You Don’t Have To Be Annoying To Get God’s Attention by Dr. Joel Berman


In opposite corners of the same room, Yitzchak and Rivkah both pray to Hashem because Rivkah is barren.  Hashem only listens to Yitzchak, and then Rivkah conceives (25:21).  Why did Hashem only listen to Yitzchak?  What could possibly be lacking in Rivkah’s Tefillah?  Rashi explains that the prayers of a Tzaddik Ben Tzaddik (Yitzchak) are of greater value than that of a Tzaddik Ben Rasha (Rivkah).  This is puzzling in light of the famous Gemara that states that the status of a Baal Teshuvah is much more elevated than that of a Tzaddik Gamur.

I often learn in the Ohr Somayach Beit Midrash in Monsey, Yeshiva primarily for Baalei Teshuvah. It is interesting to watch the boys there Daven and learn.  Their excitement and enthusiasm is inspiring.

Contrast this with some of the Brachot I hear from our own “Frum from birth” (FFB) students:  “Boru Chata Anoy Heynu…”

Let’s translate this interesting Nusach (the author thanks Rabbi Shlomo Cohen for help in the “translation”):

“Boru”: This means “They created.”  Briah, creation, can only be attributed to Hashem.  Therefore, the Brachah has begun with heresy!

“Chata”: I’m not sure what this means… “You sinned” or “They sinned”.

“Anoy”: If you want God’s attention, I guess you have to annoy Him!  And how do you annoy Him?

“Hey, Nu!”

Between Davening, Bentching, and various Brachot, we spend nearly two hours each day in direct communication with Hashem.  Why not do it right?  Why is this so difficult for many “Frum from birth” people and relatively easy for Baalei Teshuvah?

It is more difficult for the “Frum from birth.” The successful FFB must constantly work on himself in order to prevent himself from becoming a bored, stale, comfortable, “Frum from habit” (FFH) Jew. He must seek to rise even beyond the levels he was raised with in order to achieve the level of Tzaddik Ben Tzaddik. On the other hand, as a newcomer to Judaism, it is relatively easy for a Baal Teshuvah to remain excited and fresh. Since Yitzchak was able to keep his connection with Hashem exciting and fresh, his prayers were more efficacious than his wife’s.

Shirat Hayam includes the words, “Elokei Avi Vaaromimenhu,” “I will exalt the God of my father.” Rav Hirsch teaches us that even though a person has learned to recognize Hashem from his parents, he himself must raise (i.e. exalt) this level in his own lifetime.  This was the path of Yitzchak Avinu.  We must make it our constant effort to make this most rewarding path our path as well.

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