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Rabbi Berzansky - Parshat Vayeira

בראשית פרק יח פסוק יז

וַֽיקֹוָ֖ק אָמָ֑ר הַֽמְכַסֶּ֤ה אֲנִי֙ מֵֽאַבְרָהָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֖ר אֲנִ֥י עֹשֶֽׂה: וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם הָי֧וֹ יִֽהְיֶ֛ה לְג֥וֹי גָּד֖וֹל וְעָצ֑וּם וְנִ֨בְרְכוּ־ב֔וֹ כֹּ֖ל גּוֹיֵ֥י הָאָֽרֶץ:

How can I hide what I am doing to Sodom from Avraham… Avraham will become a great and mighty nation.


Shimon was in critical condition. His good friend Eliyahu had poured out his heart, asking Hashem to save his dear friend’s life. Unfortunately, after three weeks of tefillos, Shimon passed away. There is no doubt, writes R. Shimshon Pincus, that Eliyahu’s tefillos helped Shimon in more ways than we could imagine, but aside from helping Shimon, Eliyahu’s tefillos actually helped Eliyahu’s little brother Yossi as well.

Three months after Shimon’s passing, Eliyahu’s little brother Yossi was severely injured in a car accident on erev Shabbos, in Lakewood, New Jersey. Eliyahu did not hear about the crash because he was in Eretz Yisroel and it was already Shabbos. Hashem took Eliyahu’s three-month-old tefillos and used them to save Yossi’s life. Sunday morning, Eliyahu received a call from his family in Lakewood, telling him not to panic, but that Yossi was severely injured in a car crash on erev Shabbos and baruch Hashem he is going to be just fine.

The Medrash teaches us that not all tefillos work instantaneously. Some help after three days, some after thirty days, some only after thirty years, and some even more. Hashem with His infinite wisdom knows where and when to use them. Our job is just to create them.

Hashem wanted to inform Avraham Avinu about the imminent destruction of Sodom. He said, “How can I hide what I am doing to Sodom from Avraham? Avraham will become a great and mighty nation.” The Dubner Maggid is bothered by the juxtaposition of these two pesukim. The implications are that Hashem had to tell Avraham that He was going to destroy Sodom since a great nation was going to emerge from Avraham. What is the connection?

The Dubner Maggid explains that although Hashem knew that Sodom’s destruction was imminent and unavoidable, nonetheless He still wanted Avraham Avinu to daven for their salvation. That is because Hashem was not interested in the salvation of Sodom per se; rather Hashem was interested in Avraham’s tefillos. Let us explain. Hashem knew the power that lay in Avraham’s tefillos and wanted to store them up in his flask of tefillos for a later date and time when Avraham Avinu’s children, Klal Yisroel, would need them. Hashem knew that as soon as He would tell Avraham about Sodom, Avraham would pour his heart and soul out in prayer for their salvation and safety. Hashem was saving up those tefillos for a time when Avraham would not be around to daven on our behalf. The Dubner Maggid explains this idea with a parable. Two people entered a children’s clothing store. The older one was measuring every item of clothing to make sure that it would fit, while the younger one was just buying whatever looked good. The older man asked the younger man in astonishment, “How can you buy clothes for your children without first knowing if they fit?” The younger one replied, “Baruch Hashem, I have a house filled with lots of boys. If this shirt doesn’t fit one, it will fit another. And if it does not fit any of them today, it will fit one of them tomorrow.” Just like Hashem saved the tefillos of Avraham in His “flask of tefillos” for a time when they will be needed, explains the Dubner Maggid, so too Hashem saves the tefillos of Klal Yisroel for the time when they will be needed as well.

A Jew must know that there is no such thing as a tefillah going to waste. Every time a Jew pours his heart out to Hashem, his tefillah is heard. Hashem takes it and places it in His “flask of tefillos” where it will wait to be used in its appropriate time.

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