Rabbi Berzansky - Vayeitzei
Do Not Forget to Ask
Leah Imeinu was especially grateful to Hashem for her fourth child. She had prophesized that twelve shevatim would emerge from Yaakov Avinu’s four wives. Presuming that all the wives would have an equal share, each one should have given birth to three shevatim. When Leah gave birth to her fourth son and received “more than her share,” she felt extremely appreciative. To express this appreciation she named him “Yehudah.” (Yehudah, יהודה ,is a compound word made up of the word “thanks” — הודה ,and Hashem’s name — ה-י , meaning “Thank you Hashem.”)
However, with all her appreciation and gratitude towards Hashem, the pasuk ends on a negative note: “She stopped having children.” This implied that since she thanked Hashem, she stopped giving birth, which requires an explanation. Why should she lose the privilege of having more shevatim because she thanked Hashem for having her fourth child?
The Tur on Chumash offers the following explanation. Her thanking Hashem was not the problem; the problem was that she did not ask for more. The Gemara tells us that when a Jew thanks Hashem for the past, he should simultaneously be asking Hashem for the future. Receiving “more than her share” created a certain sense of fulfillment, which caused her not to ask for more shevatim, and as a result, “she stopped having children.”
The Torah is teaching us something astonishing. Even if Hashem is ready and willing to give a person something as precious as children, if the person does not ask for it, he will not get it. Hashem can give whenever He wants. However, He wants us to ask Him, and only when we will ask Him will we receive. Leah did not ask for more children and therefore she stopped having children. A Chassidish rebbe once asked his Chassidim at a tisch, “Who here would like to be a rich man?” Three raised their hands. Shortly afterward their businesses flourished, making the three of them multi-millionaires.
Unlike people, our Father in Heaven wants us to ask Him for everything, all the time. Even as we appreciate what He has granted us, we are supposed to turn to Him and ask for His continued help and support. Whether it is wisdom, healthy, prosperity, or to see the final redemption, don’t forget to ask.