Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Face Of Evil

When Yaakov Avinu decides to leave Lavan's house he calls a meeting with his two wives, Rochel and Leah. At this meeting Yaakov describes his reason for bailing out on Lavan. It's not because of the continuing saga of lies and deceit that infest Lavan's house and property (the very presence of both Rochel and Leah at this meeting is a striking reminder of that fact) and it is not the ever presence of idolatry. The reason, in a nutshell, is Lavan's face.

Yaakov comments to his wives that Lavan's face has changed and "… isn't like it was yesterday or the day before " [Bereshis 31:2]. Was there a new evil in Lavan that Yaakov was detecting ?

The simple meaning of the passuk is that Lavan was becoming increasingly jealous of the degree of success that Yaakov was having in amassing his own fortune, despite the severe and convoluted restrictions that Lavan placed on him.

On a different level, however, we may suggest that it wasn't Lavan's dismay at all. Lavan was same miserable old cretin he always was. What changed were Yaakov's sensitivities. Every day, Yaakov would encounter Lavan and be struck anew by the unmistakable look of evil upon Lavan's face. He would see him and recoil in inner disgust. On this day, however, things were different. After twenty long years of gratingly resisting Lavan's influence – Yaakov looked upon that face of evil and saw that it wasn't so bad. His level of inner recoil was somewhat muted.

This, more than anything else, was a strong warning signal. As long as Lavan looked like a crook – Yaakov felt that he was not in danger of spiritual contamination – he knew the enemy and would be cautious during any interactions. But when Lavan ceased to look the part – Yaakov realized that what was really faulty was his own compass. He could no longer trust himself to distinguish between an innocent action and one tainted with Lavan's ways of deceit. He had to leave.

And what about us ? Do we notice shifts in our "comfort zone" ? Does something that was once appalling become now, a little less so ? That could be a sign of maturity or growth. Or in could be a warning sign. If certain negative things (language, imagery, discussion topics) cease to be taboo and disgusting maybe we are being shown the true face of evil. Maybe we need a change.

Hatzlacha !!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

With All Of Our Limbs

The daled minim are compared to four of our most basic limbs. The Lulav is compared to the spine, the Esrog to the heart, the Haddas leaves are similar to an eye and the Arava leaves recall a pair of lips.

Chazal encapsulate the meaning of this inner symbolism with a quote by Dovid HaMelech –

[תהילים לה:י] "כל עצמותי תאמרנה ד' מי כמוך"

"All of my limbs will proclaim: 'Hashem, who can compare to you ?!' " [Tehillim 35:10]

That means that a certain aspect of taking the 4 minim is an exclamation of Hashem's greatness.

Consider that each one of the minim offers a unique way to declare Hashem's wonders and our fealty to Him.

When we stand tall and proud as His servants with a straight spine – we are shouting – "Hashem, who is your equal ?!"

When we look upon our fellow Jews with a kind eye, seeing the goodness inherent in each one – we are broadcasting – "Hashem, who can compare to you ?!"

When we use our lips to learn the wisdom of the Torah – we are intoning - "Hashem, who can measure up to you ?!"

And when we feel our hearts bursting with gratitude to the One Above for His kindnesses – we are pulsating – "Hashem, can anyone parallel you ?!"

Additionally, our sages teach us that the four minim are a comparison to four types of Jews. They must be taken together in order to fulfill the mitzvah. How can we increase the 'achdus', the unity between these four disparate brothers ? By realizing that each has a middah that he excels in.

The "lulav Jew" has a fierce Jewish pride – he will even take it to the maximum by mesirus nefesh al Kiddush Hashem.

The "haddasah Jew" sees the good in everyone, and sees Hashem's hand in all actions.

The "aravah Jew" always has a kind word to his fellow.

Finally, the "esrog Jew" is the whole package – motivated by a Jewish heart that beats with devotion to its creator. [ See Avos 2:9]

Hatzlacha !!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Returning ...

When it's renewal time (again)
and when it's time to become a better person (again)
and when it's time to ask or beg forgiveness from all and sundry (again)
we may be feeling like it has all happened before (again).

Yet, upon closer examination, there are things that we happily engage in repetitively :

When it's time for sleep - we sleep (again)
and when it's time to eat - we may vary the menu - but not the basic act of eating (again)
and when the co2 in our system is building up - we breathe (again & again & again!)

