Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Va'etchanan
To dedicate this lesson

Prayer’s Penetrating Power


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Av 14 5775
Moshe’s greatest wish was to enter Eretz Yisrael to live - or at least to be buried there. He prayed 515 times, until Hashem finally said, "Stop praying!" What a strange thing for G-d to say, to tell a Jew not to pray?! What gives?

So hear this story:

An elderly Jewish lady living in a nursing home passed away. Her children, who always visited her and took care of her, were notified. They
immediately phoned the burial society and arranged for a proper burial. The woman was buried in the presence of her beloved family; Kaddish was recited and Shiva began.

On the 5th day of the shiva, the phone rang and the daughter answered. On the other end of the phone was......her mother, whom she had just buried! The daughter, in shock, immediately fainted. The phone rang again; it was her mother complaining that no one had come to see her that entire week. The family rushed to the nursing home to see their "dead" mother alive and well! It turned out there was a mix-up at the nursing home; it was her roommate that had passed away, not their mother. The home had mixed up the names and phoned the wrong family, and so the wrong person was buried! Imagine how terrible everyone felt about such a mistake.

But now, the nursing home had the grim job of informing the children of the OTHER lady that their mother had died 5 days ago and was already buried. They called, the son answered, and as soon as they broke the sad news to him that his mother had died, the son interrupted, "Just have her cremated; we’re not interested in anything else." The nursing home explained that it was too late; she’d already had a proper Jewish burial! When the son heard this, he was awestruck, and related the following story:

"We long debated with our mother about what to do about her burial when she died. She is observant, and wanted a proper Jewish burial. But we told her that we plan to cremate her, as we don’t believe in an afterlife. Besides, cremation is much cheaper and definitely more ecologically correct. Our mother’s response to us was: ‘I will pray to G-d that I receive a Jewish burial.’ Every day, our mother prayed. We told her it was a waste of time, that when she was gone, WE would be in charge of things, and do what we thought was right, but she kept right on praying anyway. And now, amazingly, it seems that her prayer was answered!"

Prayer has an awesome power. So great, so powerful that Hashem knew that if Moshe prayed just one more time – Tefila #516 - even He, the Almighty, the Shomaya Tefila, would simply have to give in! So He asked Moshe to stop right there. The lesson for all of us: never give up, never stop praying. The answer to our prayer may be just around the bend; the next bend of the knee may finally do the trick!

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