Dealing with Adversity – Utilizing the Power of Tefillah

In the letter containing remarks from Hagaon Harav Moshe Shternbuch, shlita, on the current situation that we discussed in an earlier column, he discusses the important role of tefillah in defeating our enemies.

“[Our enemies] are religious, have faith, and have some power to harm us. Our ability to counter them lies in prayer, faith, including the realization that Hashem is all-powerful, the Source of all life, and that only He is in charge of our destiny.”

He further said, “As far as prayer is concerned, in times of trouble, we have always turned to Tehillim. Quality is more important than quantity, and one should endeavor to pour one’s heart out through the realization that one’s entire life is dependent only on Hashem. Happy is the person who sheds tears during his prayers, thereby arousing Divine mercy.”

In this week’s parashah, we read: “And Yitzchak entreated Hashem, opposite his wife, because she was barren.” Indeed, the Matriarchs Sarah and Rachel also had difficulty having children. Maseches Yevamos 64a tells us Hashem purposely held back children from the Matriarchs to inspire them to more intensely daven to Him. Through tefillah, they reached tremendous spiritual levels. Similarly, Hashem places us in situations of need to enable us to elevate ourselves to heights we would not have reached otherwise. We thereby grasp that Hashem is the Source of everything and will turn to him with not only our requests but with expressions of gratitude as well for the blessings of our lives.

Chazal tell us (Brachos 32b) that Chassidim Harishonim, the pious Jews of old, would arrive at shul one hour early to prepare to daven, devote one hour to tefillah itself, and then remain another hour afterward. They came early to remove all mundane concerns from their hearts so they could dwell on Hashem’s exaltedness and increase the effectiveness of their petitions. In our harried world, this is not possible for the vast majority of us. Yet, we can consider implementing a few strategies to improve our tefillos and hopefully improve their impact. Here are three:

1. Focus briefly on the general theme of each brachah of Shemoneh Esrei before reciting it.

Rabbi David Ozeri, Rav of Yad Yosef, at a recent asifas tefillah in Flatbush, cited the Chofetz Chaim who said that when davening Shemoneh Esrei, if one would spend only three seconds mustering one’s kavanah before each brachah it would greatly enhance one’s Amidah, while adding only three minutes to one’s daily tefillos.

2. Recite the words slowly. In conversation, we (hopefully) think before speaking or responding to a question. Davening “express fashion” does not allow us to reflect on what we are saying. Try to slow down.

3. Utilize davening as a hashkfah lesson, an opportunity to contemplate what is important in life. For example, reciting the brachahHashiveinu” reminds us of the ever-present centrality of improving ourselves, not only during Elul, and especially in trying times like these. “Refa’einu,” in which we are mispallel for all the ill of Klal Yisrael, evokes the idea that all Yidden are responsible for one another.

Also, in davening, we fulfill many other mitzvos such as ahavas Hashem, yiras Hashem and strengthening bitachon

 The import of tefillah at this time can be gauged from the Gemara in Brachos 32b: “Four things require strengthening: Torah, maasim tovim, tefillah and derech eretz (pursuing a livelihood). Regarding derech eretz, Rashi interestingly comments that an artisan must constantly seek to better his craft, and a soldier his military skills.

An army cannot rely on the status quo and must constantly improve its ability to defend the nation it protects, utilizing the latest weaponry and strategies. Same for professionals in every field. When it comes to ruchniyus, however, many of us are satisfied with the level we have attained and refrain from attempting to improve.

Someone active in tzorchei tzibbur mentioned to me that the seriousness with which all of us view the present matzav does not lessen the urgency with which many people are concurrently grappling such as shidduchim, children, health, parnassah — the list is endless. 

In this week’s parashah, the Torah tells us how Yaakov misled his father Yitzchak into giving him the brachos of the firstborn. He donned hairy garments to appear like Esav to Yitzchak. But the giveaway was his voice, which led Yitzchak to declare, “Hakol kol Yaakov v’hayadayim yedei Eisav — “The voice is the voice of Yaakov while the hands are the hands of Eisav.”

Chazal understand the “voice of Yaakov” to refer to the tefillah and Torah learning of Klal Yisrael, which thwart the hostile “hand of Eisav.” Our power is in our peh, our mouth. It should behoove us to work on using this precious koach effectively which has so much potential to serve as a game changer in the present challenge facing Acheinu Bnei Yisrael — and in our private lives.

Rabbi Yosef Gesser is a longtime writer for Hamodia Newspaper as well as an inspirational speaker on various topics, including dealing with adversity. He can be reached at

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!