So what's the difference ?

Not the need. But the recognition of it.

If we didn't eat, sleep or breathe - the consequences would be drastic - and pretty immediate. The same holds true for teshuva - without it - we would really end up just as withered and dead - it might take a drop longer (which is why we have trouble internalizing the idea) but it is a fact nonetheless.

So rejoice in the repetitiveness of the process - and while you're at it - take a deep breath and enjoy that too!

Hatzlacha !!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sinning Gleefully !

In the infamously harsh passages known simply as the 'Tochacha' or Rebuke, the Torah spells out lists of every possible negative consequence – many of them too horrific to even contemplate. The Torah further teaches us that these are the inevitable results of sinning grievously. What moral debauchery is responsible for prompting Hashem's harsh response? The passuk spells it out.

"תחת אשר לא עבדת את השם א-לוקיך בשמחה ובטוב לבב מרב כל"

[דברים כח:מז]

"In exchange for your failure to serve Hashem your G-d with happiness and a gladdened heart for the abundance [that you have received]"

[Devarim 28:47]

The simple meaning directs us to the unshakeable stark truth – that pious, meticulous service is meaningless (actually far, far worse) if it is not performed properly. With the light, happy heart of someone truly grateful, and mindful of the glorious privilege it is to be performing that service.

But the Kotzker Rebbe taught us a deeper meaning, a meaning that has serious implications for our Elul and approaching Judgment Day.

The Kotzker said the passuk can be read with parenthesis bracketing the first phrase. So it would connote the following. Hashem is afflicting you with this suffering in exchange for your lack of service of Hashem, not only your lack of service – but the lack that you performed with happiness and a gladdened heart ! The passuk is not lamenting lethargy – but rather condemning active sin! Not any old sin – but the worst possible kind – the total ungratefulness of someone whose life is filled with blessings from Hashem turning around and rebelling against Him, and being happy about it!!!

Well, this idea certainly opens up our understanding of the severity of the consequences. But it also contributes to our path of return.

If we are not yet on the level where we can desist from our wrongdoings ( however slight or macabre they be ) we can at least feel bad about doing them. In the book of divine accounts, teach the baalei mussar, an entry of an act of sin is far more than a binary notation. Hashem sees all circumstances and motivations that you have. He also notes whether the act was done with a sigh or not.

There is a world of difference between chasing our physical pleasures heedlessly and willingly and succumbing to a moment of weakness and a chink in our staunch resolve. This Elul let us advance on all fronts in our service of Hashem –

- Improve the mitzvos we can.

- Take on the mitzvos we should.

- Avoid the temptations that are prevalent.

- and at the very least … if the desire to sin is too great – at least regret it. Regret it before it even happens. This way we are at least innocent of the heinous charge of sinning gleefully.

Hatzlacha !!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Heeding The Call Of The Shofar

What does the blowing of the Shofar mean to us ?
What should we be feeling ?

Not just fear.

The shofar of Rosh Hashanna is the heralding bugle of the divine chariot. But the shofar of Elul is different. The shofar of elul is a reminder of the shofar of creation.

When the passuk tells us that Hashem "... breathed into him [Adam] a soul of life ..." [Bereishis 2:7] Chazal teach us that the funnel for transferring that soul was the shofar. When we hear it it should bring to mind that we have a "prime directive", manufacturer's instructions, as it were.

Additionally, the shofar is also the battle charge - and what are we charging against ? Our yetzer hara, of course. A battle charge strengthens the hearts of the timid and gives resolve to the faltering. May we derive such inspiration and chizzuk from the shofar - and with it boldly step towards a Rosh Hashanna of Malchus Shamayim - the undisputed Sovereign Reign of Heaven.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Always In Hashem's Eyes

The Passuk tells us that Eretz Yisrael is .. "A land that Hashem seeks out, always are the eyes of Hashem upon the land from the beginning of the year through the end" [Dvarim 11:12 ]

If Hashem is constantly on the lookout for Eretz Yisrael and what it needs - why mention the year at all ? Isn't it enough to say that it's "always" under divine scrutiny.

No. ( you could see that one coming – right ?

