The unanswered prayers…
By: הרב רונן נויברט
The Pasuk "וישכם אברהם בבוקר"which is the source for Tefilat Shacharit, is not the famous "וישכם"of Akedat Yitzchak but rather taken from another episode, from the story of Sodom. After all the tremendous courageous...
“Abraham instituted the morning Tefillah, as it says, “וישכם אברהם בבקר אל המקום אשר עמד שם “ - And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood, and 'standing' means only prayer, as it says, Then stood up Pinchas and prayed.“ (Berachot 26b)
The Pasuk "וישכם אברהם בבוקר"which is the source for Tefilat Shacharit, is not the famous "וישכם"of Akedat Yitzchak but rather taken from another episode, from the story of Sodom. After all the tremendous courageous prayers of Avrahan for rescuing some of the Sodom people he woke up early in order to see the outcomes of his prayers. The outcomes were unfortunately the following:
"ויַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם בַּבֹּקֶר אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר עָמַד שָׁם אֶת פְּנֵי ה'"
“And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD. And he looked out toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the Plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the land went up as the smoke of a furnace. And it came to pass, when G-D destroyed the cities of the Plain, that G-D remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot dwelt.“
This issue requires a profound study. Apparently, the Gemara tried to bring Avraham's prayers as a model to all our davenings. However, this is seemingly an extremely poor model. None of Avraham's prayers were accepted; the destruction was total. Why did the Gemara take specifically this story as the source for our Tefilot?
Indeed, at first glance, it seems as if the prayers were unanswered. However, reading the next verses can shed some light on this issue. There was some positive result to the prayers: “When G-D destroyed the cities of the Plain, that G-D remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot dwelt.”
Hashem rescues Lot thanks to Avraham efforts. Yet, that is not the end of the story. The end is very tragic "Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. And the first-born bore a son, and called his name Moab--the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day.”
Chazal in Midrash Rabba gave an incredible interpretation for this episode. Chazal related it to a verse from Tehilim 69:21: “I found David, my servant”: “Said Rabbi Yitzchak: Where did I fond him? In Sodom!!!” (Breshit Rabba). Indeed, at first glance, Avraham prayers were useless. Nevertheless, in the wide historic perspective, the prayers had a remarkable outcome. Because of the prayers, G-D saved Lot, which caused to the birth of Moab, the ancestor of Ruth, the great grandmother of David, the head of the dynasty of the משיח. The prayers brought the משיחto our world, which will eventually heal the world and bring it to the complete redemption.
One cannot measure the outcomes of the prayers by the instant result but rather by an eternal wide perspective. Sometimes we need to give time for the seeds of the prayers to sprout. We can start with Moab but end up with the light of the משיח.
Therefore, our sages named the Tefila “עמידה” – standing: “ואין עמידה אלא תפלה” (Berachot Ibid.). The Tefila requires a still strong standing, in order to behold the results. Occasionally, it takes thousands of years to witness those results, like in Avraham’s case, yet sometimes we need only few years in order to behold the outcomes of the unanswered Tefilot of a generation which its prayers went up as the smoke of a furnace while it was massacred. We can see the outcomes in the form of the next generation – a generation of redemption, which drew its energies and powers from those lost prayers, and instituted the State of Israel.