Shoftim 5776

September 4, 2016

6 min read


Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 )

GOOD MORNING!  Rosh Hashana, is coming upon us in about a month (Oct. 2). With so many hours spent in synagogue praying, it makes sense to learn how to get your prayers answered. I share with you powerful insights from Rabbi Noah Weinberg, founder of Aish HaTorah. Rabbis Nechemia and Yitzchak Coopersmith masterfully adapted this and other of Rabbi Weinberg's teachings in Wisdom for Living (Artscroll Publishers).

God is our Father and we are His child. Just as a parent fulfills a child's request, so, too, God answers our prayers. But in order to have God answer your prayer, you need to know He is willing and able to do so. And you have to be honest, sincere and responsible about what you pray for, as King David wrote, "The Almighty is close to all those who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely" (Tehillim 145:18). Prayer requires accessing your inner core and being real with God. Where are you, and what do you really want? It means dropping all pretenses and communicating your genuine thoughts and needs, in the reality of God's presence.

Why do we need to pray? God already knows our needs. He certainly does not need us to remind Him of them. So why do we need to pray? Why doesn't God just give us what we need without our having to ask?

God does not need our prayers - we do. Prayer is a reflection of our desires and an extension of our power of free choice. It helps us refine and affirm what it is we want out of life. If a billionaire father handed his child unlimited cash on a silver platter, the child would grow up terribly spoiled and irresponsible. Similarly, if God gave us everything automatically, we would never be forced to work out what it is we really want in life. Life would be comfortable, but we would remain shallow and undeveloped. It is through the challenges we face and the efforts we make as a result of those challenges that we learn to appreciate the value of what we want.

God has our best interests at heart. He wants us to earn our growth because that is how we retain our independence and become real about what it is we want to accomplish.

Five Aspects to Being Real with Prayer

1) Get Clear on Your Bottom Line: Is What You Want Good for You?

To get our prayers answered, we have to know that what we seek is in our best interests. Will the fulfillment of this request bring us closer to God or push us further away? We can only expect God to answer our prayer if its attainment will bring us closer to reality, not escapism.

We cannot expect the Almighty to give fulfill our requests so that we can do the wrong thing. To avoid this mistake, we need to do the work of clarifying our desires. We need to ask ourselves: Why do we want this? Does the Almighty want us to have this? God's answer - whether yes or no - always tells us something important about ourselves or will likely give us insight into the validity of what we are seeking.

Before you ask, make sure what you are praying for is good for you.

2) Be Responsible, Make an Effort

Prayer is not an escape from personal effort and responsibility. It is a tool to help us refine our understanding of what we want and to realize that God is the true source of all that we accomplish.

Prayer focuses us on reality. If we are serious about what we are praying for, then we first need to be responsible and put in our best efforts to make it happen. Prayer is not a wish; it is predicated on working hard and taking responsibility.

Ask yourself: Do I really want to accomplish this? Am I willing to take responsibility to do what I can to attain it? How much am I prepared to sacrifice for it?

(To be continued next week...)


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Torah Portion of the week

Shoftim, Deuteronomy 16:18 -- 21:9

Topics in this week's portion include: Judges and Justice, "Sacred Trees and Pillars," Blemished Sacrifice, Penalties for Idolatry, The Supreme Court, The King, Levitical Priests, Priestly Portions, Special Service, Divination and Prophecy, Cities of Refuge, Murder, Preserving Boundaries, Conspiring Witnesses, Preparing for War, Taking Captives, Conducting a Siege and the Case of the Unsolved Murder.

This week we have the famous admonition: "Righteousness, Righteousness shall you pursue, so that you will live and possess the Land that the Almighty your God, gives you" (Deut. 16:20).

* * *

Dvar Torah
from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

The Torah states:

"You shall be wholehearted with your God" (Deut. 18:13).

How are we to understand this verse?

The Alshich interprets this verse to mean that one should be sincere in his observance of Torah even when one is alone with God, when no one else sees what he is doing.

Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk comments, "Your devotion toward God should be whole and not fragmented. If you do some things for God and others for yourself, then you are not being wholehearted with God."

These two interpretations are complementary. The person who is observant of Torah only when others see him, but when in complete privacy may transgress Torah, is really not devoted to God at all. Rather, his public observance of mitzvos is self-serving.

Wholeheartedness with God requires that even those permissible things we do should be directed toward the Divine service. Ideally, food should be eaten not for the gustatory delight, but because the energy derived from eating the food can be utilized in doing mitzvos.


Pirke Avos 2:18

Rabbi Shimon would say: Be meticulous with the reading of the Shma and with prayer. When you pray, do not make your prayers routine, but (an entreaty for) mercy and a supplication before the Almighty, as is stated "For He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, and relenting of punishment'' (Joel 2:13). And do not judge yourself to be wicked.



Candle Lighting Times

September 9
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:17
Guatemala 5:50 - Hong Kong 6:15 - Honolulu 6:15
J'Burg 5:41 - London 7:10 - Los Angeles 6:49
Melbourne 5:48 - Mexico City 7:26 - Miami 7:13
New York 6:56 - Singapore 6:48 - Toronto 7:20

Quote of the Week

Life is fragile -- handle with prayer



Mazal Tov on the
Bar Mitzvah of
Parker Gary Zidel

From your loving Family,
Paul, Meri and Lexi

In Memory of
Darel Parks

Dad and Mom


In Loving Memory
Morris Broad
In Loving Memory of
Jacquie Skolnick

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