Vayeitzei: Learning from the Har Nof Massacre II

My wife’s friend went to Har Nof to one of the homes that were sitting shivah from the killings last week. She said it was surreal to see one street full of people walking and openly crying. Four families lost fathers and husbands, leaving around 20-30 orphans all together. What caught her attention at the home was a women, clearly not Ultra-Orthodox, with her little children. She was watching them, wondering who she was and why did she bring her children to this shivah house. Finally, the woman got to the front and said to the widow, “My name is so-and-so… we just got up from shivah ourselves yesterday… our daughter was the one who was stabbed to death by an Arab terrorist last week…. We’re now sisters in blood”. At that point, the whole room erupted in another round of tears.

My wife made a good point the other day. If there was a shooting in a church somewhere in Russia… “Okay… fine… it’s sad…” would be the reaction of the world. However, when four Jews are killed in a shul… the entire Jewish, especially the frum community, feels the pain.

This past week, Rav Barcley from Neve Yaakov spoke about the tragedy. He spoke briefly, but very powerfully on what we can learn from the murders.

In this week’s and last week’s parsha, along with Parshas Lech Lecha, we see that Sarah, Rivkah, and Rochel were all barren. Rabbeinu Bechaya questions one of the opening pesukim in last week’s parsha. It says, “His wife was barren, and Yitzchok pleaded with G-d for her sake”. If anything, says Rabbeinu Bechaya, it should say, “Yitzchok pleaded with G-d for her sake, because his wife was barren”. The wording of the Torah makes it sound like that the tefillah of Yitzchok was the main issue (hence mentioned last) and Rivkah being barren was a secondary thing. Rabbeinu Bechaya explains that this in fact is the truth. Hashem desires our tefillos (prayers) and in order to “squeeze” them out of us, he sends “issues” into this world. Hashem desired that Yitzchok and Rivkah daven properly, therefore Rivkah was barren. Being barren wasn’t the main point and the tefillos simply helped; rather the tefillos were the main point, and being barren was merely a way to get it out. He brings in further proofs from the parsha, but we learn from this incident, that 1) Hashem desires our tefillos and sends us ‘issues’ to get them 2) Our tefillos have the ability to change nature itself 3) Our tefillos have the ability to change Hashem’s “cruelty” to that of kindness.

Rav Barcley continued and brought in Pirkei D’Rabbeinu Eliezer (32:1) which states that there were six people who received their names from Hashem before they were born. One of them is Yishmoel (the father of the Arabs). The generally accepted view is that his name comes from “Yismah Kel”, “Hashem heard”, as in Hashem heard the cry of his mother when she fled from Sarah, “for G-d has heard your prayer” (Bereishis 16:11). However, Pirkei D’Rabbeinu Eliezer says that “Yishmah Kel” is in the future tense, and he writes, “Why is he called Yishmoel? For in the future Hashem will hear the groaning of [His] nation, because of what Yishmoel will do to them in Eretz Yisroel, near the end of days”

Do I need to repeat that last line? Okay…

“For in the future Hashem will hear the groaning of [His] nation, because of what Yishmoel will do to them in Eretz Yisroel, near the end of days”

There’s no need to elaborate on this really. But it’s clear that Yishmoel is going to torment the Jewish nation, which will cause us to cry to Hashem. Couple that with what we learned above from Rabbeinu Bechaya, we see that (one reason) Hashem is sending Yishmoel is in order to “squeeze out” our tefillos, which is the lifeline between us and Hashem. Being so, if we daven BEFORE, perhaps we will not need to go through such suffering at his hands.

And finally Rav Barcley asks, “Why specifically Yishmoel? There are plenty of other nations out there!” He answers that it’s because Yishmoel is a nation which is strong in tefillah. They daven five times a day, starting before dawn. They daven in public with no embarrassment. They daven to Hashem (who also hears their prayers). So, now we have Yishmoel and his power of tefillah, going into a place of tefillah, and overtaking Jews known for their tefillos.

I think “the writing is on the wall”, and most of us have ignored it and unfortunately, will continue to ignore it.

There are two ways one must improve his or her tefillos. All of us have plenty of room to improve one’s concentration. By either taking some time to properly learn about the tefillos or slowing down to make sure one understands what he is saying, etc… there are plenty of ways to improve and it’s a lifetime of work. Again, all of us need to work on it.

MOST (not all, thankfully) need to work on something even more basic. COMING ON TIME. You CANNOT work on concentration and meaning of the tefillos, if you do not come on time. The Mishnah Berurah states, that one should come early to shul to be able to say all of one’s davening with proper intentions and concentration. That INCLUDES Pesukei D’Zimrah.

Unfortunately, most shuls suffer from this issue. You can have a full room at the time of “Baruch Hu” (end of Pesukei D’Zimrah), and a near empty-room at the beginning of davening.

Simply put: There is no reason that a person should regularly be late to davening!

Davening is our “lifeline” to Hashem, our direct line of communication. But showing up late on a regular basis, you are throwing that lifeline away. And THEN, you are “forcing” Hashem to “force” us to daven properly.

It’s an embarrassment that we should ignore such obvious warnings and refuse to improve on such an important issue, and then, when G-d forbid, there is another incident, cry out “WHY?” What right do we have to cry out “WHY?” when we refuse to learn from the past?

Whether women have an obligation to kick their husbands out of the house on time, I don’t know, and probably not, for the sake of peace in the house. However, they are certainly obligated to refrain from keeping them home or making them late (without good cause). Additionally, while there is a mix of opinions concerning women and their obligations to daven, there is no question that it is a worthwhile thing for a woman (especially in these times) to do, even if it’s only the minimal amount.

For men, if Pesukei D’Zimrah starts at 6:30 am at shul, they are OBLIGATED to show up early so they have time to put on their tallis and tefillin, and say brachos properly. Personally, I recommend 10-15 minutes early for most people. To show up late on a regular basis, is not only insulting to Hashem, and not only disturbs and weakens the minyan, but it also can cause great tragedy for the Jewish people.

Something so important and so central to the Jewish nation cannot be brushed off as easily as it has been in the past. We’ve seen that Hashem sends Yishmoel to teach us to daven. We see that the terrorism and troubles in Eretz Yisroel are directly related to our lack of tefillos. If we work on our davening first, then perhaps Jewish lives could be saved in the future.

I wish you all a great Shabbos.