Month: December 2012

Question on Prayer

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Rav Miller on Emunah and BitachonI received the following question [I’ve edited out personal information]:


I’ve just stumbled across your website and after reading it a bit decided to email…. I miscarried more times than I can recall, 20 plus is an average estimate, and while those years were the worst of my life I just remained focused on HaShem, much to the frustration of everyone around me. My faith has just steadily grown stronger…. With any decision making I need to do I always wonder what HaShem wants of me. I paid out possibly around $200k for fertility treatments but always said, I will work hard to pay for it, but ultimately it was up to HaShem if I had children and only He knew what was best for me.  Years later I began to wonder if my desire for children wasn’t great enough and/ or it was wrong handing it over to HaShem. Can you clarify that for me please?


It would be presumptuous of me to tell you what Hashem wants from you. But we do know, as you said, that Hashem does know what’s best for us. That is certainly the correct sentiment. Beyond that, there can be lots of reasons why things happen or don’t happen, in this case why you have not been able to have children. Let me just throw out one general thought, which may or may not apply to your case.

Most people view prayer as a vehicle to some desire, or their heart’s desire. And that is indeed one important function of prayer, something that many people have yet to learn. However, there is also another way of looking at it: prayer is the goal and our heart’s desire is the vehicle. King David said, Ani tefillasi, “I am prayer.” He did not say, “I pray.” He said, “I am prayer.” He reached the exalted level of being in a constant state of prayer. Sometimes God doesn’t seem to answer our prayer because he wants us to pray harder, to unleash the full potential of our heart’s desire. But at other times he wants us to go even higher, and realize that prayer is an exalted state of being unto itself.

I cannot say which applies to you. But perhaps this might help you. Sometimes the lesson he wants us to learn is that we should not be attached to results, to serve him without the condition of expecting reward. That is not to say that there is no reward. But that we should detach from our expectations to such. There is reward. No prayer goes unanswered — even if it is not immediately answered in the way we thought it would be answered. Keep praying. Keep striving to learn more. Keep realizing God does always know what is best for us.


New Zman!

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Cover Zman-36


Vanished In The Wilderness

Six years ago the story of a family that vanished during a blizzard made national news and captured the hearts of everyday Americans. A father, mother and their two young children had disappeared without a trace. Millions held their breath while hundreds of rescue workers combed the snow-covered mountains of southwest Oregon, an area notorious for black bears. Time and brutal winter weather were playing against them. Would they find the missing family in time?

Jewish Ingenuity

Our designation as a “light unto the nations” refers to the spiritual and moral illumination that the world has absorbed from us and our Torah. Nevertheless, Jews have also left their imprint on the material daily lives of billions of people. The list of patented inventions attributable to Jewish minds is very long, and includes everything from flexible straws to the cure for polio. Read about common, everyday items as well as uncommon, world-changing discoveries that all share one thing: their invention is traced back to a Jew.

Jaws In Jersey

Panic swept over the New Jersey and New York coast. It had come under attack — from sharks! In less than two weeks during the month of July 1916, close to 100 years ago, five shark attacks occurred along the New Jersey shore. Four of the victims died and the fifth was seriously injured. Beaches lay empty as swimmers stayed far away fearing the danger that lurked beneath the waves. In the end, they caught the killer shark… or did they?

Killer Volcano

It rises above the lush landscape and provides a majestic ornament to a picturesque scene. However, the beauty of its snow-capped glaciers conceals the sleeping destruction that lies within. In the spring of 1980, a massive volcanic eruption from Mount St. Helens caused devastation on a scale so unimaginably vast that it revised the way scientists who study volcanos think about them. Everyone within a several-hundred-mile radius remembers when and where he or she was at the time it occurred.

Disaster In Benghazi

A terror attack on the American consulate in Benghazi this past September 11 cost the lives of the US ambassador and three other Americans. That was humiliating enough, but then it emerged that the catastrophe could have been averted. The fact that the Obama administration tried, initially, to falsely paint the incident as a spontaneous protest only made matters worse. Was it a case of incompetence on the part of the White House? Was it outright treachery? Find out why the Benghazi debacle has the potential to turn into a scandal of Watergate proportions.

Murdered US Ambassadors

It came as a rude awakening to Americans when Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, was murdered in the attack on the US consulate this past September 11. It was especially troubling because the last time a US ambassador was killed in the line of duty took place over 30 years ago. Here are the stories of the five other American ambassadors murdered by terrorists while serving abroad.

Zman – Warriors of a Different Breed

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As dark clouds of war hang over Eretz Yisrael, Zman interviews four former IDF soldiers, once non-observant now full-time yeshiva bachurim, to glimpse through their eyes what it means to be a young Jew on the front lines.
As dark clouds of war hang over Eretz Yisrael, Zman interviews four former IDF soldiers, once non-observant now full-time yeshiva bachurim, to glimpse through their eyes what it means to be a young Jew on the front lines.

Light Makes Might

The story of Chanukah is made up of two radically different components. One is the war, the battles of the Chashmonayim and their ultimate victory over the Syrian/Greek oppressors. “You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few…” we insert into our shemonah esrai during Chanukah.

The other component is the spiritual, miraculous event of the small pitcher that supplied oil for eight days even though it held enough only for one night.

At first glance these components — the military the spiritual — are diametrically opposed.

Indeed, there is no other holiday on the Jewish calendar that emphasizes military victory. The triumphs of Yehoshua, Shaul or Dovid HaMelech, magnificent as they were, are not commemorated. What makes the military victory on Chanukah different from all other victories?

It is not the permanence of the victory. The great pantheon of famous warriors in the distant past and the near present testify to this disappointing truth: there are only temporary victors in wars. All military victories are subject to reversal, destruction, decay and abandonment – and Chanukah’s is no different. After the Jews retook Yerushalayim and experienced the miracle of the menorah the war dragged out another five to seven years. Successive Greek emperors tried to take back Eretz Yisrael by force of arms and by orchestrating a coup among the Jews.

What makes a military victory more than a fleeting moment of glory? The spiritual truth behind it. How do we know that Chanukah was more than a military victory? The little flask of oil that miraculously burned eight days.

Only when the military victory is combined with and sublimated to spiritual accomplishment, only when Hashem is acknowledged as having fashioned the victory, only when there is symbolic religious ritual attached to the celebration of physical triumph, only then can that victory be seen as having some sense of permanence.

The memory of the victory of the Chashmonayim is glorified because of the Chanukah candles. With its spiritually uplifting message of eternal fuel and lights, Chanukah allows us to exult fully in the military victory of the Chashmonayim as well. For it is no longer just a triumph of arms and war but of the human spirit and hashgachah pratis.

How apropos, then, that our cover story this month is about four IDF soldiers who became baalei teshuva. The idea that military victory is rooted in spiritual causes is a difficult message to accept among those not raised in an environment of Emunah. Perhaps then the most miraculous aspect of our four soldiers is that they got the message. Despite their upbringing they figured out that, for a Jew, “sharing the burden” means sharing the yoke of Torah and mitzvos – and that it is not only a much more difficult yoke, but the root cause that best protects Jewish lives.

Therefore, the light that these four soldiers shine is a truly a miracle – one worth celebrating ba’zman hazeh, at this time.

Yaakov Astor, Editor-in-Chief