The Real Instruments of Success

Yael Eckstein  |  December 29, 2020

Rabbis pray for holiday at Western Wall during coronavirus pandemic, 2020
Blessing of the Cohanim for Passover at the Western Wall. The Kotel is completely empty except for the Rabbis performing the prayer, who are all wearing face masks.

And to you I give one more ridge of land than to your brothers, the ridge I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.” — Genesis 48:22

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Vayechi, which means “and he lived,” from Genesis 47:28–50:26.

From the time I was very young, I learned that prayer is powerful. I would watch my father wrapped in his tallit (prayer shawl), with his eyes closed, pouring out his heart before God. I could tell that my father fully believed in the power of his prayers. No matter how busy he was, he always made time to pray. He understood that the real instruments of his success each day depended more on his prayers than on anything else.

In this week’s Torah reading, we learn that Jacob blessed Joseph with an extra portion of land. Included in the land which Jacob said he acquired “with my sword and my bow” was the city of Shechem. However, according to the Bible, Simeon and Levi captured Shechem after the inhabitants disgraced their sister Dinah (Genesis 34:25). Why did Jacob infer that he secured the city?

Our Prayers and Supplications

The Jewish sages explained that Jacob’s “sword and bow” referred to his prayers and supplications before God. Jacob understood that anything accomplished on a physical plane has a spiritual cause. While Simeon and Levi physically captured Shechem, it was Jacob’s spiritual work, his prayers, that made it possible. When Jacob “took credit” for acquiring Shechem, he demonstrated that prayers and supplications are the real instruments of success in life and that they are the true cause of our victories and accomplishments.

However, that’s not all that Jacob revealed about the power of prayer. The terms “sword” and “bow” also teach us the most effective ways to pray. Just as a sword is most effective when it is sharp, so, too, are our prayers most piercing when they are sharp, focused, and defined. And just as an arrow travels the farthest when it is most drawn back on the bow, so, too, do our prayers travel closest to God when they emanate from the deepest depths of our hearts.

Through prayer, we can accomplish goals we never thought possible and change conditions that appeared to be unmovable. Prayer is a powerful force, and we are wise to make use of it.

Your Turn:

Next time you pray, bring Jacob’s “sword and bow” with you. Be clear about what you want and ask God for it from the depths of your heart.

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