Rabbi Pinchas Landis, Director of Partners in Torah, emceed a virtual shiur on prayer hosted by Partners in Torah, Chazaq, and TorahAnytime, featuring Rabbi Chaim Aryeh Zev Ginzberg, Rav of Chofetz Chaim Torah Center.
This inspiring event format was Rabbi Landis posing questions to Rabbi Ginzberg. Rabbi Ginzberg began with a strong expression of gratitude for all the t’filos of klal Yisrael. “That’s the reason I’m here. Thank you from the depths of my heart.”
He shared how he had COVID-19 last spring and he was on a ventilator in the ICU. On Erev Pesach, the doctors gave up on him and told his wife he had three-to-five hours left to live.
A few months later, he came home. He shared how a frum doctor from Kew Gardens Hills was the lifeline for his family, and this doctor visited him every day and helped him with t’filin, etc. Rabbi Ginzberg asked this doctor if there was any medical explanation for his getting better. The doctor responded, “No! There were 13 people in the ICU and you were the third worst off and you were the only one who came out alive. There is no medical explanation.” Rabbi Ginzberg emphasized, “Hashem, Healer of all, did this.”
He shared how, when he went to shul this year on Rosh HaShanah, he shared that he always speaks about the power of t’filah before t’kias shofar. This year he said to the congregation, “If you’re davening today, look at me. The reason I’m here is because of the t’filos of klal Yisrael. This should give you appreciation that t’filah works. T’filah is real. It does work!”
Rabbi Landis asked Rabbi Ginzberg to define Jewish prayer. Rabbi Ginzberg imparted that Chazal define prayer as avodah (service) of the heart. “Prayer creates our connection in the deepest ways.” He added that “How much a person puts into it makes the difference in his connection to Hashem.”
Rabbi Landis then asked about the times we daven so much and sometimes we receive what we daven for and sometimes we don’t. Is that just Hashem saying no?”
Rabbi Ginzberg answered that he doesn’t believe in the concept of Hashem saying no. “T’filah is a major part of our lives. I believe there is no such thing as Hashem saying no. Every single t’filah is answered in the affirmative. The outcome may be different because our perception is wrong. No prayer goes unanswered.” He explained how every prayer goes for something. Hashem knows what is best for that person’s neshamah. Sometimes it means not getting well. Hashem is looking out for our physical and spiritual needs.
He added that his wife believes that all the t’filos that she and others davened on behalf of his daughter who passed away at a young age, came back to help him.
Rabbi Ginzberg shared a fascinating midrash about the Ten Plagues. After the plague of Hail, the Chumash doesn’t say that Hashem stopped it, which it says after every other plague. In the case of Hail, Hashem stopped the hailstones on their way done to earth. They remained in the atmosphere for later times. When Yehoshua was conquering Jericho, Hashem used the hailstones to destroy the enemy. The rest will be used in the final war before the arrival of the Mashiach. Rav Moshe Sternbuch taught that the hailstones were composed of the tears of the Jewish women and children in Egypt. They were special hailstones, and that’s why Hashem kept them and didn’t make new ones. “Every tear of klal Yisrael is cherished by Hashem.”
He emphasized, “Every t’filah from a Jewish person has incredible power and hits its mark. It was accepted, and Hashem has it and will use it for what is necessary.”
Rabbi Landis added that the words of the Amidah were written by the Men of the Great Assembly, and they’re dynamite. “With proper focus, we set them on fire.”
Rabbi Landis asked Rabbi Ginzberg who was a hero whom he admired in terms of his davening. Rabbi Ginzberg mentioned the Chazon Ish, who was the humblest of people.
Next, Rabbi Landis asked what is one thing we can do to improve our davening.
Rabbi Ginzberg suggested to pick one t’filah or one brachah or even one sentence that speaks to you and really focus on that and reflect on it before you recite it. He shared that for him, since his experience with last spring, it’s Modeh Ani. “Find what talks to you and make it your t’filah.”
Rabbi Landis then asked: “If you could promote prayer on a billboard, what would you write?” Rabbi Ginzberg responded, “Eyewitness testimony that t’filah works.”
He shared that our purpose in this world is to become closer to Hashem. We do this through prayer.
By Susie Garber