This aspect of Hashem's guiding hand is not just a statement of general heavenly benevolence. Not even a declaration of specific divine providence (hashgacha pratis), either. Rather, the passuk stresses that Hashem gives the land - what it needs and when it needs it - the needs of year's start are satisfied at the start and the blessings needed to wrap up a harvest are present in their proper time as well.

There is nothing quite so demonstrative of good supervision as the ability to tailor it to fit every scenario. Hashem doesn't just make sure that our "beracha reservoirs" are topped off – He is actually watching and guiding every step.

And we also need to recognize that our needs are different – what we needed during Kislev is not what we could use in Nissan. And again, the summer is a totally different story.

So let us recognize and be grateful for Hashem's incredible hashgacha – and let this recognition lead us to new levels of Ahavas and Yiras Hashem. May these emotions pave the way for Mashiach Tzidkeinu, amen.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, May 21, 2010

For Whom The Crown Shines

The Torah teaches us about a certain type of Jew. A Jew who desires to rise to a greater level of holiness and so he refrains from some of the indulgences of the average man. This is the Nazir.

While the term Nazir is used to refer to his abstinence from wine [see Bamidbar 6:3] strictly speaking, the title is derived from the word for a crown ("Nezer").

An interesting attribute of a crown is that it is seen by all as a sign of majesty. But it is not seen at all by the wearer. All who see the crown marvel at it's beauty. Only the one wearing it feels it's weight.

This is the point of the Nazir. His avodas Hashem is extremely public. He must avoid any product that came in contact with wine and he may not attend any funerals ( even his own parents !) He may not shave or take a haircut and so he is certainly visible to all as someone who is taking extreme pains to promote his holiness.

This type of divine service carries with it a danger. The danger of the crown. It is the weight of the crown that keeps the wearer from losing his head. A certain sense of grounding and stability are necessary to embody what the crown represents. The same is true of the Nazir.

A nazir must not enter into his Nazirite contract with a flippant heart or a desire for public displays of piousness. This is why Hashem reminds him of this by referring to his status as a "crowned one".

And what of us ? We no longer accept upon ourselves the nazirite contract. But the message of the contract is still imminently applicable. Yes, our actions are visible to the outside world and our pious practices do shine. But we must feel their weight and responsibility in order to shoulder them properly.

So, for whom does the crown shine ? It shines for thee.

Hatzlacha !!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Receiving Is ... Getting ?

Why do we call the acquisition of Torah "accepting" it (קבלת התורה) ?

I can think of half a dozen terms that would better describe the process by which we attempt to have Torah be a part of our lives. There's the quintessential learning part (תלמוד), without which we would still be ignorant and unlettered. There is also the unceasing, never ending toil by which we must continue to strive for Torah (עמלות והתמדה). We have another facet of our efforts that are not directly connected to the understanding of Torah but more to our own toil at assimilating it into our lives (עבודה).

All in all, there is much about our efforts in Torah that has specific descriptions – and all of them indicate a strong, if not superhuman, dedication to achieving this noble goal.

Accepting it seems to mean just sitting there and Hashem will drop the Torah into your lap. It's a little bit contradictory !

The answer is that there is more than one level of acquisition of Torah and more than one way to approach it. Torah is not gotten without hard work. Ever. What we need to understand is that even after all of our efforts – we still should be unworthy of receiving the Torah. After all, the blueprint for the universe and Hashem's own wisdom has got to be pretty precious. The Medrash teaches us that Torah is sometimes revealed as black fire on white fire – who can say that they have "earned" the right to have that ?!

That's where "accepting" comes in. You see, even after all we do and the countless hours of pushing ourselves to understand and learn we would still not get it, if not for that fact that Hashem, in His kindness, grants it to us as a gift.

So this Shavuous let us concentrate, not only on receiving this incredible Torah that's waiting for us – but on doing all the preliminary work and being worthy to receive.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Our Counting

"וספרת לך שבע שבתות שנים ..." [ויקרא כה:י]

"And you shall count for yourself seven sabbatical years …"[Vayikra 25:10]

Why am I counting "for myself" ? The Kli Yakar offers a fantastic perspective.

Because the Yovel year that comes every 50 years is really for my benefit. Not just for my spiritual benefit – but even for my material benefit.

How so ?

