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by Avraham Chaim Feldman    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"Isaac entreated Hashem opposite his wife, because she was barren" (Genesis 25:21).



The structure of the above verse at the beginning of this week's Torah portion seems difficult. The Torah first tells us that Isaac prayed, and only then mentions what it was that he was praying for. We would expect it to be just the opposite, first mentioning the problem and only then speaking about the solution. Why not first explain what the problem was - that they could not have children - and then tell us about Isaac's prayer for Rebecca to have children?

Rabbeinu Bachya, author of a classic commentary on the Torah, explains that we are being taught a subtle, yet profound lesson about the approach we should have towards prayer. We would have assumed that Rebecca happened to be barren, necessitating prayer to Hashem for a child to be born. However, in truth it was the exact opposite. Rebecca was barren specifically so that they would have to pray for a child. Hashem created Rebecca in that state so that prayer would be necessary to change it. The verse is telling us that the prayer, not the need to have children, was the integral component of the situation.

All too often, we view prayer simply as a chance to ask Hashem for those things that we need or want but unfortunately do not have. In truth, the opportunity provided by prayer is much more profound and lofty. Hashem actively seeks out our relationship and takes steps to insure that we will do the same. Hence, He creates situations in which we will recognize our total dependence on Him, thereby inspiring us to seek Him out. By creating us without all of our needs already fulfilled, Hashem secures our continued efforts at maintaining a meaningful relationship.

The sages teach: "Why were the Matriarchs originally childless? Because G-d desires the prayer of the righteous." When we are confronted with the numerous challenges that are an inevitable part of the wonderful gift of life, let us keep in mind that Hashem is simply begging us to reach out and form a bond with Him, and that these are actually opportunities, not obstacles.


Avraham Chaim Feldman, a native Atlantan, is a senior at the Ner Israel High School in Baltimore.

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