Rabbi Yoel Smith Dayan of the Beth Din and Rabbi of Sha’arei Chaim
Anyone who persists in prayer, the prayer will not go unanswered. (Talmud, Berochos 32b)
כל המאריך בתפלתו אין תפלתו חוזרת ריקם. (ברכות לב:)
There was a heavenly decree that the revered Chizkiyohu Hamelech would die. This was because he didn’t fulfil the mitzvah of marrying and having children as he foresaw that he would beget a most wicked son, Menashe.1
The Novi (Prophet Isaiah) warned him that his fate was signed and sealed.2 Despite the hard facts, Chizkiyohu Hamelech turned to Hashem and davened.3 As a result of his Tefillos, 15 years were added to his life.4
The Midrash deduces that “Tefilloh accomplishes everything”.5
In the same Midrash,6 5 lines later, it states “Tefilloh accomplishes half”. It quotes Parshas Eikev,7 that as a result of Moshe Rabbeinu’s Tefillos, two out of Aharon’s four sons survived.
There seems to be an apparent contradiction. Does Tefilloh help in full or only half?
A woman once came crying bitterly to Rabbi Aryeh Levine. Heartbroken, she showed her tear-soaked Tehillim. “How many Tefillos did I say? How many tears did I shed? Yet this didn’t seem to save my dear husband. He passed away, nevertheless.
Reb Aryeh quoted the Sfas Emes.8
Sharei demaos lo ninolu – “The gates of tears were never closed.”9 Hashem never, ever turns away a tear.
At the end of Neilah on Yom Kippur, we beg Hashem, “shetosim dimoseynu b’nodcho lihyos” – “that He should collect all our tears that we shed and store them in his jug”.
Hashem takes every drop of our tears and stores it. Not one tear goes to waste, ever!
He keeps them all and uses them at His discretion, sometimes saving it for a different gezeirah (Divine decree), not necessarily for the one the person davened for. So, the woman’s many tefillos didn’t keep her husband alive. However, it was used to annul a different gezeirah in Klal Yisroel.
To answer the Midrash. Sometimes a Tefilloh accomplishes all, as was in the case of Chizkiyohu – he had life added. Sometimes, the request is only half fulfilled, as was the case of Moshe Rabbeinu, it was saved and used for another cause, at Hashem’s discretion.
The Midrash tells us, Daven, Daven, Daven, don’t give up!!!! No Tefilloh or tear will ever go to waste!!! Sometimes it helps achieve what we daven for and sometimes half, but it will be used for another decree, or at another time.
Talmud, Berochos 10a
II Kings 20:1
Ibid. 20:6; Talmud, Yevamos 49b; Midrash, Yalkut Shmoni, Parshas Tzav, 512
Midrash, Yalkut Shmoni, Parshas Tzav, 512
Sfas Emes, Deuteronomy, Vaeschonon 7:3
Talmud, Berochos 32b; Talmud, Bava Metzia 59a