Toldos: Who Has More Powerful Prayers?

My friend has a neighbor, who’s married with children and who’s still living with their parents.  He goes off to work, she stays home and watches television or goes out shopping, and the grandparents are stuck playing the role of parents.  It’s a stress on the grandparents, but they simply cannot say "no."  The other day, my friend was conversing with this neighbor, and they asked him if he’s planning to send his sons into the army.  When my friend said "no," he received a chilly look, “So, they’re planning on becoming parasites?!”


My friend worked very hard to keep his mouth shut given the irony of the situation.


Okay, on to more important things!


“Hashem allowed Himself to be entreated by him” (Bereishis 25:21).


Rashi explains that while both Yitzchok and Rivka davened hard for children, Hashem answered Yitzchok’s prayers over Rivka’s, because the prayers of a tzaddik ben tzaddik (a tzaddik whose father is a tzaddik) are not like those of a tzaddik ben rasha (a tzaddik whose father is evil).


The Taz (a commentator on the Shulchan Oruch) (Orach Chaim 53:103), cites the Maharshal, who says that if a community has a choice of two people to be the chazzan, and they are identical in every way, we appoint the one who has better lineage than the other.  However, the Taz himself disagrees with the Maharshal.  He maintains that the person who comes from the less illustrious lineage, should be the chazzan.  He finds proof for this from the pasuk, “’Peace, peace, for the far and for the near’, says Hashem, ‘and I will heal him’” (Yeshayahu 57:19). The “far” is mentioned before “the near," and therefore, somebody who comes from “afar” seems to have a more powerful prayer.


So, now we seem to have a small argument here.  Who takes precedence?


The Torah Temimah, thankfully, has an answer.  When a tzaddik ben tzaddik is praying for his own needs, and not for the needs of the public, he can benefit in the merit of his ancestors.  However, when somebody is praying on behalf of others, and certainly for the needs of the Jewish people, then the prayers of the tzaddik ben rasha are more powerful.  Why?  Because he has abandoned the ways of his forefathers and changed his life around.   While the merit of one's ancestors can help an individual, the merit of a person who does tshuvah, can help the entire world.


Have a great Shabbos!

Michael Winner