By: Chaya Sora Jungreis-Gertzulin
“Va’yetar Yitzchok l’HaShem, l’nochach ishtoh ki akoroh hee – Yitzchok entreated HaShem opposite his wife, because she was barren.” (Genesis, Bereishis 25:21)
Rashi comments that Yitzchok stood in one corner, and Rivkah in another corner, each one praying for the blessing of a child. Midrash Rabbah (63:5) states they prayed at the same time, to increase the possibility that both of their tefillos would be accepted.
The Midrash shares with us the words of their tefillos. Yitzchok prayed, “Creator of the World, may all the children that You will give me, come from this righteous woman”. Rivkah, from her corner, cried out, “May all the children that You are destined to give me, please let them be from this righteous man”.
Each one praying on the other’s behalf. It was Yitzchok’s praying for Rivkah, and Rivkah’s praying for Yitzchok, that together pierced the Heavens.
We just welcomed the new chodesh of Kislev – and Chanukah is not far behind. The many gift catalogs will soon be arriving in the mail. The “It’s almost Chanukah sale” emails will fill up our inbox. Stores will be advertising that they have the perfect gift. The gift that brings magic to whomever receives it; the gift that will surely put the biggest smile on its lucky recipient. The gift that shows you really care.
Yes, gifts are nice to give, and fun to receive. But, Yitzchok and Rivkah teach us what genuine gifting is all about. The gift of prayer.
Prayer, davening is called “avodas haleiv”, a labor of the heart. To daven for someone with all your heart and soul. What a beautiful gift. When we daven for someone, we are giving from our heart. We are saying, “I love you, I care about you, I am praying for you.” It is a gift that is everlasting. It will never go out of style, it will never be dated. It’s the most meaningful gift a husband or wife can give each other, a parent or grandparent can give a child, or one friend to another.
Yitzchok and Rivkah never tired or grew weary of davening. For twenty years, Rivkah waited for a child. For twenty years, they refused to give up, but continued going to their separate corners, pouring out their hearts to HaShem. It was true avodas haleiv, labor of the heart.
To describe Yitzchok’s tefillos, the Torah uses the term “va’yetar”, instead of the more common “va’yispallel”. Rashi comments that va’yetar connotes praying in abundance. Praying with urgency. Powerful prayers.
The Talmud (Yevamos 64:a) explains that the term “va’yetar” has the same root as the term “asrah”, a winnowing shovel or pitchfork. Just as a pitchfork turns over the grain, moving it from place to place, so too, sincere prayer has the power to overturn a Heavenly decree to one of mercy.
The passage continues, “Ki akarah hee”, because she was barren. Akarah, barren, is very similar to the Hebrew word for precious, yakar, as well as the Hebrew word ikar, meaning important. Yitzchak davened on behalf of Rivkah, because she was yakar, precious and ikar, important to him. She was his life.
The parshah is teaching us what true gift-giving is all about – tefillah, prayer, a gift from the heart.
In our fast-paced society, our minds are always racing, making it difficult to focus, to have proper kavannah, concentration, particularly during tefillah. With all of the distractions of modern technology –smartphone, computer, IPad, etc., we need to work harder on really connecting to HaShem while praying. As the Talmud teaches, prayer is not merely lip-service. It is an avodas haleiv, a labor of the heart. We should emulate Rivkah and Yitzchok, to find a quiet corner – away from all of the diversions. Make it your go-to place to daven and concentrate, with both action and feeling.
I close my eyes and visualize my mother a”h as she lit the Shabbos candles. Ima would make a point of saying each of our names, along with a silent prayer. She would also mention the names of people who needed refuah, healing, shidduchim, and berachos for a myriad of other personal needs.
There is nothing like a parent’s prayers. Parents’ prayers give strength and reassurance. I knew my parents’ prayers were always with me. From my mother saying each morning as I was about to board the school bus, “Have hatzlacha, success in school”, to a special berachah before leaving to sleep-away camp, to her good wishes before my first teaching job.
It doesn’t matter what age one is, we always need our parents’ prayers. I knew their prayers were with me as they escorted me down the aisle to the chuppah.
They were with me when I went to the hospital to give birth to each child. How reassuring and calming it was to hear my mother say, “Chaya Sarale, I’m getting my Tehillim right now. I’m stopping everything and I’m going to daven”.
This year, as we begin to think about that “perfect” Chanukah gift, let’s take a lesson from Yitzchok and Rivkah. Together with our usual Chanukah presents, let’s add a special gift card. A card that says “I care about you. I love you. You are always in my prayers.” No matter what, everyone needs a prayer. It’s a gift of love.
It is an avodas haleiv – a labor of the heart.
Chaya Sora can reached at email@example.com
This article was written L’zecher Nishmas / In Memory Of HaRav Meshulem ben HaRav Osher Anshil HaLevi, zt”l and Rebbetzin Esther bas HaRav Avraham HaLevi, zt”l