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Jewish World Review
August 1, 2008
/ 29 Tamuz 5768,
We have the power to alter another's destiny use it well
Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz
Maximize your innate Divine gifts
And he will live there until the death of
the Kohen Gadol Ö.
If a man kills another by accident, the perpetrator
is exiled to live in an ir miklat a city of refuge. As
long as he remains there, he cannot be harmed by the relatives
of the deceased, who seek to avenge the
blood of their family member. The unintentional
murderer must stay in the city of refuge
until the Kohen Gadol (Chief Priest) dies.
The Talmud (Makkos 11a) explains
that the term of the exile is linked to the Chief Priest's life span because
the Kohen should have prayed for Hashem's mercy that there be
no accidental deaths. Obviously, the Kohen's prayers were somewhat
lacking and he now bears the burden of this shortcoming.
The Talmud proves the validity of this responsibility by relating
that a man was once killed by a lion near the home of Rabbi Yehoshua
ben Levi, and the Prophet Elijah blamed Rabbi Yehoshua for not praying
sufficiently for his people.
We know that there is really no such thing as an "accident."
Everything that happens to a person is ordained by the Divine. The
Talmud teaches that one doesn't stub his toe or hurt his finger
unless it is preordained in Heaven (Chullin 7b). The man who was
killed by the accidental killer, as well as the unfortunate soul who
was eaten by a lion in Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's neighborhood, were
decreed by G-d to die at that given moment.
If each of these violent acts were destined to occur by the Divine
master plan, how could even the most fervent prayers of the
Chief Priest stop them from happening? If the Divine weighed the
facts and decided that a man's life must come to an end at that
exact moment, how could Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi stop the Heavenly
With this teaching, the Talmud enlightens us about the ultimate power of
prayer. A heartfelt, meaningful plea to the Divine has the ability
to change the course of what "should" have
The Divine is a G-d of compassion
and He does not lightly decide that a man
should die. Every action is based on precise, exact consideration
of the thousands of factors and is absolutely justified in its impact
on every person who will be influenced by the ripple effect. Nevertheless,
prayer has the ability to change the cosmic balance, to
tip the scales of Divine Justice in the other direction and override
this original decision.
Had the Chief Priest or Rabbi Yehoshua
prayed with more feeling, the Divine would have torn up the decree
and spared the victim's life.
One might think that this lesson only applies to a Chief Priest
or a great, saintly Torah scholar like Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi but what
about a regular person?
The Sforno (Genesis 32:1) tells us that
the Torah relates the wicked Laban's blessing to his daughters,
"because a father's blessing to his child with all his soul, will undoubtedly
have more effect [than the blessings of others] because
it harnesses the power of his tzelem Elokim the Divine image or
spark within the person giving the blessing." This is true about
the blessing or prayer of a wicked, deceitful scoundrel like Lavan.
Imagine the potential of a "regular" person who taps into the Divine
power of his tzelem Elokim !
As the philosophical tract Mesilas Yesharim (Duties of the Heart) teaches (Chap. 19), "If a person says,
'Who am I and of what significance am I that I should pray about
the exile and about Jerusalem? Will my prayers cause the exiles to gather together and the redemption to sprout forth?' The
answer is nearby, as it says, 'For this reason man was created
alone, so that every individual will say "For my sake alone the
entire world was created"' (Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a) for it already brings
pleasure to the Divine that his children ask and pray for this. And
even if their request is not granted, because the time is not yet
ripe or for some other reason, they did their part and the Divine
rejoices in it."
Apparently, as long as one's prayers had the proper
Intent and concentration that would have made the redemption
happen (had it not been for other interfering factors), the Divine is
happy with the person's prayers as if he had done the job. Anyone
can receive this zechus the merit of having brought the Redemption!
one of us has the earth-shaking power of prayer within us that
can change Heavenly decrees, save lives, and even
be credited with bringing the Messiah. We need only to
reach inside ourselves and harness the unique force
of that Divine spark the tzelem Elokim through the power of
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One of America's senior Torah sages, Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz has been the dean of the Rabbinical Seminary of America, in Queens, New York for more than 50 years. The institution has branches and affiliates all across North America and Israel.
This article was prepared by two of the sage's disciples, Rabbi Aryeh Striks and Rabbi Shimon Zehnwirth, and excerpted from the just released book, "Pinnacle of Creation: Torah insights into human nature".
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© 2007, Mesorah Publications, Ltd.