Home
In this issue
December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Unanswered prayers force unlearning lessons

By Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb




Pontificating stock theological answers will only get you so far. The author, after years of spiritual leadership, confronts a hard reality. Hard, but inspiring



http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I have learned the hard way that some of the most important lessons in life come from unexpected sources. I have also learned that later, equally unexpected sources often force me to reconsider those important lessons.

Let me tell you the history of one of those lessons, which I learned and then had to relearn.

It all started on the Saturday night that I agreed to address a group of women who had been praying for many weeks for the healing of the sick. This group recited Psalms, Tehillim, for a list of people in the community who were suffering from life-threatening illnesses. From time to time, they asked one of the local rabbis to address them at the end of their prayer session. On this particular Saturday night, they asked me, and I agreed.

I tried to give an inspirational speech, stressing the importance of compassion and the power of prayers on behalf of others. I commended them for their sincerity and concern, and for their willingness to surrender an hour of their time each and every week to address prayers on behalf of individuals whom many of them did not even know.

Then I made a mistake. I told the group and I had another 10 or 15 minutes and would be glad to answer any questions that they had about prayer. The questions were not long in coming, and they came from everyone in the group. "Why is it," they asked, "That we pray profusely, yet the only time we remove someone sick from our list is when they pass away?" "Our prayers seem to never be answered," they said in chorus. "What is the point of uttering unanswered prayers?"

I responded by "talking the talk." Every rabbi with even a smattering of theological training knows all of the stock answers to such questions. "G0d surely listens to our prayers," I pontificated, "but sometimes says 'no!'"

The next morning, I found a handwritten note in the mail. It was from a woman, a registered nurse in the emergency room of the local hospital, who had attended the previous night's session.

She wrote, "I suggest a different kind of answer that could have been given to the questions that inundated you last night. You could've said that when we pray for a sick person to recover, we do not only pray for his or her total recovery. We also pray that the patient not suffer undue pain, that the family be able to bear the travail of witnessing the suffering of their loved one, that the doctors be able to execute their procedures effectively, and that, if so decreed, the patient leave this world surrounded by family and at peace."

The lesson I learned was that when we pray, we pray for an entire constellation of events. Even if we are not granted that the person we pray for lives on, a lot of what we pray for is granted.

In this week's Torah portion, Va'eschanan, we read how Moses fervently prayed that he be granted the privilege of entering the Promised Land. His prayer was denied.

"Oh Lord… let me go over, I pray Thee, and see the good land that is beyond the Jordan… but the Lord was wroth with me… and hearkened not unto me; and the Lord said unto me: 'Speak no more unto me of this matter.'" (Deuteronomy 3:24-26)

After learning the lesson that the good nurse told me, I began to wonder whether indeed the prayer of Moses was not heard. True, his major request, that he be permitted to enter the Holy Land, was not granted to him. But wasn't there so much more that he might have prayed for that was indeed granted? His disciple Joshua entered the land. His children, the Jewish nation, entered the land. He was buried in close proximity to the land. He was permitted to at least see the land. Could he not take comfort in the fact that, although his major goal was not achieved, so much else was? This is a question that I have been asking myself for many years, whenever the Torah portion of Va'eschanan comes around.

Recently, I discovered the answer to that question. I had the very rewarding, although poignantly painful, experience of leading a retreat for bereaved parents. They came from a variety of backgrounds, and the circumstances of the death of their children ranged from terrorist murders to accidental drownings to long-term illnesses.

They too were troubled by the question of the efficacy of prayer. They asked questions similar to those asked by the women of the Saturday night prayer group. "Why were our prayers for our dear children not heard by the Almighty?"

I thought that I was being helpful when I shared with them the handwritten notes from the emergency room nurse. I was wrong. They did not find that note helpful at all. As one bereaved mother in the group told me, "I was praying for the most important thing in the world - the life of my poor baby. Can I take comfort in the relatively trivial aspects of my prayer? Can I be consoled by the fact that he was killed instantly by the terrorist's bullet and suffered no pain?"

I had to unlearn the lessons taught to me so many years ago by that nurse. I learned a new lesson. I learned that when there is something that you value above all else, you can tolerate no compromises. Some goals are so important that the achievement of lesser goals means nothing.


STIMULATION AND INSPIRATION

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes "must-reading". Sign up for the daily update. It's free. Just click here.


This is how we can understand the fact that Moses was disconsolate when his prayer was rejected. To him, entry into the Holy Land was of paramount importance. Not that he sought to eat the fruits and gain the material pleasures of the land flowing with milk and honey. But because he knew that he could reach spiritual peaks in the land of Israel that even he could never attain outside the land.

He wanted to enter the Promised Land. No lesser promises could possibly have satisfied him.

This Sabbath is known as Shabbas Nachamu. It celebrates the end of the three weeks of mourning for the Temple's destruction, and inaugurates the seven weeks of consolation. This week, besides reading the Torah portion of Va'eschanan, we also read from the 40th chapter of the book of Isaiah, which begins, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people…"

The message is clear. Many of our prayers over the millennia have been denied. Our history is replete with unanswered prayers. It is difficult to take consolation when we have suffered so. But the message of Isaiah is clear: There is a time, and hopefully it is very near, when even the pain of the unanswered prayer can be assuaged.

In the words of the historian Graetz, as quoted in the Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz commentary: "These words of the prophets are like balm upon a wound, or like a soft breath upon a fevered brow."

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspiring articles. Sign up for our daily update. It's free. Just click here.

Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor — for free? Let us know by clicking here.

Comment by clicking here.

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, PhD is currently the Executive Vice President, Emeritus of the Orthodox Union.


Previously:


Dogs, too, have pedigrees

Count Me In

Open Eyes, and an Open Heart

© 2011, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb