Psalm 27- A New Line
The Talmud (Brachot 32b) offers a prayer tool in explaining the repetition of “kaveh el Hashem, chazak v’yameitz libecha v’kaveh el Hashem”, “hope in Hashem, strengthen yourself and He will place courage in your heart, and hope in Hashem” (Tehilim 27:14). Rabbi Chama Bar Chanina said: If a person sees that he has prayed but has not been answered, he should go back and pray again, as it says “Hope in Hashem…and hope in Hashem”.
Does this mean that if I feel that my prayer was not effective I should simply repeat it until it works?
Let us reflect on the story of Rav Pereda, who taught the same passage four hundred times to one of his pupil until his pupil had mastered what he was being taught. It seems inconceivable that Rav Pereda would repeat the same exact thing, in the same exact way four hundred times, and that the student would be capable of the same thing being drilled into his mind over and over again, until suddenly, he would get a grasp on it.
Rather, it would seem that Rav Pereda was praised for being a master teacher, adept at presenting the same ideas in so many different ways, using different approaches, different medium, reaching his student in a manner that would always be new and exciting, and revealing each time deeper levels of meaning.
So, I ask you, if you feel that your prayer was not effective, if you feel that you were not answered, that you were not changed by the experience, should you say it again, the same way you did before? Should the four-hundredth time be the same as the previous three hundred and ninety times? Should you pray the same way this year than last year?
In between the two expressions of “kaveh”, we find “chazak v’yametz libecha”; the “chazak” is empowering us to find new ways to approach our Davening. This in turn allows us to feel Hashem giving us a sense of courage “v’yametz libecha”, urging us to address Him, not out of habit, or using an approach we are comfortable with, but exploring different facets of our relationship with Him.
“Kaveh” from the word “kav”, is a line. Part of tapping into the potential of the month of Elul is reflecting on the “lines” we use to connect to God. Which ones worked, and which ones didn’t? Did we limit ourselves by being confined in a single role in our communication with our Creator? Did we repeat patterns over and over, or did we evaluate whether we felt changed by our encounter with God?
“V’kaveh el Hashem”; maybe it is time to find a new line. May it fill us with hope, courage and joy!