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Get to the Point!

Friday, 12 June, 2020 - 12:04 pm

We are living through unique times.

Today, my brother-in-law’s father returned home in London, England – after a seven-week intubation at the hospital due to COVID-19. Baruch Hashem!

Unfortunately, my cousin – who dedicated his life to helping others – did not survive his struggle with COVID-19. This Washington Post article is but a small tribute to a man who gave everything he had to volunteer as a medic.

Meanwhile, race relations and issues surrounding police brutality are at a boiling in America like we have not seen in at least a generation.

Truly solving these issues will likely take many months, if not years. Does that mean we should resolve ourselves to years of suffering, fear, discord and tumult?

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At the end of this week’s parsha Behaalotecha, Moshe’s sister, Miriam, becomes ill.

Moshe turned to G-d to pray for her healing. He declared, א-ל נא רפא נא לה. In English these five words translate into: “I beseech you, G-d, please heal her.”

“Please heal her” is not exactly the most eloquent prayer in history. In fact, it is the briefest prayer in the Torah. Why did Moshe pray so briefly?

It’s not like Moshe didn’t know how to pray.

When the Jews sinned with the Golden Calf and when the Jews sinned with the Spies, Moshe prayed at great length. Moshe implored Hashem. Moshe reasoned with Hashem to accept his prayers. In fact, at one point Moshe even threatened G-d with an ultimatum.

When Moshe was denied entry into the land of Israel, he did not give up pleading with G-d to change His mind – until G-d explicitly told him to stop praying. And, that was after 515 entreaties. Yes, five hundred and fifteen.

So, why was he so brief in this instance?

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At the Splitting of the Sea, Moshe also prayed.

According to the Midrash, he was chastised by G-d for praying at length.

“When Moses began to pray at the shore of the Red Sea, Gd said to him: Moshe! My children are in dire straits, and you stand and pray profusely? There is a time to pray at length, and there is a time to pray briefly!”

Apparently, Moshe learned his lesson and prayed briefly this time.

However, the above examples of Moshe praying at length were all after the Splitting of the Sea. And, Moshe still prayed at length.

Rather, the key to understanding appropriate times for prayer is the words of the Midrash, “My children are in dire straits.” When dealing with an urgent situation, it’s not the time for elaborate prayer. It’s the time for deep, heartfelt and concise prayer. It’s time to get right to the point – because any delay means someone else will suffer longer, Heaven Forbid.

With Miriam suffering, just as with the Jewish people in dire straits, the key is immediate relief. So, Moshe uttered the minimum words that would address her plight.

*

As we face a monolithic host of issues – ranging from health and science to civil rights, society and governance – we would be well advised to take a page from the Five Books of Moshe.

We can’t afford to wait until we have the arrived at the perfect solutions. Right now, urgent relief is what’s most necessary. Figuring out the details may take some time. But, for now we must pray – and act – with a sense of burning urgency.

Hopefully, when Hashem sees our urgent prayers and deeds, He will act in kind and expeditiously bring relief and healing to our entire world.

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