by Rabbi David Pinto Shlita
The gaon Rabbi Yehonatan Eibeshutz revealed a great secret in regards to prayer: In our prayers, we must focus on asking G-d to help us achieve integrity, as well as the merit of giving Him satisfaction.
He said the following [Ye'arot Devash Derush 5]:
The main focus of our prayers must consist of a desire to attain perfection, to become meritorious and give satisfaction to our Creator. This is in addition, of course, to our prayers concerning the exile of the Shechinah, the exile of Israel, and the disappearance of integrity in this world. Even when we ask for material possessions, our goal must not be to accumulate unnecessary riches out of desire or greed, but simply to not lack anything that could hinder our service of G-d.
In reality, because of our numerous sins, because everything is lacking, we have lost all wisdom and every sense of proper conduct. Men of treachery and violence grow in number, the righteous cannot protest, the wisdom of the poor is ridiculed, and nobody listens to their words.
Hence we must pray to Hashem for the means to study in relative ease without having to make requests of anyone. In regards to a person who does not occupy himself with Torah study, he should pray that he never resorts to theft, violence, or dishonesty in order to earn a living. He should pray not to encroach upon the boundaries of his neighbor, not to experience jealously or be involved either with disputes or ill-gotten gains, and even to encourage the weak and support the poor.
Supporting those who devote themselves to the study of Torah is essential to our life. It is the foundation of perfection and the reward for all that is truly good, that which was ours and which we lost. In fact it is the last thing that G-d has left us in His immense kindness: Hashem has nothing in His world other than four cubits of Halachah, which replace sacrifice and incense, thanks to which the Shechinah dwelled above the Holy Ark. In our time, those who genuinely study Torah merit the Shechinah in their presence and in the presence of those who support them, maintaining the pillar of Torah and participating in the construction of the Beit Hamikdash. Happy is the one who supports the Tree of Life.
It is therefore from this perspective that we should ask Hashem to grant us wealth. If this is not our intention, then the material possessions we receive will end up becoming a source of misfortune. This is because they will be controlled by evil spirits, and we will no longer be in control of them. As we read, a “sore evil” [Kohelet 5:12] will afflict him, for he seeks material wealth out of sheer desire, not to support the poor and those who study Torah. As a result, he will not be able to properly use such wealth, for evil spirits will control it.
This is why the Birkat Kohanim states, “May G-d bless you” – with material possessions. Yet what good is there in having money that was amassed to our sorrow, and which will lead us to Gehinnom, G-d forbid? Hence it adds, “and protect you” – from evil spirits. May we always be able to use our money for the good.
Likewise, when we pray for long life, it should be with the intention of devoting it to the fulfillment of G-d’s will. As our Sages affirm, “One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than all the life of the World to Come” [Pirkei Avoth 4:17]. Furthermore, our numerous sins and the burden of exile in our time still delay our access to wisdom, truth, and integrity. Thus if we only attain it at an advanced age, leaving this world prematurely is like not having lived, considered to be like “never having seen the day.” In fact what do we gain from our labor, and what will we have amassed by our work to bring an offering before G-d? Is it not true that “the reaper has gathered nothing”?
Finally, many of us would need to live more than a thousand years in order to repent of the sins of our youth, to return to Hashem, and to rectify what we have damaged in a single day of disobedience to G-d.
This is why our prayers must be aimed in the right direction: Everything must be for the truth, not for falsehood or vanity, which characterize this world of substitution and reversal, one devoid of eternal values.