Vayechi-Bow and Arrow
“And Israel said to Joseph… I have given you one more portion than your brothers, which I took from the Emori’s hand with my sword and my bow” (Vayechi 48: 21-22).
The Kotzer expounded: “The Targum Onkelos translates ‘by my sword and my bow’ as ‘by my prayer and petitions.’ Why is prayer compared to a bow? Just as the greater the tension on the bow-string, the further the arrow flies, so it is with prayer. The more we concentrate ourselves with intent of the heart, the further upwards the prayer soars, splitting open the very Heavens.” (Leaping Souls, Ch. 15)
The tension comes from pulling the bow-string and arrow against one’s body, and then letting the arrow fly away. Prayer first needs to be pulled into one’s being in order for it to soar.
If the words are simply gliding over us, they won’t gather much momentum and cannot be very effective.
There needs to be tension; the act of preparing oneself for prayer, of capturing all of one’s diffused thoughts and scattered pieces, of condensing and uniting them into one desire, of driving this single intent from deep inside one’s heart and, while keeping the focus, aiming straight up and shooting.
This is the kind of prayer that can allow a Israel to “take land from the Emori’s hand”; it is the kind of prayer that can allow us to conquer both our physical and spiritual enemies.