Selfless Prayer

By Mindy Rubenstein

Although Yaakov (Jacob) was aware of his many merits, he was also able to rise above natural human shortsightedness and realize how infinitely indebted we are all to G-d. With this perspective, he humbly assumed that his merits were insufficient to deserve G-d’s protection. So he petitioned G-d to save him and his family not on account of his own merits — although he was indeed worthy — but out of His pure kindness.

Following this example, whenever we ask something of G-d, we should also appeal solely to His kindness and compassion. If we ask for assistance based on our own merits, G-d’s response will be limited to the extent of our worthiness.

But when we humbly demonstrate that we have risen above our natural shortsightedness, G-d will respond with blessings that transcend the natural order.

Source: Bereisheit (Genesis) 32:4-13, parsha Vayishlach, Daily Wisdom — Inspiring Insights on the Torah Portion from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, Translated and adapted by Rabbi Moshe Wisnefsky. 

In my own life, sometimes what I want seems impossible. Our older son, for example, is finishing his last year of middle school. He has been in Jewish schools since he was a toddler.

As baalei teshuvahs, my husband and I didn’t attend Jewish schools, nor did our parents or grandparents. But our great grandparents did. So we have been learning to navigate what’s called a dual-curriculum system in the U.S. — half the day secular, half religious. Trying to squeeze all those subjects into a school day and to grasp it all can be challenging to say the least.

Plus, instilling a love of Judaism and cultivating a relationship with G-d may or may not be a byproduct of that education, so it’s important to choose wisely.

As it says in Mishlei (Proverbs) 22:6: “Train a child according to his way; even when he grows old, he will not turn away from it.”

חֲנֹ֣ךְ לַ֖נַּעַר עַל־פִּ֣י דַרְכּ֑וֹ גַּ֥ם כִּֽי־יַ֜זְקִ֗ין לֹֽא־יָס֥וּר מִמֶּֽנָּה:

Now it is time to select a high school for our son, but there isn’t one where we live. So as we research options in other cities, there is a chance we will need to relocate (again).

Looking at all the potential options and making the right choice seems overwhelming. Should we put him in a modern Orthodox school or one considered more to the right? Should we send him away to board or dorm, which is common in many religious families?

So I sought advice from a rabbi who has known us throughout our journey. His suggestion: “Do your due diligence for the proper school and then pray. That’s the way it works for all parents from all backgrounds today.”

In other words, even if we were raised religiously observant (“frum from birth” as it’s called), there is still no easy answer to choosing the right educational path for our children.

So I ask G-d to please help guide us — not because of any good I may have done in my life or because it may seem noble to be in this situation, choosing to give our children a Jewish education despite the challenges.

Like Yaakov, I try to humbly ask G-d to help guide us because He is kind and compassionate, and his Love helps us transcend all limitations.

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