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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo 5778

Ein Ayah: The Power of the Connection to Other Jews Desires

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 6:97)

Gemara: Is it so that whatever remedy that does not have a medical basis is forbidden due to the prohibition of “the ways of the Emorites”? Doesn’t it say in a baraita: For a tree whose fruit are dropping, one should color it with red paint and lean rocks against it? I understand that the rocks are to weaken the strength of the tree (as the fruit fall because they are too robust), but what is the logic behind the remedy of painting it red? The answer is that this is done so that people can see the problem and pray on its behalf. This is similar to the idea that a leper is supposed to call “I am impure, I am impure,” which is an example of letting the public know about one’s anguish so that many will ask for mercy for him.


Ein Ayah: If certain practices have a known need and there is a basis for them in the part of existence that is clear for all to see, then they are not considered peculiar to a certain nation, even though it was a specific nation that developed them. We do not assume that the practice came due to the specific inclinations of the nation, which could make it destructive for Israel.

In contrast, when a practice does not serve a clear, palpable need, even if it might be possible to find one if one penetrated its surface, we still connect the practice to the specific character of the nation that developed it. We are therefore concerned that it might be fit for that nation, yet be illogical and create distortions for other nations. This depends on the sensitivity of each nation. Israel, in particular, has to be very careful about practices with roots from a foreign source.

However, that which brings a lot of good is not assumed to have a hidden, destructive character, as its efficacy makes it something that relates to existence of the world as a whole. This helps us understand why a tree whose fruit are dropping should have rocks leaning on it to weaken its strength.

The influence of the expression of the public’s desires regarding specific objects is legitimate when it is connected to prayer. Even though the efficacy of such a thing is not clear, still it is fine because it relates directly to Israel, who understand how internal matters have influence. This applies both to the individual and to the masses who desire that the light of Hashem shine on all elements of the world (even the ostensibly trivial). This is because Israel’s concern for things that relate to everything in the nation corresponds to Hashem’s desires regarding everything in the world. These divine desires are most felt in things that pertain to the Nation of Israel and most clearly so with things that relate to the bright light of Torah. Therefore, the most specific things in the world are connected to the desires of every specific need of an individual in Israel.

When an individual Jew turns in prayer to Hashem and seeks His great mercy, he is able to influence that which relates to the object of the need. It becomes more powerful when others join in his request. That is why it is significant when a person publicizes his pain so that others pray on his behalf. The interest of others to beseech for the welfare of friends increases the light of life, which strives towards filling in for that which is missing. The connection between people is great enough to impact both the thing of their friend for which they pray and the world in general, even a tree that is suffering due to too much plenty. When many pray, the tree can be brought back to within its capabilities. This is parallel to promoting a leper’s health when he calls out to the masses about his impurity and they pray on his behalf.


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