By Rabbi Daniel Travis
God said to Noach, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; the world
is filled with crime because of them. I am going to destroy them with the
earth.” (Bereshith 6:13)
Upon hearing that their lives were threatened by an impending flood, many
individuals beseeched God to spare their lives. However because of their
dishonesty, their prayers were not accepted. In contrast, Eyov (Job), who
guarded himself from the smallest monetary infringement, merited having
his prayers answered.(1) In King Dovid’s words, “God is close to all who
call upon Him, to all who call upon Him with truth.”(2) Although God
hears the cries of all that turn to Him, He is only close to those who
live lives of truth. Therefore people who maintain a life of honesty and
integrity can hope to have their prayers answered.(3)
In the same vein, debasing one’s lips with slander and falsehood may cause
one’s prayers to go unanswered.(4) This theme is dramatically
demonstrated at the close of the Amidah prayer. Many opinions say that we
should conclude our prayers by petitioning God to answer our requests.(5)
However, according to other opinions, this is unnecessary since we
immediately ask God to protect us from falsehood and slander. By offering
a sign of utter disdain for any form of untruth, we hope that our prayers
will be accepted.(6)
King Dovid developed this idea further in Tehillim when he asked, “Who may
ascend the mountain of God and stand in the place of His sanctity? One
with clean hands and a pure heart, who has not sworn in vain by my soul,
and has not sworn deceitfully.”(7) This implies that integrity is
imperative in order to forge a close relationship with God. Similarly he
wrote, “Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit...
The eyes of God are upon the righteous, and His ears are open to their
prayers. They cry out and God hears, and He rescues them from all their
troubles.”(8) From the juxtaposition of these verses, King Dovid’s
message is clear: one who guards his speech will see the fruits of his
effort – his prayers will be answered!
1. Shemoth Rabbah 22:4. Maharil Diskin on Bereshith 6:13.
2. Tehillim 145:18. In this psalm King Dovid contrasts similar concepts in
the two halves of each verse, connecting them with a vav hachibur (a
connecting ‘and’). The exception to this pattern is the seventeenth
verse, “God is close to all those who call him, to all who cry out to Him
with truth.” It is impossible to say that God is also close to those who
call to Him truthfully, for God can only be close those who do so. Those
who call on God without truth are totally distanced from Him. (Havu
L’Hashem Kavod, p.31 in the name of the Vilna Gaon).
3. Kad HaKemach – Emunah.
4. Alshich, Shemoth 28:35.
5. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 122:1,2. Most commentators follow this
6. This is the opinion of the Vilna Gaon.
7. Tehillim 24:3,4.
8. Tehillim 34:14,16.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org