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Vayigash: Praising and Praying

ויגש אליו יהודה ויאמר בי אדני... ואל יחר אפך בעבדך כי כמוך כפרעה.

“And Yehudah approached him and said, “I beg you, my master… And do not become angry with your servant for you are just like Pharaoh.” (Bereishis 44:18)

The holy Chozeh of Lublin taught us that when a person sees that Hashem has showered him with kindness, it is not enough to thank Hashem, but he must also remember to pray for continued Heavenly kindness in the future. We learn this from the Torah’s account of Yehudah’s birth. When Leah gave birth to her fourth son, she named him Yehudah (from the root word odeh – I will thank), saying, “Now I will thank Hashem.” Immediately thereafter the Torah says, “And she stopped having children.” Leah praised Hashem for His kindness, but she did not pray for his continued blessings in the future. This is why the flow of blessings stopped.

What is the reason for this phenomenon? If a person thanks Hashem for His kindness, why would that cause the blessings to stop coming? After all, the person is acknowledging that his good fortune is a gift from Hashem and not his own doing, so why would the blessings be terminated?

When a person thanks Hashem for His kindness, the prosecuting angels say to Hashem, “True, he is thanking you, but he thinks he deserves this blessing. Look, he is not even praying for Your continued help; he must be confident that he is so deserving that You will forever continue to shower him with blessings. Your kindness to him has caused him to become conceited!” This accusation by the prosecuting angels often causes the flow of blessings to be dried up.

However, the Rebbe of Lublin would say, if a person doesn’t stop praying for Hashem’s continued help, he is acknowledging his complete unworthiness and his dependence upon Hashem’s mercy. When praying to Hashem, the person is saying that just as the present blessing was undeserved, so should he continue to be blessed although he is undeserving. When a person thanks Hashem and also submits himself to Him, he merits continuous Heavenly kindness and berachos.

This concept also applies to spiritual blessings. Often a person merits success in his spiritual quests; he is successful in his Torah learning, davening and character development. This is a Divine gift for which a person should never stop thanking and praying. If he forgets to repeatedly ask Hashem for His assistance, the flow of blessings may dry up. It is not uncommon for a person to have a spiritually-fulfilling davening one morning, which leaves him uplifted for the entire day. However, the next day he finds he cannot concentrate or connect with Hashem. This is because he took yesterday’s spiritual success for granted, feeling good about himself because of it. In order to re-experience it, he should pray to Hashem to merit a continuous connection with Him. He should acknowledge that it is not due to his personal merit that he was able to learn or daven well, but that it is all a gift from Hashem for which he must continue to pray.

When Yehudah approached Yosef to beg for Binyomin’s release, he was in a situation where the flow of Divine assistance had apparently stopped. Wherever the brothers turned, they came upon a dead end. Although Yehudah, by his very name, was the essence of praising Hashem, he did not see Hashem’s kindness at this time. Therefore, while approaching Yosef, he had a prayer to Hashem in his heart, since he knew full well that he is dependent on Hashem’s mercy – not on the mercy of the Egyptian viceroy – to secure Binyomin’s release.

Vayigash eilav Yehudah – and Yehudah approached Yosef. Chazal tell us, “There is no hagasha (the term used in this verse for “approach”) other than prayer.” Wherever this word is used, it refers to tefillah. When a person wants to experience “yosef – more” blessings, he should approach with a prayer, and say, “I beg You, my Master.” I know that I am undeserving of Your kindness and everything I received from You is a gift. If a person will remember this at all times, he will experience a revelation of blessings. The word “Pharaoh” means in Lashon Hakodesh to reveal (from the root word “parue” as used in the verse “Parue Aharon – and Aharon revealed”). When a person demonstrates with his prayer that he is undeserving of Hashem’s blessing and begs for more, he will indeed merit seeing more blessings in his life.

May Hashem indeed help everyone with their needs; those who are in need of a refuah should merit a full recovery and those who need to be consoled should merit a true nechama. May we all be zoche to greet Moshiach speedily, Amen.

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