In Parashat Toledot, the Torah informs us, “VaYetar Yitzchak LaShem LeNochach Ishto, Ki Akarah Hi,” “Yitzchak prayed to Hashem on behalf of his wife, because she was childless” (BeReishit 25:21). Man ask why Hashem made Rivkah barren. What did she do to deserve this? As a future mother of the Jewish People, it is strange that she originally could not have children. More generally, why would Hashem make anyone barren?
Rav Shimon Finkelman, in his book, Living the Parasha, quotes the Gemara that teaches us that Hashem “craves” our Tefilot. Why would God want our Tefilot? If God is all-knowing, then why can’t He just observe us, and see that we love and serve him?
The Michtav MeiEliyahu explains that Tefilah isn’t only about praising God and asking things from Him. It is a way of drawing closer to and forming a personal relationship with Him.
This applies to all aspects of our life. Very often, people thank doctors for healing the sick, or give credit to the army for saving a nation. The Michtav MeiEliyahu is teaching us that the credit should be going to Hashem. Ultimately it is only with His help that the medicine is effective, or that a war is waged successfully. God gave us Tefilah so that we could have a way to speak to Him personally—face to face—and develop a close relationship with Him.
There is another answer that teaches us a beautiful lesson about how we should respond to challenges in life. Martin Gray, a survivor of the Holocaust, wrote a book about his life entitled For Those I Loved. In the book, he explains that after the Holocaust his life was going very well. He married, had children, and had a good job. Overall, he was very successful, and he was extremely pleased with himself and his family. But it didn’t last. In a tragic forest fire near his home in southern France, his wife and four children were killed. He was devastated, but understood that he needed to pick himself up and move on with his life. Mr. Gray chose to dedicate his time to working on the prevention of future forest fires. This is a man who survived the horrors of the Holocaust, and then had to suffer even more pain due to the loss of his family. In the book, he writes that the question we must ask when we suffer a tragedy should not be, “Why me?” Instead, “What will I do about it?”
The Torah is teaching us that God’s ultimate plan is often not immediately understandable to us. Hashem sometimes places us in situations that are difficult and troubling, and very often we don’t understand why. God is not trying to trick us into sinning- He is testing us for our own benefit. Succeeding in a difficult task shows us how much potential we have to succeed. Although we might not understand why Hashem did not immediately allow a righteous woman such as Rivkah to bear children, it is possible that He wanted to teach her and us an important lesson: Whenever someone is challenged or is having a hard time, the immediate response should be to cry out to Hashem for help, not to turn to other methods to solve the problem. We should strive to act like Mr. Gray and ask ourselves, “What can I do about it?” instead of “Why me?”