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Why the People Screamed When They Prayed

Two men were good friends from the time they were children. When they grew older, one became a Rosh Yeshiva (headmaster/rabbi at a Jewish school) and the other became a very successful merchant. At one point, the Rosh Yeshiva had to go on a trip to collect money for his yeshiva. During his trip, he visited the city where his friend the merchant lived. The merchant was delighted to see his old friend, and he invited him to spend Shabbos at his house.

The Rosh Yeshiva gladly accepted the invitation. Before Shabbos, he gave his friend the money he had collected during his travels so far, asking him to safeguard it until his departure.

Friday night, the two friends went to pray in the local shul (synagogue). The Rosh Yeshiva was surprised to see that the people in the shul screamed loudly when they prayed.

Later, when they were eating the Friday-night meal, the merchant asked his guest what he thought of the community. “I am very impressed with the community,” the Rosh Yeshiva responded, “but can you explain to me why the people here shout so loudly when they pray? Where does this custom come from?”

The merchant declined to give an answer as his wife brought out the Shabbos food. The question was soon forgotten as the two friends began discussing Torah matters and remembering things from their childhood.

In shul the next morning, the strange behavior of people screaming loudly when they prayed repeated itself, and the Rosh Yeshiva was very bothered by the loud shouting of the congregants.

At the day meal, he again asked his friend for an explanation of this unusual custom, but again the merchant avoided the question. The same thing happened at shalosh seudos, after the two returned from a noisy Minchah.

Immediately after Havdalah that night, the Rosh Yeshiva got ready to leave, and he parted warmly from his friend who had hosted him so graciously. As he was about to leave the house, he asked his friend to return the money he had given him for safekeep¬ing on Friday.

“What money?” the merchant asked in surprise.

“The money that I collected on this trip,” the Rosh Yeshiva replied. “I gave it to you before Shabbos, don’t you remember?”

“I’m sorry,” the merchant said, “but I don’t remember you giving me anything for safekeeping.”

“What?” the Rosh Yeshiva sputtered. “How can you not remember? I gave you a thick wad of money!”

“I don’t recall anything of the sort,” the merchant said calmly.

The Rosh Yeshiva realized that he was in deep trouble. He had given his friend tens of thousands of crowns, all of the money he had worked so hard to raise during his trip, thinking that his friend would hide it away in his safe until Shabbos was over. It hadn’t occurred to him to ask his old friend to sign a paper stating that he had received the money. Who would have ever thought that his friend would dream of taking the money for himself?

But now, to his dismay, he realized that he had been naïve in trusting his friend, for his friend valued money far more than friendship.

Seeing that his friend had no intention of returning the money, he raised his voice and shouted at him, “You rasha (wicked man)! Where’s all the money I gave you? How can you dare to do such a thing? This is money that was collected for the yeshiva!”

The Rosh Yeshiva’s shouts were loud enough to be heard out¬side on the street, but the host just listened impassively.

“Excuse me,” he said, “why are you shouting? Can’t you talk calmly and quietly?”

“How can I talk quietly after you hurt me so deeply?” the Rosh Yeshiva continued to yell.

Suddenly, a broad smile spread over the host’s face. He walked over to his safe, removed the money, and handed it to his stunned friend the Rosh Yeshiva.

Jewish Prayer

“Listen to what you are saying,” he told him. “When someone is in pain, troubled or upset, they raise their voice and scream. Is has been this way since ancient times when Samuel wrote: ‘In my distress I called upon the L-rd, and cried to my G-d; and he heard my voice from his temple, and my cry entered into his ears.’ (II Samuel 22:7) So why are you so surprised that the members of our community raised their voices and shout when they pray? They are in pain, and they know that through prayer they can be healed from all of their pain and suffering. And that’s why they scream!”

This is how every Jewish person should approach prayer. He should feel that he has the opportunity to pour out his heart to his Father in Heaven, tell him everything that is hurting him, and ask him to take pity on him and save him.

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)
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Why the People Screamed When They Prayed


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