Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody
Rebbe Yitzchak, the son of Rebbe Natan of Breslev, was the manager of the local post office. He worked for a living and then spent every spare moment learning Torah and serving Hashem. He devoted hours to personal prayer. He also exchanged frequent letters with his father. Many of these letters are preserved for posterity in a book named Alim L'Trufa. In one of these letters, Rebbe Yitzchak tells his father that he gives 50% of his income to charity. In other words, he uses half his income to support himself and his family, and the other half to support worthy Torah scholars who devote their lives to learning Torah.
We would think that Rebbe Natan would write back that he's so proud of his righteous son. Surprisingly enough, Rebbe Natan reacted differently. He writes his son, “If you pray before you give half your income to Torah learners, then happy is your lot in life, in this world and in the next. But, if you don't pray before you give half your income to Torah learners, I don't envy you!”
What in the world did Rebbe Natan mean? What was the message he was conveying to his son?
Rebbe Natan stresses throughout his teachings that anything we attain after praying for it is not only beneficial, but a reinforcement of our emuna. How thrilling it is to ask Hashem for something, and then to receive it! But, anything attained without prayer is detrimental to a person. Why? He attributes his acquisition or his success to himself, since he didn't pray for it. As such, he simply becomes more arrogant. Since arrogance causes him to be further away from Hashem, then ultimately, whatever he attained or accomplished with prayer is damaging. This is especially true in Torah learning. Anyone who learns Torah without first praying for Divine assistance just becomes more haughty. Our sages said that Torah improperly learned can become the elixir of death rather than the elixir of life. Therefore, I instruct my students to pray for ten minutes before they start learning in the morning: "Hashem, help me to internalize what I learn and to live by it. Hashem, help me learn in order to get closer to you. Help me seek the truth and not my own aggrandizement. Hashem, help me learn in holiness and in humility..." There's plenty to ask for. One who prays before learning will rise to heights he never believed he could.
Deborah, the wife of Lapidot, was granted the power of prophecy. She also was the Judge of the entire Jewish people. Why her? Why didn't Hashem pick some Torah scholar to be a prophet and judge? What were her qualifications?
She used to make wicks for the lamps in the Holy Tabernacle.
Yes, and she prayed over every wick she made, that not only it should properly illuminate the Holy Tabernacle, but that its light should illuminate the hearts of every Jew and bring him closer to Hashem.
Just imagine a Yeshiva with all types of prodigious Torah scholars. Yet, the custodian who replaces the burnt-out light bulbs in the study hall rises to higher spiritual heights than they do. That's exactly what happened in Deborah's time.
Elijah the Prophet teaches us that a person's status aren't determined by his pedigree or his scholastic degree, but by his good deeds. Rebbe Nachman says that it's wonderful to be a Torah scholar, but first, you must be a righteous individual. How does one become a righteous individual? He does so by serving Hashem with all his heart. "Service of the Heart" means prayer; one who prays for everything serves Hashem with all his heart.
Hashem is a loving and compassionate Father in Heaven. He wants to give us every form of abundance, but he can't pour fine wine on the floor and waste it. We must prepare a suitable receptacle to receive Divine abundance. That receptacle is prayer.
One who erroneously believes that Hashem doesn't want to give him something is a heretic. Hashem's greatest pleasure is to give us abundance. But, we must be able to receive His abundance.
People complain that they lack things in life. Rebbe Natan said, "Wherever I see deficiency, I see lack of prayer." There are no instant remedies. There are no rabbit's-feet solutions for unemployment, a lack of a soulmate, childlessness or any other deficiency. The only solution is to turn to Hashem in prayer - the more the better. Many people don't like that answer, but it's the only true answer.
May Hashem answer all your prayers for the very best. Don't ever give up. Prayer is the best gift we have. And, Hashem always listens
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 Jewish Law allows a person to give no more than 20% of his income to charity, unless he is extremely wealthy. But, in what's called a “Issachar-Zevulun Arrangement”, a working person may give have his income to support a Torah scholar, but then half the Torah scholar's merits from Torah learning go to the working person. This is a bona-fide agreement with a precedent in Torah and anchored in Rabbinical Law.