Yosef and Aryeh were two brothers studying in the Ponovezh Yeshiva. They shared a very close relationship both inside and outside the beis medrash and could always be found together.
When Yosef was diagnosed with a terminal illness, his entire family was distraught, and Aryeh especially could not seem to recover from the shock.
Unfortunately, Yosef’s situation deteriorated rapidly and his doctors felt that the end was imminent. While the rest of the family kept vigil at the hospital, Aryeh ran into the beis medrash, opened up the ark where the sefer Torah was kept, and flung himself on the ground, crying to Hashem to heal his brother.
All of the students learning in the beis medrash were moved by Aryeh’s distress, and they joined forces to say Tehillim for Yosef. The walls of the Ponovezh Yeshiva soon shook from the heartfelt prayers for Yosef’s recovery. After being immersed in his prayers for some time, Aryeh calmed down. He got up and went to join his family at the hospital.
Much to the shock of Aryeh and the rest of the hospital staff, Yosef’s condition started to improve. It took some time, but Yosef eventually recovered completely from his illness. It seemed that Aryeh’s desperate appeal, along with the fervent prayers of the students of Ponovezh, had been answered.
Aryeh’s actions were a reflection of his passionate need to pour out his aching heart before Hashem in his time of distress. His simple sincerity aroused the mercy of his fellow students, and ultimately the One Above. In the same way, our physical gestures during Shemoneh Esrei have the power to express what is beyond words and deepen our communication with Hashem. While some aspects of this body language have been set down in halachic literature, we are also invited to spontaneously express our emotions during prayer. Let us try to understand the halachos and customs of these gestures, so we can hope to arouse Heavenly mercy when we need it most.
Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org