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Food for Thought

Rabbi Yair Kobernick

The following amazing story and lesson gives us yet another insight into the importance of Tefillah, prayer. The more we become aware that Tefillah on a daily basis is so beneficial to us as Jews, the more we will appreciate what it's all about.

(From the book In the Footsteps of the Maggid, with permission of the author Rabbi Paysach Krohn - The Artscroll Series, published by Mesorah Publications):

Rabbi Elya Lopian (1872-1970), the revered tzaddik and Mashgiach (spiritual advisor) of the yeshivah in Kfar Chassidim, Israel, once depicted in a shmuess (mussar lecture) a tragic scene he had heard about many years earlier.

During World War I, explained R' Elya, poverty was rampant and people in many towns and villages throughout Eastern Europe suffered terribly from malnutrition and hunger. In one particular family in Lithuania there was a young boy who became very ill and exceedingly weak from lack of food.

One day a group of children came to visit him. As they entered the room and walked towards his bed, the little boy looked up at his father and asked "Who are these boys?"

"They are the boys from your class," his father replied sadly.

The father realized that because of the illness his son's mind was beginning to fail him, and therefore he did not recognize his own classmates.

A few days later the boy's brother came into the room. Once again the child asked his father, "Who is this?"

The father bent down and whispered softly into his son's ear, "It is your brother, my child."

Not more than a week later a man stood alongside the bed of the sick child. The youngster looked up and said, with great strain, "Who are you?"

The man looked down at the little boy and with tears welling in his eyes, said, "It is I, my son. Your father."

Rabbi Elya Lopian paused for a moment as he pictured that sorrowful scene in his mind's eye, and then he exclaimed, "One of the harsh consequences of famine and hunger, is that it can cause a child to fail to recognize even his own father!

"Do you know what I learn from this?" R' Elya cried out to his talmidim. "Every Jewish person is created with a nefesh [soul], and like the body, the soul must have its nourishment. The nefesh must be satiated three times a day with the tefillot of Shacharit, Mincha and Maariv, the three daily prayers. The nefesh requires a daily diet of Torah, supplemented by the performance of mitzvot. If a person does not provide this nourishment to his nefesh it will become weak and infirm to the point where the person will no longer even recognize his Heaven.

Hopefully by learning more about Prayer and how we can gain from it, we'll learn to have a greater appreciation for it. Prayer can and should be a positive experience, and not like it was for David:

One Saturday morning, the rabbi noticed little David was staring up at the large plaque that hung in the foyer of the synagogue. It was covered with names, and small American flags were mounted on either side of it.

The seven-year old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the rabbi walked up, stood beside the boy, and said quietly, "Good morning David."

"Good morning rabbi," replied the young man, still focused on the plaque.

"Rabbi, what is this?" David asked.

"Well, son, it's a memorial to all the young men and women who died in the service."

Soberly, they stood together, staring at the large plaque. Little David's voice was barely audible when he asked, "Which one, the Friday night or the Saturday service?

Copyright 2000 by Yair Kobernick and Project Genesis, Inc.



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