Question Part I

There is a gemara that says that Rabba was davening behind someone who was praying for a shidduch to work out with a specific girl. He said don’t daven for a specific girl and then a few month later he heard the same guy saying “kill her or me we can’t live together in the same world”. Do you know the source for this?

Answer Part I

The source you are referring to is in Moed Katan1)Moed Katan 18b line 29. I don’t know if you can take from this gemara not to daven for specific things in general. If you look in the Meharsha it seems that maybe you can take from here that you shouldn’t ask for things that aren’t “possible”.

Question Part II

I think the gemara is saying keep your requests in prayer more general like “Hashem send me the right girl” or the like. Do you agree?

Answer Part II

See the Maharsha on that Gemara. He doesn’t seem to take this out of the gemara. Also even if the gemara means that here, it could be the gemara is referring specifically to a shidduch with a woman in which this is true due to the nature of the issue. But perhaps with things that are more clear cut there is no problem.

Furthermore, I know there are some who have the belief that “we don’t really know what is good for us” so we should never daven for something specific. I think I can establish without too much trouble that such a belief is not correct within Judaism. The whole premise of tefillah is to figure out specifically what we need and ask Hashem to give it to us. To constantly remain general and beat around the bush is to miss the whole point of the intimacy and closeness of davenning even if we end up not concluding correctly what we need. (It’s a long discussion; I am simplifying.)

Question Part III

Any more thoughts on this?

Answer Part III

We should ask for specific things that we need and we have to work hard to figure out what they are. But we shouldn’t ask that they should be given to us “in the manner” that we think they should come.

For example, I need parnassah. This is a fact. I need $5000 a month down to the penny to cover my expenses and live an honorable life. This is a fact and a true detailed request. We can ask Hashem for it and even in a detailed way down to small aspects of the issue. However we should not say to Hashem I have this great business idea and help me get my parnassah through this. Not because we don’t need to be specific about what we need but because we are telling Hashem how to run His world, which is not our business. This of course has no bearing on whether we should make an effort to make a certain business venture take off in as much as it is a reasonable hishtadlus… just we shouldn’t tell Hashem to give us our parnassah davkah through that tzinur.

Example – I need an Akeres Habayis, Shalom Bayis, a Zivug so I can achieve the shleimus available in this area of life. We shouldn’t say please make this happen with this girl. Not because we don’t need to be specific but because saying it should happen with this girl is telling Hashem how to run His world. Of course if I find a nice girl whom I get along well with I should proceed accordingly because that is a reasonable hishtadlus to fulfilling the needs I have. Hashem will do the rest.

Question Part IV

I don’t understand how $5000 is not telling Hashem how to run His world as well? Maybe you really need $4000? Why not say “if it is good for me” when you pray?

Answer Part IV

Let’s use myself as an example. I have sat down with a budget consultant and worked out and averaged every single expense over the last four years. We have culled through every detail and determined what are the bear necessities, what are extras, and what are luxuries. We have total clarity exactly what it actually costs to run a family, pay for school, buy groceries, clothing, dental care, transportation, eyeglasses, shoes, etc., etc., etc. It costs $5000 to live a normal life and cover expenses according to the place and time I live in, and that’s a fact. I am not telling Hashem how to run His world. I am asking Him to provide me with the money I need to run the life I am in. How He decides to get me that money is His business. If He decides to give me less, then I have to ask “what is the message? Have I made a mistake in judging what is essential? have I not made a proper hishtadlus? etc.”

If I decide I need a higher standard of living that is also fine to ask for, even to specify… Rav Weiss’s main point was not to tell Hashem how to get me the things I need.

An additional point is that instead of asking for the vacation or whatever it would behoove us to think deeper. What is it about the vacation that I need in order to serve Hashem? Is it the vacation itself or the yishuv hadaas that I want to come from it, or the quality bonding time with my children, etc. Then ask for that… This is the ongoing avodah of tefillah.

References   [ + ]

1. Moed Katan 18b line 29