefilah like that certainly will not be returned empty.” (Sefer HaTefilah bi’Mechitzas heChafetz Chaim, quoting Likutei Amarim from the Chofetz Chaim)
A heartfelt tefilah is never returned empty. To be clear, that does not mean the person making the request will definitely receive what he requested. It does mean that the tefilah will accomplish: sometimes in upper worlds, sometimes down here, and sometimes what we requested. What is certain is that it will accomplish something needed somewhere, and it will further our quest in life to come closer to Hashem. Every time we make a request during our day, outside of the formal tefilos, we are strengthening our emunah and bitachon, loudly proclaiming that it is only Hashem Who can produce the desired outcome. Saying “Thank You” spontaneously has a similar effect of strengthening our emunah, and it brings us closer to Hashem. In fact, the second half of the Rambam quoted above states: “…and one should offer thanks for the past and thank and praise Hashem according to his abilities, and all who increase thanking and praising Hashem constantly, “harei zeh meshubach,” which means that this is praiseworthy and it makes him into an elevated person.
So what does this all have to do with “Pesach tefilos”? There is a lot to ask Hashem for now before Pesach. We must remember that even in spiritual matters, we must ask Hashem for help. HaRav Shlomo Wolbe and HaRav Eliyahu Dessler made strong statements when they wrote about how many potentially great talmidei chachamim never reach their true potential because they did not turn to Hashem and ask, even plead, for success. The Gemara states that the effort of learning is not enough. Beyond strenuous efforts, heartfelt tefilos are required. The same is true for cleaning our homes for Pesach, cooking, shopping, having peace and love in the home over Yom Tov, and many other important areas in which we need success for the upcoming Yom Tov. Great efforts are being made to clean and cook. We must all feel and express great appreciation for those carrying the brunt of those efforts. Those making the effort must remember that ultimate success of their efforts depends only on Hashem. Will I find that challah roll that the two-year-old hid in the play kitchen oven or behind the s’farim in the bookcase? Certainly, we need to put forth effort; but at the same time, we need Hashem to assure a “kosher,” peaceful, and enjoyable Pesach. We need to ask for success. The same is true in every area of the upcoming Yom Tov.
We need Hashem’s help to succeed in the physical and spiritual aspects of our Seder preparations. We can prepare for hours for the Seder and then fail in the mission to tell the story in a manner that will infuse and strengthen emunah and bitachon. Even if we spent hours preparing, the timing may be off, the delivery may be off, people may be too tired, etc. We need to ask Hashem to help our words enter into the minds and hearts of the participants of the Seder and be internalized deeply.
HaRav Moshe Feinstein and HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky jointly wrote an open letter to all of klal Yisrael almost 40 years ago. They wrote about the urgency of stressing emunah in hashgachah pratis, Divine Providence, in our times, and even suggested keeping a notebook with daily hashgachah that we see in our own daily lives. When we are able to feel the presence of Hashem in our daily lives in the “small stuff,” we will grow closer to Hashem in a greater and more steady manner than hearing someone else’s story. Some write in a notebook and periodically review the notebook themselves, and share some entries with their families at special occasions such as on a Yom Tov or even at the Shabbos table.
At the heart and core of Pesach are emunah in hashgachah pratis and hodaah (gratitude). A discussion of commitment of some kind to increase the frequency and intensity of our “Please” and “Thank You” to Hashem would be a most fitting way over Yom Tov, perhaps even at the meal of the Seder, to implement the advice given by the g’dolei ha’dor. When we ask Hashem for help and are mindful of thanking Him, we will begin to notice the loving Hand of Hashem that has always been with us, but which we may have been too busy to notice.
May we all merit to enjoy a Chag Kasher v’Samei’ach and experience the final redemption this Nisan, b’ezras Hashem.
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