DAY 577: Daily Learning Insight — Prayer Can Be A Powerful Weapon

January 28, 2014
By bethmordecai
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DAY 577: Daily Learning Insight — Prayer Can Be A Powerful Weapon

Dear Hevreh,
Yesterday I wrote about the importance of setting our priorities to do things that are important but not critical otherwise we might never get to those important items. The specific example I raised about myself is the importance of praying and learning every day. As such, I thought it would be appropriate to share with you some of my learning from yesterday which, ironically, was about the importance of prayer.
Rav Nahman of Breslov writes in his book Likkutei Moharan (2:2) that “prayer is the weapon of the messiah” (k’lei zeyno shel moshiah). One of the examples he brings to prove his point is an interpretation of Genesis 48:22, in which Jacob is on his death bed and is giving his final blessing to Joseph and Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Menasseh. He says: 
ואני נתתי לך שכם אחד על אחיך אשר לקחתי מיד האמרי בחרבי ובקשתי

Va-ani natati l’kha sh’khem ahad al ahekha asher lakahti miyad ha-emori b’harbi ubkashti

Moreover I have given to thee one portion above they brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.
The Gemara in Baba Bathra 123a takes issue with this verse:

Did [Jacob] take [it] with “his sword and his bow”? Surely it has already been said, “For I trust not in my bow, neither can my sword save me!” (Psalms 44:7).

The verse in Psalms quoted by the Gemara seems to follow a certain trope popular in the Writings and in the Prophets that human beings should not trust in their tools or weapons but rather they should trust in God. Moreover, the Messiah will come, according to Isaiah’s famous saying, “when [we] shall beat our swords into plowshares” (Isaiah 2:4). So how does the Gemara resolve the fact that Jacob had taken a portion from the Amorites with his weapons of war?…

But “my sword” (b’harbi) means “prayer” (t’fillah) [and] “my bow” (bkashti) means “supplication” (bakashah).

The similar letters between “my bow” (bkashti) and “supplication” (bakashah) anchor the Gemara’s interpretation that Jacob’s real weapons in securing his portions to give as inheritance to his children and his grandchildren was prayer. Yet more than just an example of linguistic playfulness, I think this interpretation reminds us that prayer can be powerful, and if we learn to wield it like any other weapon it can be used as a force to make the world better and get us one step closer to the days of the Messiah.
If you’d like some more insights from my daily learning or to check in on my “prayerful thought for the day,” feel free to follow me on Twitter or check out my Twitter feed along with all of the other social media feeds related to the synagogue on our website at
Kol Tuv,
Rabbi Ari Saks
Photo taken by C. Jill Reed on Flickr —

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