This week we read the Torah portion Beshalach. It tells us of the incredible miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea. The Jewish nation had left Egypt a week earlier. Paroh had a change of heart, and decided to capture the Jews, and restore them to their former status as slaves. The Egyptian troops were coming closer to the Jews from behind; in front of them all that they could see was the sea. It seemed hopeless. What did the Nation of Israel do?
The Torah tells us that “Paroh drew near, and the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold! The Egyptians were coming after them. They were very frightened, and they cried out to Hashem.” Rashi, explaining this verse, tells us why they cried to Hashem. “They grasped hold of their ancestor’s trade (meaning that they prayed).” Rashi then gives examples to demonstrate that each of our forefathers prayed.
We have discussed a number of times how precise Rashi is with his language. Why would he refer to prayer as a trade? One is regularly engaged in his trade. On the other hand, prayer, which is a request for ones needs, would seem to apply only when one has a need. This instance is a perfect example. The Jews felt that they were facing certain death, so of course they prayed!
The explanation is, that our perception of prayer is not entirely correct. We think of prayer solely as a request for our needs. This implies that the primary purpose of prayer is for the individual’s benefit. One needs something, G-d supplies his need.
However, the fact is that Tefillah – Prayer is not merely for the individual’s needs. The Rambam writes that “the positive commandment to pray is to serve Hashem every day by means of praying.”
This teaches us that Tefillah is much more than a way of receiving our needs. It is rather a way to serve G-d, thereby coming closer to Him.
This is why Rashi specifically uses the word “trade” to describe prayer. We must constantly pray, because we have a constant need to draw ourselves closer to Hashem. It is not simply an act we do in order to obtain our requirements; rather, it is one of the most important ways we have of connecting to Hashem.
Granted, prayer also serves the purpose of reminding ourselves that the only One Who can supply our needs is Hashem. One constant need which we all have is the coming of Moshiach, and our redemption from this exile. May we pray for this, and our prayers will certainly be answered.
Wishing one and all a good Shabbos!
Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn
Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 11, Page 52
IN OUR FATHER’S MERIT
Mr. Shalom Moshe Hacohen ben Tzivia Cohen
May he have a complete and speedy recovery
DEDICATED BY HIS FAMILY
* * *
ר’ שלום משה הכהן בן מרת צבי’ שי’ כהן
לרפואה שלימה וקרובה
יוצא לאור ע”י בני משפחתו שיחיו
. Our Parshah, Shemos 14:10.
. See the heading to the Rambam’s Laws of Prayer. It is. known that he wrote the headings himself.