YomTov, Vol. I, # 64
Topic: The Tenth of Teves – The Power of Prayer and the Destruction
by Rabbi Yehudah Prero
In the second book of Melachim (Kings)[22:14], we find the following incident: In the days of Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) the prophet, Yoshiyyahu the king realized that the sins of the nation of Israel were great, and that if the nation did not repent and find favor in the eyes of G-d, the destruction of the Temple would occur. Therefore, Yoshiyyahu sent messengers to a prophet to request the guidance of the prophet. These messengers were not sent to the prophet Yirmiyahu, the greatest of the generation. They were sent instead to Chulda, the prophetess, to request her intervention. Why were they sent to Chulda and not to Yirmiyahu?
Rashi, the commentator, writes that ‘Our Sages said (they went to Chulda) because a women is more merciful than a man, and therefore they (the messengers) were not sent to Yirmiyahu.’ The Gemora in the tractate of Megilla (14b) also discusses the choice of Chulda. There the question is posed “How could Yoshiyyahu himself pass over Yirmiyahu and send the messengers to Chulda? The members of the school of Rav Shila replied ‘because women are tender-hearted.’ Because of this attribute that Chulda had by virtue of the fact she was a woman, Yoshiyyahu sent the messengers to her, as the commentator Maharsha says, so that she herself, out of her feelings of mercy, would pray that the destruction not happen.
This explanation is still puzzling. The prophet Yirmiyahu was one of the greatest men of his generation. He was a person who as a prophet knew intimately of the great catastrophe that was going to occur if the nation did not repent. He most definitely felt pain and anguish over the plight of the nation of Israel. He most certainly prayed that the destruction should not happen. His mercy was definitely aroused so that he prayed for the nation of Israel constantly, with every fiber of his being. Why then did Yoshiyyahu instead turn to Chulda?
Rabbi Henoch Leibowitz shlit”a said that we need to understand the nature of prayer. The essential ingredient for prayer is “Kavana” – concentrative intent. The more one truly means what he is saying to G-d, and the more one truly feels that he is talking to G-d, the more concentrative intent one has. The greater the concentrative intent is , the power of the prayer is greater, and the acceptance of the prayer by G-d is greater. It is without doubt that Yirmiyahu prayed to G-d with a great amount of “kavana” when asking for the sparing of the nation of Israel from the prophecized tragedies. However, Chulda had an edge over Yirmiyahu – she was by nature more merciful. This added edge translated into Chulda being able to pray with slightly more “kavana” than Yirmiyahu that the destruction of the Temple be averted. Because the stakes were so high, Yoshiyyahu sent the messengers to Chulda, the person whose prayers he knew would have greater impact because of the added level of “kavana.”
We see from the incident not only a lesson about prayer, and how to properly pray, but a lesson in how to pray for the Temple as well. The Temple now lays in ruins, and the nation of Israel is in exile. In order for our prayers that the Temple be rebuilt and that the entire nation of Israel be returned to our land to be accepted on the highest level possible, we have to truly mean what we are saying. Mere lip service will accomplish very little. On the Fast of the Tenth of Teves, our goal should be to mourn over the destruction, repent, and pray to G-d with deep feelings. Hopefully, if each and every one of us can arouse even a small spark of the “kavana” that our prophets had when praying for the Temple, we will see the Temple rebuilt soon.
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For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.