The Zohar/Rav Brandwein Writings
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Rabbi Avraham Brandwein of Yerushalayim, 5764
With the Help of Heaven!
Prayer is the subject of this teaching. It is written in the Parsha, “And it was during those many days, the King of Egypt died, and the Bnei Yisroel sighed from the work (Avodah), and they cried out. Their cries went up to Elokim … and Elokim heard their groaning.”
It is written in Chazal, “What is the work that is in the heart? We say this is prayer, for it says, ‘And to serve him with all of your heart.’” We need to understand, why is prayer called work? Furthermore, we pray in the Shemoneh Esreh, “For You hear the voice of every mouth,” but our prayers are not always answered.
The issue is, that prayer only comes if there is a true deficiency, which comes from the depths of the heart. For example, a person going in the desert, where there is great heat and no water. Their desire and prayer is just to find water, to quench their thirst.
If you would ask them, what do they want instead, they would pass up the greatest wealth or pleasure, and say that their desire is just for a container of water. This is their prayer, and this is a prayer from the depths of the heart, for a true deficiency. This is like what is written in Parshas Vayera, “And Elokim heard the voice of the lad … and she saw a well of water.”
According to this, the conclusion is that prayer comes only after a person has exhausted their energies (and abilities) to achieve a healing or something they want. Also, prayer must be for only one matter, which is (the request for) a fulfillment of one deficiency, for if a person requests for two (issues), it is a sign that the (one) deficiency is incomplete.
For example, if a person carries a heavy sack, places it on the ground, and requests from passersby to help him carry the heavy sack, no one will quickly answer their request. But if the sack is on their shoulder and they request from passersby to help them, someone will quickly give support. Why? Since here they see that the individual has attempted with all of their maximum strength. Therefore, their request follows the work (Avodah); consequently others are willing to help them. So too, if a person asks for others to financially help them, because they do not have what to eat, people rush to help them. But if they request a needless luxury, no one will listen to them.
According to this, we can understand what is written in the verse, “And the Bnei Yisroel sighed from the work.” This means, that their prayer came from the work, after they despaired and saw that, of their own power, they had no hope to get out of the work. Therefore it is written, “And Elokim heard their groaning.” But if they would pray prior to putting out their own work, this would not be a prayer for a deficiency, but like a prayer for a needless luxury.
Therefore it is written in Tehillim, “A prayer of the poor, when he is enwrapped (with an affliction). The Zohar explains that the prayer of the poor is immediately answered, since it is a prayer from the depths of the heart.
The lesson to be learnt is that one needs to feel a true deficiency, both in the spiritual and the physical. Then, Hakadosh Baruch Hu will hear the prayer of every mouth. For if, for example, each person were asked, “Do you want to be a Tzaddik, or a wise sage, or wealthy?” certainly each person would say, “Yes.” And this is upon which they pray. But this is not a true prayer, for one needs to reveal a true deficiency. This comes only by way of preparation and maximum work. When one completes all of their work towards this goal and does not succeed, then prayer helps.