HOW FAR CAN WE PRAY? or CAN WE PRAY FOR ANYTHING ?
ויקח קרח בן יצהר בן קהת בן הלוי …
Usually, when the Torah identifies some person, the Torah tells us the name of the person’s father. (For example,
יפונה בן כלב (.Sometimes, if there is some specific reason, for instance, to draw attention to the exceptional
pedigree of the person, the Torah will tell us also the name of the grandfather. (For example, בן אורי בן בצלאל
חור — as Chur dedicated his life to HaShem, so was this quality in his grandson Betsalel.) Quite exceptionally,
our Sidra, telling us about Korach and his rebellion against Mosheh Rabbaynu, starts off with giving the pedigree
of Korach as far back as his great-grandfather, Levi. But if the Torah intends to point out the pedigree of Korach
so far back, then why not go all the way back — to Yaakov, the beginning of Korach’s pedigree? It seems almost a
deliberate omission of Yaakov and if so, why? As Rashi says: “And it does not mention “ben Yaakov”! Because
when Yaakov was giving his farewell blessings to his sons (and his parting message to each of them) he somehow
sensed — without knowing clearly what it was going to be — that there would be a certain shameful episode
involving his son Levi (or his descendants) and he begged HaShem that his name should not be dragged into this
event — whatever it might be. And that is why yes, it is indeed quite deliberate that the Torah stops short and
doesn’t mention Yaakov’s name in connexion with the Rebellion of Korach.” So explains Rashi.
Someone once asked, “If Yaakov Ovinu prayed to HaShem — and his prayer was fulfilled — that his name should
not be mentioned in connexion with this event that he felt a premonition about, why didn’t he pray that this event
shouldn’t happen at all?
The answer is, it is not correct to pray to HaShem that He should stop us from doing what we choose to do.
HaShem has ordered His world that human beings have to make their own choices. Generally, HaShem will not
grant a prayer that we should not be able to choose to do right or wrong. We can ask that we “should not fall into
the hands of temptation,” it is perfectly in order to ask that HaShem should grant us strength to resist temptation,
but to ask HaShem that human beings shall not do wrong, in this case, that they should not rebel against Mosheh
Rabbeynu, that is something that HaShem will not grant simply because that is asking that He should make us
not human, and HaShem wants us to be human, with all our inclinations, our faults, our possibilities for good or
for bad — the choice is ours.
In our prayers, we do not ask that HaShem should remove from us the Yetser HoRa. (The Gemorroh tells us that
the Chachommim once did ask for that and they had to beg HaShem to restore the Yetser HoRa because the world
was not functioning properly.) No, it is not for us, as it was not for Yaakov Ovinu, to ask that the Yetser HoRa
should be removed and that’s why he did not ask for that. But he did ask that his name should not to be
associated with it. Similarly, we do not pray, “Please remove all temptation, please remove the Yetser HoRa!”
simply because HaShem created the Yetser Hora — but He has created His Torah as the antidote. That’s why we
do ask that HaShem should help us “לך להשתעבד יצרינו את וכוף” — “to bend our Yetser, to utilise our Yetser,
in Your service.” A person without any Yetser is not a human being, he is an unfeeling machine! Someone who
utilizes his own will to serve HaShem — that is a true human being.