Imagine someone who is very occupied with gathering fruits or something else of a fragile nature. In order to maximize his efforts he doesn’t bother to store the fruits properly – he can't justify the time spent away from his gathering duties. What happens ? He loses what he collected to spoilage and other factors.

Or perhaps someone who is so frantic to make as many cash deals as possible that he can't be bothered to go to the bank and deposit his money – eventually he will lose his cash because carrying it around with him isn't the safest place for it.

In both cases, had the person kept their mind on the final goal (of preservation of wealth) he would have been spared the tragic effects of too much short term effort without long term planning.

We get so caught up in the ins and outs of everyday life that we may forget – "you can't take it with you".

The Yovel year is a built in reminder. And this reminder is for our benefit.


Friday, April 30, 2010

Without a Blemish

The Torah lists several disqualifications for the kehuna, priesthood. [see Vayikra 21:17-23] Anyone with a physical deformity of any kind ( congenital or developed ), even with the proper lineage, is excluded from performing the service in the beis hamikdash. They may still eat terumah and other foods that are the exclusive province of the kohanim - but they may not perform any sacrificial duties.

Why not ?

Certainly Hashem sees past their imperfect outside to a deeper, refined inside. Further more, aren't we taught that there is nothing more whole before Hashem that a broken vessel? ( i.e. Only when one accepts his imperfections and stands in unflinching cognizance of his failings and shortcomings is one considered to be worthy of approaching G-d ) None of us are perfect - perfection is Hashem's exclusive domain - why do we discriminate against those who wear their imperfections on the outside ( as opposed to the imperfections of character that afflict the rest ) ?

This teaches us an important lesson in human nature and the service of the divine.

We aren't G-d. We don't have the vision necessary to perceive the wholeness or lack thereof by purely spiritual standards. We, therefore, must rely on the vision that Hashem created us with.

The kohain who has lived his life with a limp due to a leg injury that has healed wrong may very well be a pure and perfect servant of the creator; but he may not be MY appointed messenger. In my eyes ( limited as they are ) he is imperfect – I must heed my eyes and disqualify him. For choosing him despite his imperfection would be belittling the divine service in its entirety.

And us ? When we do a mitzvah – do we neglect a cosmetic detail with the understanding that "רחמנא ליבא בעי" ("The Merciful One desires [service from] the heart") ? Yes, our service should be more than skin deep and meaning is more important that looks – but - we shouldn't allow ourselves to compromise on the beauty of a mitzvah either – it may very well bring our service down a notch.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, March 26, 2010

For Whom We Slaughter

Parshas Tzav opens with the most fundamental of all the korbanos (the sacrifices) - the Olah. The morning communal Olah (עולת הבוקר) was the first korban brought during the day, and the evening Olah (עולת בין הערביים) was the last korban of the day. The Olah was also purchased from the budget raised by the half shekel census so that the entire population has a stake in it.

Seeing how important the Olah is to the general scheme of korbanos we are left with a glaring question - why wait until the second parsha dealing with korbanos to introduce it ? In parshas Vayikra we dealt with all the personal korbanos - even getting to some infrequent cases like the korban brought by a Beis Din who erred in judgment. What is it about a personal korban, a korban yachid, no matter how infrequently brought, that seems to take priority to a public one, a korban tzibbur, even one as basic as the Olah ?

Perhaps we can understand the role of public korbanos like this :
The essence of a korban is a visceral connection with the slaughtered animal. We devote ourselves to Hashem vicariously through the animal. This is essentially a private act. Every Jew must dedicate himself to the One Above at his pace and on his own terms - some an Olah, some a Shelamim and some a sin offering. It is personal to each Jew.

The purpose of korbanos tzibbur is to make sure that everyone gets in on the action.

No member of klal yisrael should be without this potent divine service - and no divine service can really function without the participation of all of Hashem's children. Thusly, a korban tzibbur is there because every Jew should be bringing korbonos yachidim, which epitomize the sacrificial service.

A korban tzibbur also demonstrates that it would be unthinkable to engage in any service alone that doesn't also have a component that all klal yisrael participates in.

The korbanos tzibbur are for everyone - those who are actively sacrificing and those who have yet to.

Similarly, when we have a tefilas tzibbur, we fulfill the same thing. When we say kedusha or kaddish or anything else that is said only in a quorum - we are of course demonstrating that our unity is significant component of our service - but we are also acting as a tzibbur for all those who may be out there without it.

Hatzlacha !!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

But Is It A Sacrifice ?

When we approach the idea of korbanos we first think of the translation - sacrifices. A sacrifice is an act of self deprivation for a greater good or cause. Pretty accurate, but not entirely. You see, in a sacrifice the recipient is more needy or deserving of the item which we deprived ourselves of. It is in this point that the analogy between korbanos and sacrifices fails.

Hashem does not need our sacrifices - but we need to make them.

Let us take a few moments to study the different types of korbanos and see the different ways to draw close to Hashem. And the different occasions which call for them.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Ahhhhhh, Smells Great !

Why did Hashem command us to have, as part of our service to Him, ketores ?

The Korbanos are necessary for two reasons - firstly, we must envision ourselves being sacrificed upon the altar if we are to achieve the proper remorse and penance for our misdeeds; secondly, the very act of slaughtering something is a very fundamental act - making us acutely aware that the service in which we slaughter is of paramount importance.

But incense ?

The message of the incense is important too.

Chazal teach us that of the myriad of spices the "chelbna" had a horrible odor. But, the ketores was invalid without it. A sacrifice is the 'meat and potatoes' of worship - incense is the icing on the cake. Any one person can bring a sacrifice - but the ketores was only brought by all the Jews.

With a sacrifice we offer Hashem our selves in service. With ketores we offer Him our unity.

What have we done to bring the service of ketores back ?

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Does A Kohein Need Ears ?

In the initiation rites that Moshe Rabbeinu performed for Aharon and the rest of the kohanim we find an interesting ritual. The blood of one of the sacrifices was sprinkled, not only on the alter, which is usual, but upon the kohanim themselves.

It stands to reason that if the kohein is to be my representative to Hashem, he needs to be dedicated to the purpose. So the hands and feet of the kohanim were baptized by the blood to symbolize their job as an extension of our hands and feet in performing the Avodah.

There was a third element in the sprinkling – the ear. What are we to learn from here ? Is the kohein supposed to be my ear as well ? Definitely not. Rather, we see that the kohanim are given the subtle message that to serve as the representatives of other Jews is only possible when they themselves are absolutely attuned to their own obligations. The kohanim must be able to hear clearly the commandments of Hashem and only afterwards are they fit to assist His people in their service of Him.

An additional thought; the kohanim's mouth wasn't sprinkled. This may teach us that despite the kohein being our shaliach in performing a given service – we need no intermediary to pray before the One above. We may not all be holy enough to bring korbanos – but we are all fit to sing the praises of our creator.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Sin

The Torah teaches us that if a man sells himself into servitude the contract expires at the shmitta year. If the servant wishes, however, he may extend his service with his master until the year following the seventh shmitta, the yovel year. This extension is not without its price – the servant's ear is pierced.

Chazal, as quoted in Rashi, comment that the servant deserves this ear piercing because he obviously failed to heed the word of Hashem that he heard from Har Sinai.

This castigation is more appropriate for the second circumstance of forced servitude – the thief. He stole and cannot pay back so he is compelled to 'work off his debt'. When the shmitta year comes he should rejoice at his freedom. If the thief opts to stay on until the yovel he is actually demonstrating that he believes that the theft wasn't all that wrong – after all, how wrong could it have been if the resulting 'punishment' is one he would freely choose ? For that the thief deserves to have the ear that heard "Thou shalt not steal" pierced.

What of the man who went into servitude of his own free will ? What message from Har Sinai did his hearing fail to process, that he should merit a piercing at the point when he displays his affinity for the master / servant social order ? "For Bnei Yisrael are my servants", said Hashem, and not servants of other servants.

But what's so bad being someone else's servant ?

The underlying root of servitude is control. It's not a working contract, whereby one party agrees to render services to the other party. It's a declaration of (near) total subservience to another person. Why would anyone, of their own volition, relinquish their freedom and acquiesce to a state of servitude – what would they gain ?

Every state has advantages and disadvantages. While freedom carries with it the obvious advantage of self determination, it also carries the responsibility for the morality and justice of that determination. A person giving up that freedom is also saying goodbye to that responsibility, the responsibility of exercising that determination correctly. It is this action that the Torah felt needed to be punished with a piercing.

