June 25, 2024
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June 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Rebbe Nachman used to say, “One must pray for every little thing, even if you tear your garment and need another one.”

His disciple, Rabbi Nasan, was always bemused by his teacher’s famous aphorism. One day, he mustered up the courage to address his bewilderment to Rebbe Nachman. “Surely, Rebbe,” he asked in earnest, “there are more important matters to focus one’s prayers on, like one’s spiritual service and Divine connection! Do I really need to waste God’s time with such insignificant lowly requests?”

“What’s bothering you?” the Rebbe responded with a look of surprise. “Is it perhaps beneath your personal honor to pray for such minor matters?”

***

Today’s daf continues the discussion of liability for unusual, and therefore unanticipated, damage performed by one’s animal. An owner must guard his animal from causing any foreseeable damage—failing to provide the protection incurs complete liability. Unusual behavior, however, cannot be anticipated, making it near impossible to provide adequate safeguards. Consequently, the owner is only liable to pay half the damages.

תָנֵי רָמֵי בַּר יְחֶזְקֵאל תַּרְנְגוֹל שֶׁהוֹשִׁיט רֹאשׁוֹ לַאֲוִיר כְּלִי זְכוּכִית וְתָקַע בּוֹ וּשְׁבָרוֹ מְשַׁלֵּם נֶזֶק שָׁלֵם

וְהָא מְשׁוּנֶּה הוּא דְּאִית בֵּיהּ בִּזְרָנֵי

Rami bar Yechezkel taught: If a rooster poked its head into the hollow of a glass container and shrieked into it and broke it, its owner must pay complete damages. But it is unusual! Here, there were seeds inside.

While chickens don’t usually go sticking their heads into glass containers, they do if there’s food inside. That’s the kind of behavior the owner should have been watching for. Since he failed to contain his chicken’s anticipatable activity, he is liable for the damage it caused.

Chances are you’ve probably never gotten your head stuck inside a glass container. But we’ve all experienced situations in life where we felt trapped and uncertain of how we would extricate ourselves from a mess that may or may not have been of our own creation. It’s happened before and it will happen again at some point in the future. When it does, what will you do?

I’m guessing you’ll pray some of your best prayers, knowing that there are some situations in life that Hashem alone can resolve. Right?

Let’s think about Rebbe Nachman’s sage words. “One must pray for every little thing, even if you tear your garment and need another one.” Here’s some perspective: Your button has just come loose and needs to be resewn onto your jacket. Says Rebbe Nachman: Daven for that button to be resewn.

“Really?” you say, “I can do that myself. I don’t need Hashem’s help!” Well, what if your eyes were too weak to thread the needle? What if your hands were shaky and you couldn’t handle a needle?

“Fine,” you say, “if that were the case, I’d pay a couple of dollars for the seamstress to do it. That’s still not the kind of thing I need to ask for Hashem’s help!” Well, what if you lost your job tomorrow and couldn’t afford to have someone else sew your buttons for you? You see, maybe Hashem does have a role to play after all even in seemingly insignificant areas of your life!

Let’s switch gears again to a different topic, after which we’ll connect all the dots. You know those opera singers who can shatter glass with their voices? What an amazing gift! True, it is quite the gift, but much as it’s a unique talent reserved for a rare breed, it doesn’t come entirely naturally. Even those born with the gift are blessed only with the potential for magnificence. They still need to work on that potential and develop their special gift. Because the greatest soprano in the world won’t be able to shatter the glass they’re trapped inside if they’ve never attempted it before.

And so, returning to our personal dire straits that we’re all bound to find ourselves in sooner or later. You said you’d pray your best prayers, right? Here’s the thing: best prayers don’t happen instantly. You can’t go from zero to 100 in three seconds. And you can’t shatter glass on the very first try. The art of prayer takes time to develop. The better you become at prayer, the easier it will be for you to shatter the glass that has you trapped when you least expect it.

How do you become a good prayer? Recall Rebbe Nachman’s advice: pray for even the tiniest needs in your life. When you do that, you begin to appreciate Who is in control. And the conversation even in the most desperate of situations is then no different to any other conversation you’ve had with Him. The same way He can fix your button, He can likewise fix your transmission that you don’t know how you’re going to afford to replace. Especially, stranded here in the desert, miles away from any gas station…

The problem is we’re all guilty of Rabbi Nasan’s mistake, pointed out to him so wisely by Rebbe Nachman. It’s not beneath God’s honor when you ask for a button. The reason you don’t include it in your prayers is that it’s beneath your honor. You don’t appreciate what a blessing it is to be able to replace a button. For Hashem, it’s all the same: fix a button, fix a transmission, fix an international diplomatic crisis—nothing’s any bigger or smaller. For us, we think it’s a big deal or a meaningless matter. And that’s why it’s about your kavod, not God’s.

Do not sweat the small stuff. But do daven for the small stuff. The more you daven for the small stuff, the greater you will grow your skill and ability to daven for the big stuff. May you build your prayer muscles daily!


Rabbi Dr. Daniel Friedman is the author of The Transformative Daf book series. He battles Christian antisemitism and teaches International Relations at Landers.

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