In the Zera Kodesh, the Ropshitzer Rebbe, zl, observes that the pasuk neglects to identify “that time.” Was Moshe Rabbeinu referring to a specific time? The Ropshitzer explains that this omission is by design. The Torah is teaching us a critical lesson with regard to tefillah, prayer. No specific time is established for petitioning Hashem. We can approach the Almighty at any time. No “appointments” are necessary. A son need not have a special time to speak with his father. (If he does, both father and son have a problem.) Hashem is our Heavenly Father, Who waits for our entreaty with a warm welcome. Even if the response is not what we are hoping for, our supplication will be heard, our emotions felt and saved. No prayer is lost; no tear is wasted.
The Rebbe says that a person should never say to himself, “Right now, at this moment, I do not have the lucidity to pray. I need to be in a proper presence of mind to be able to articulate my needs correctly. Later on, when I am free of some of the burdensome pressures that are overwhelming me, I will be able to daven like a mentch. This is an incorrect way of thinking. One should daven whenever the need arises, regardless of his frame of mind. No wrong time exists to speak to a father.
Horav Yechezkel Abramsky, zl, would daven to Hashem in the most natural manner, as if this were the only way he could ever accomplish or obtain anything. When he would return from praying at the Kosel Maaravi, he would remark in Yiddish, “I asked Him for this or that.” Everyone knew that “Him” was a reference to Hashem. This was his usual vernacular – He spoke with “Him.” His relationship with Hashem was very real, like a son to his father.
Rav Abramsky’s Shabbos table was set with its fine linen, dishes and flatware as early as Friday morning. A student who was visiting that morning inquired why the family was preparing for Shabbos so early in the day. He explained that, years earlier, upon immigrating to Eretz Yisrael, his wife’s grandfather, the venerable Radbaz, zl, moved to Tzfas where he maintained a yeshivah. He became gravely ill and the medical establishment had already despaired his returning to good health. He suddenly spoke the following: “Hashem, what is it You want of me? I study Torah all day. I authored a commentary on the Yerushalmi (which no one else had really achieved). If You want me to write a commentary to Bavli, You already have so many other commentaries that cover the gamut of Bavli.” As soon as he concluded his short “request” of Hashem, he closed his eyes and appeared to be drifting off into a deep sleep. A few minutes passed, and he opened his eyes and spoke. He turned to his rebbetzin and made a request, “Please, I ask that every Friday morning when I return home from Shacharis that the Shabbos table should already be set. I was told by ‘Heaven’ that my cure is dependent upon this.” Rav Abramsky said, “In deference to the Zaide’s custom, we, too, set our table early.” (The purpose of redacting this story is to show how the Radbaz prayed to Hashem. It was his conversation with the Almighty.)
Rav Abramsky would walk over to the Kosel and place his face close to it and speak to the stones. His close students wanted to know what their saintly Rebbe said to the stones. As the Rav was lost in his conversation with the stones, they carefully moved closer in order to listen. This is what they heard: “Ribbono shel olam,” he wept, “You are the greatest Rebbe of all. How do I know this? It is written, Hamelameid Torah l’Amo Yisrael. ‘How will Moshiach know Torah?’ Where will he study it? Not in Brisk, Ger, Porat Yosef or Ponovez. Where then? Apparently, You, Hashem will teach him. So I ask, ‘If you can teach Torah to Moshiach Tziddkeinu, what would be if you would learn Torah with me?’” This is how Rav Abramsky prayed to Hashem! He conversed with the Almighty like a son to his father.
Raising good, G-d-fearing, Torah-abiding children does not just happen. It requires much vigilance, hard work, and, most of all, prayer, or, as the Brisker Rav was wont to say: Tehillim mit treren, “Tehillim accompanied by copious weeping.” He observed that his father, Horav Chaim, zl, cried for him even after he was a Rosh Yeshivah! Indeed, Rav Chaim’s father, the Bais HaLevi, zl, davened for his son even after he was Rav in Brisk.
Likewise, someone once asked the saintly Chasam Sofer how he merited to have such a holy son as the Ksav Sofer. The Chasam Sofer removed his hat, turned it over and said, “I filled this hat with tears to merit having such a precious son.”
We all want good children – on our terms. We check off all the boxes on the parenting guides to make certain that we do everything correctly. What about tefillah, prayer? Perhaps, because it is not included in all the parenting guidebooks, it is not necessary. We maintain otherwise. It is our first and only line of defense. Without Hashem’s participation and blessing, the guidebooks are meaningless. If we do not petition His blessing, then we are failing our children as parents.
Rabbeinu Bachya (Shemos 19:3) writes: “It is befitting for a woman to daven to Hashem following the lighting of candles, for this is a mitzvah that helps her very much. This is the time in which she should daven that Hashem grant her children who are enlightened with Torah.” Parents once came to one of the gedolim and cried concerning their son’s spiritual status, which had dwindled terribly. Sadly, he had deviated from the Torah way. What could they do? The gadol replied that the mother should light and accept Shabbos upon herself thirty minutes prior to candle-lighting time. This should be followed by intense prayer from the depth of her heart, with tears and pleading to Hashem. Their child would return. He did. Horav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, zl, said that whenever he had a difficulty or a problem with a child, the first thing he did was speak to Hashem and ask for His help and guidance. He asked that Hashem give him sound counsel on how to speak with his child effectively in addressing the different situations that they faced.
As I wrote in the beginning: Nothing just happens. We must ask – nay, beg – for it. Only then can we hope to merit Hashem’s blessing.