Watching the children’s progress as the weeks in school unfold, it is truly uplifting to see their ability to learn quickly and to absorb lessons and information throughout the day. Their motivation and eagerness to learn are enabling them to grow in so many areas, in a relatively short amount of time. There is, however, an area of challenge that seems to present difficulties to so many. That is in the realm of davening, the daily Tefillos.
…searching for insights and explanations for why so many otherwise successful students are struggling with davening.There are many reasons educators give for this nearly universal phenomenon, and parents, Rebbeim and teachers are constantly searching for insights and explanations for why so many otherwise successful students are struggling with davening and what can be done about it. It may be worthwhile to examine what purpose Tefila is supposed to serve, to help us unlock a means to help the children (and ourselves).
In the beginning of this week’s Parsha, the Torah tells us: (Bereishis 25:21) And Isaac entreated Hashem, opposite his wife, because she was barren…” Rabbeinu Bachya wonders why the Pasuk is written in this order. It would seemingly be more accurate to say first that Rivka was experiencing difficulty having a child, and then tell us that Yizchak prayed for Hashem to enable them to overcome her inability to bear children and to have a child. Rabbeinu Bachya explains that the Torah recounts the events in this order, purposely, so we won’t mistakenly think that the main point was Rivka’s barrenness and in response to that, Yitzchak prayed.
…Hashem so greatly desires the Tefillos of Tzadikim, that He manipulates human events to motivate people to turn to Him in prayer.Rather, the reality is different, explains Rabbeinu Bachya. The prayer is the Ikar, the main focus, and in fact, Rivka’s inability to bear children was secondary to that fact. Hashem so greatly desires the Tefillos of Tzadikim, that He manipulates human events to motivate people to turn to Him in prayer. The Medrash states clearly (Bereishis Rabba 45:4) that the reason the Imahos (Mothers) were barren was because Hashem desires the Tefilos of Tzadikim. The challenges will elicit beautiful prayer to which Hashem can bring beautiful answers. So great is the power of Tefilla, that the laws of nature are turned on their head, to bring forth more Tefilla.
This is a powerful lesson for us. We need to turn to Hashem on a regular basis and pray for our needs and for the needs of those we love. We should not wait for a Tzara (difficulty) to strike and then begin davening. If our davening was sufficiently elevated and pure, we wouldn’t need the motivation of a crisis or emergency to jolt us into prayer. We also learn from the Medrash that when a difficulty strikes, it is Hashem’s way of telling us: I miss you. I miss your Tefillos. Rather than Him pushing us away by striking us, He is trying to get our attention– He is trying to draw us closer to Him.
When children see how important Tefilla is to their parents…, they will develop a different relationship towards davening.We need to internalize this message and we can and must share this with our children. If our prayer is focused, as they observe our efforts to understand more, to pronounce the words carefully, to focus on talking to Hashem, they will yearn to do the same. Davening to Hashem is an incredible privilege. It is important to Hashem that everyone of us, man, woman and child turn to Him in Tefilla. Our children struggle with davening largely because it is a seemingly rote exercise, the same day in and day out. We adults need to show in word and deed, that davening is so much more than reciting some words, and that it is critical to us and central to our relationship with Hashem. It is a tangible sign of how much Hashem loves us and how important each person’s every Tefilla is, each and every day.
When children see how important Tefilla is to their parents and the important adults in their life, they will develop a different relationship towards davening. They will learn to look at it as a privilege and opportunity, and each in his or her own way, will feel a closeness to Hashem that will calm them and fortify them as they go through the challenges of their young life.
Best wishes for a Shabbos of connection,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann