Thursday, February 25, 2010



by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

This morning at the Kotel, a young man was screaming his Psalms so loudly that I was really bothered by it. It was very early in the morning, and there were only 3 of us there. I love being at the Kotel at that time. You can look up quietly and feel so much. But, even though he was as far away from me as you can get and still be at the Kotel, he was screaming so loudly that his feelings kept me from feeling that special feeling that I love to feel.

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It used to be, some 25 years ago, that once or twice a week I would be the only person at the Kotel at that early hour. Now that so many Jews are coming to Israel, it is quite rare to be so alone. So, I treasure the opportunity now even more than I did before.

But you know that you really can't go tell another Jew to be quiet, and not to pray the way he wants, but I gave it a shot anyway.

I walked over and asked, "Who are you yelling at?" I had to yell for him to hear me over his screaming.


"Why are you screaming so loudly? Do you think that He doesn't hear you?"

The young man jumped toward me as he spoke, "What? This is so important," he said as he banged on the book of Psalms that he held in his hand. "I have to scream out to let Him know just how much we need His help!"

"But you do know that He is right here, don't you? I mean if you are speaking to someone who is standing right in front of you, you don't have to shout, do you?"

"You don't understand!" He said in a very loud and urgent voice.

"You're doing it again," I told him, as I backed away from his aggressive manner.

I spoke softly, "You should talk to G-d the way you speak to your father, or to your wife. Do you scream at them?"

He became quiet and seemed to stop and think.

"How would you like your children to talk to you? Screaming? Or sweetly?" I asked.

"Sweetly," he answered and bowed his head.

I spoke softly, trying to bring him to a gentler way to pray. "You can get much more from listening than you can from yelling."[i] I stood with my hand cupped behind my ear and looked up toward the top of the Kotel, as if I was straining to hear something very quiet.

He became still.

I smiled and walked back to the place where I sit. I really did not expect him to change. After all, he is a "son of the King!"[ii] And beside that, people around here are pretty impressed with the fact that, "the entire creation was created for my benefit."[iii] But, I felt that it would be wrong to sit there and feel upset with the guy, without at least asking him to cooperate.

I was amazed. He went on with his prayers, but sweetly, instead of screaming! I walked by him later, and he smiled at me warmly. Surely, the Moshiach is really close now!

[i] Gemora Megila 18a "If a word is worth one coin, silence is worth two."
[ii] Gemora Shabbos 128a
[iii] Gemora Sanhedrin 37a


  1. Rabbi Locks: I just discovered I have a book here written by you. "Spice of Gematria"....

  2. Well, I have to admit that I too have yelled out to HaShem and even screamed at HaShem during some of my prayers -- and worse!

    Isn't it written, "Awake, why sleepest Thou, O L-RD? Arouse Thyself, cast not off for ever" (Tehilim 44:24). It's difficult to image that given the context there that one would calmly and sweetly address these words to one's Heavenly Father.

    Even when the context isn't so grave and urgent, when HaShem's repeated answer to our petitions is a spoken or unspoken "No, my child" - and I know this from the pleadings and demands of my own son - one can become totally frustrated and make repeated requests with increased volume.

    When driven to that degree of frustration, one's emunah can go out the window and one can start to think, "Perhaps added volume is needed to sway the Bestower of Goodness to relent and see things my way." Trusting that HaShem's answers are ALWAYS for the best isn't easy.

    That said, am I offended when my son raises his voice to me? No.... In fact, at times I have to chuckle at him and at times his frustration and inability to present his request with less volume and more logic moves me to acquiesce and give in to his begging and/or his demands.

    What father isn't moved by the urgent and repeated pleadings of his child? Is HaShem any different? Sure, it might be better to ask sweetly or present an intelligent case for one's requests, but ... when the answer comes across as a constant, "No!" or "Not yet!" or "Wait and be patient!" ... then one's frustration level can reach a point of sheer desperation. One can easily forget to Whom one is speaking. I know this and I'm sure that HaShem understands this too.

    Rabbi Label Lam once asked a certain rabbi for some wisdom regarding successful parenting. The reply was a simple, "Don't take it personally." In short, don't let your child's immaturity get to you. A child is a child and children can become so frustrated at times that they lash out at their own parents. "Don't take it personally." We parents should keep that in mind, because HaShem certainly does. Perhaps that's why our Heavenly Father created teshuvah before the foundations of the world. He knew that we'd have frequent need of it. ;)

    I don't know.... I'm a just a Noachide, so I'm not trying to lecture anyone here or give out any mussar. I'm just sharing my own POV and life experience, for whatever it's worth.

  3. kol hakavod reb gutman!!!!

    i wish that all the loud people of the world could hear you!

    you did a mitzvah gdolah for this young man.

    chazak ubaruch!!!!!


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