Halacha Date: 26 Adar 5774 February 26 2014
The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (2, 2) states: “Rabbi Shimon says: Be cautious regarding Keri’at Shema and prayer and when you pray, do not make your prayer a burden; rather, let it be a request for mercy and supplication before Hashem.”
It is clear that by praying with concentration, one can benefit himself greatly and be saved from suffering and calamity. Although our Sages tell us (Mo’ed Katan 28a) that one’s children, life, and livelihood do not depend on one’s merit, rather they depend on one’s fortune, nevertheless, through prayer, one can change everything to goodness. Maran Rabbeinu zt”l supports this idea based on the verse, “And you shall serve Hashem, your G-d” (which the Gemara, Ta’anit 2a, says refers to prayer) following which the verse states, “And He shall bless your bread and water,” which refers to one’s livelihood, “And there shall be no miscarrying or barren woman in your land,” referring to one’s children and finally “I shall fill the number of your days,” referring to one’s life. This only applies, however, when one prays with concentration and devotion. Besides for praying with concentration, one should take care to pray three times daily in a relaxed and peaceful fashion. Even if one is extremely busy with work and other business dealings, one must make time to pray three times a day in a relaxed manner. Women too, who are obligated to pray only once daily, should make sure to do so in a relaxed manner and great concentration. She should be wise and find a time during the day when she is not busy with other matters in order to be able to pray in an appropriate manner.
An incident once occurred where Hagaon Harav Eliyahu Mani zt”l, Chief Rabbi of Chevron approximately one hundred years ago, travelled to Egypt and stayed as a guest in the home of the Egyptian Finance Minister named Katawi Faha who loved and respected Torah scholars. (At the time, many Jews were in respected positions in Egypt, such as scientists, inventors, and politicians.) The minister received the rabbi quite graciously and invited him for lunch. When they concluded, the minister apologized and said that he would have to leave and appear before the king, for that day was the day a public bid was being held for the manufacture of fifty-thousand uniform for the country’s military; since the minister himself had proposed a price for the merchandise as well as the fabric, he would have to be present along with the king. The rabbi blessed him warmly to be successful in all of his endeavors but requested one thing from the minister before he left: That he not become so tied up with his business dealings that he would not pray Mincha, for our Sages teach us (Berachot 6b) that one should always take care to pray Mincha, for this is the prayer during which Eliyahu Ha’Navi was answered. The minister promised that he would take care not to miss Mincha prayers.
After an extensive discussion between the king and his advisors regarding all of the offers submitted at the auction, the minister looked at his watch as realized that the sun would set in a few short minutes; if he would wait until his turn came to offer his bid to the king, the time to pray Mincha would pass. He quietly excused himself and left the room to pray Mincha. As he was praying, he merited fulfillment of the verse, “Before they call out, I shall answer; as they are speaking, I shall hear” and Hashem heard his prayer, for he was a good man who performed many acts of kindness. Hashem placed in the minds of the king and his advisors to grant the winning bid to Minister Katawi. When the king wished to congratulate him, he realized that he was missing. When the king inquired about his whereabouts, the advisors told him that he has stepped out to pray. When he concluded his prayer and entered the room, the king congratulated him on winning the auction. The king asked him, “Since when did you become so holy and righteous that you leave in the middle of a ministerial meeting in order to pray?” The minister replied, “A great and righteous scholar arrived from Israel and I promised him that I would pray; I therefore got up in order to fulfill my promise.”
When all of the ministers had dispersed, the king called over Minister Katawi and told him, “I have a daughter at home who lays deathly ill for the past several months. I have ordered the most expert doctors to heal her but to no avail. I have also asked holy Muslim men to pray for her but this has not helped either. Please, bring the rabbi whom you are hosting to me in order to bless my daughter.” The rabbi agreed and upon entering the king’s palace, he was brought into the room where the king’s daughter lay where the rabbi prayed to Hashem that He sanctify His name in the world by granting this young girl a full recovery. The rabbi’s prayer did not return empty-handed and three days later, the king’s daughter rose from her deathbed and recovered completely. The king was overjoyed and he invited the rabbi to the palace once again. After thanking the rabbi profusely for his blessing and prayer, the king asked the rabbi, “What brings you to Egypt?” The rabbi answered, “There is a great hunger in Israel and people have nothing to eat.” Immediately, the king ordered many sacks of grain to be sent to the rabbi’s address in Chevron and the king bestowed the rabbi with many gold coins which the rabbi used to benefit the residents of his city, after having publicly sanctifying Hashem’s name.