("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
Once upon a time, a legion of rambunctious soldiers set up camp within a small city. The soldiers entered the people’s homes at their own whim, ate their food, drank their alcohol and plundered the city at every turn. The lawlessness and havoc reigned throughout the area for months on end.
The people had enough. The citizens went to a well known Chassidic Rebbe lived within their midst and asked him to save them.
The Rebbe asked them for a Pidyon: “Give a donation of $100,000 to Tzedaka and I will pray that in merit of the gift, the soldiers leave the city at once.”
Some of the citizens balked at the asking. “Is it not enough for us to suffer until now? We have been plundered by soldiers. Now we have to come up with another $100,000?!” they exclaimed. Others quickly complied figuring that they had nothing to lose. The money was gathered and donated, and almost immediately an order came in from central command ordering the troops to leave the city at once – even before the Rebbe had the chance to daven.
The people approached the Rebbe and asked him to return their donation. After all, the donation was given so that the soldiers would leave and behold – they left on their own. The Rebbe argued that the Tefilla worked insofar as the fact that on high they knew it was coming – and moved the soldiers already.
(The debate reached the ears of the Maharsham who sided with the Rebbe).
Rav Shimshon Dovid Pinkus utilizes this story to highlight the utility of Tefillah --- not in changing the past--- but in helping bring about the positive in the future. We do not daven to change the past but we can daven for the guidance and fortune to utilize the past and present to bring about a positive future.
However, a second element and lesson from the aforementioned story comes to mind – which calls into account the reason we choose to do Mitzvos. Do we choose to give Tzedaka or perform acts of Chessed in order to receive Beracha or have a Tzaddik daven on our behalves? What about other alleged segulos like the separating of Challah for a Shidduch or for parnassa and the like? Does a Torah Haskafa allow one to attach conditions to Mitzvah performance? Should it? If things do not work out in the frame we want them to, do we too, "harden our hearts" and ask that the Mitzva be "returned?
How do we reconcile the need to follow the word of Hashem regardless of immediate consequence with the practices of segulah and Zechus? How do we explain it to our children and those around us who question it?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and community.