Hashem created us in His image and placed us here in this world to improve ourselves and the world around us. Our single most powerful tool is our divinely mandated free choice. One who willingly deprives himself of this tool is truly ignorant of the lessons of Har Sinai.

And what of us ? We can take heed from the eved ivri – cherish our freedom and realize that the responsibility that we must exercise along with our freedom is both a testament to Hashem's great faith in us – and a major part of our service to Him.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, February 05, 2010

In My Face

In the second commandment Hashem instructs us not to have any other gods. It seems this commandment is limited to a particular location - "על פני". While the simple meaning of this condition is not to have other gods in place of Hashem, we can also translate it to mean "in my face".
Hashem is sending us a subtle message. The polytheistic idolatry that was the mainstay of the Egyptian society was very accommodating of other gods. The incompatibility in belief systems lay in the necessary exclusivity. Egypt could accept that Hashem existed - what they couldn't accept was the turf infringement.
And so, Hashem seeks to remind us that it is "perfectly acceptable" to believe in and worship other gods if we do it outside His jurisdiction. But since no such place exists this is actually a reinforcement of a pivotal lesson - the same lesson that the Shulchan Aruch begins with - "שיוויתי ד' לנגדי תמיד " I place Hashem before me always.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Do We Stand For Or Against ?

The Ramban comments that there is a lesson to be learned from the specific animal that Hashem chose to be sacrificed in eternal commemoration of the exodus from Mitzrayim. The Egyptians worshiped the sheep. Moreover, the very constellation that reigns high in the sky during the month of Nissan is the sheep (or Aries). The act of slaughtering the sheep for our korban Pesach displays our belief that the gods of Egypt are empty gods, and also that the exodus was not "fated by the stars". It wasn't the act of any given power or constellation that plucked the Jewish nation from bondage - but Hashem, and only Hashem.
While it is important to always know what you stand for. It is equally important to demonstrate, quite clearly at times, what you stand against. Were we to simply trumpet the role of the Almighty in the exodus without specifically renouncing the "power of the stars", later generations may have come to the erroneous conclusion that they are both responsible for the salvation !
In today's age of pluralism and globalism this lesson is perhaps all the more poignant. I must know what I believe is true - but no less important is what I believe is false.

What ideas do you stand against ?

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, January 08, 2010

By What Name Does Redemption Go ?

Two quick thoughts :

1. The Parasha and Sefer that details the descent into exile is known as Shemos. Why does the Torah emphasize that the names of Bnei Yisrael were important ?

Because the names and the keeping of them were a pivotal factor in the maintenance of Jewish self identity that les the yidden to be redeemed. Hashem always, but always, prepares the salve before inflicting the wound.

Secondly, the sefer is referred to by the Ramban as the sefer of the galus and the geulah. A quick look at the Parshios of Shemos shows us the the Ramban is teaching us that the building of a Mishkan to house the shechina within our camp is the final redemption from an exile so spiritually depraved as mitzrayim.

By this token we can ask ourselves - in what exile are we currently languishing ?

What will symbolize our redemption ?

What are we doing about it ?

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune

Yaakov Avinu instructs his son Yosef in the art of Jewish warfare. He mentions that he took the city of Shechem with his sword and bow [see bereishis 48:22]. The targum Onkelos transalates this to mean "with my prayers and [heavenward] requests".

Why does Yaakov Avinu refer to his teffilos as instruments of war ?

Because when a Jew steps up before his Maker to offer up words of praise or request it is the most powerful force in the universe - as such the yetzer hara is constantly trying to de-rail his concentration. In battle we never lose focus of the enemy - in davening we should never lose focus of He before whom we stand.

In another, deeper analogy, we may understand two types of prayers.
Teffila is an outpouring of praise and thanks to Hashem - and like the sword that Yaakov represents it with - the more effort you put into the strike - the deeper it will go. But the bow of requests is another story - in order to make the arrow fly farther - I must pull the bow further towards myself ( in fact - towards my heart). The more I internalize the truth that without Hashem granting me my requests, no force on earth ( or above it) will make them come true - the greater distance towards heaven my requests will fly.

Hatzlacha !!