Avraham experiences a communication from Hashem at the start of the parsha (Beraishis 18:1, 18:13). And it culminates with Hashem’s informing our forebear of the impending destruction of S’dom (18:20-21).
Then, the Torah tells us, vayigash – “and [Avraham] then came forward” – to appeal for a rescinding of the divine decree (18:23). The “coming forward,” as Rashi explains, implies tefillah, prayer.
Which leads to a striking observation, recounted by Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, zt”l, in the name of Rav Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, zt”l: Prayer can create a closer connection to Hashem than prophecy.
Avraham was already conversing with Hashem when he “came forward” to try to intercede on behalf of the citizens of S’dom. “Coming forward” implies a more direct, more intimate relationship.
“Reciting prayers” is a common phrase, and a telling one. Unfortunately if understandably, praying daily, especially when, as we are required to do, we use a particular formula of words, can lead to mindless recitation of the words, to “praying” by rote.
True tefillah, though, where the supplicant infuses his words, oft-repeated though they are, with intent and heart, is anything but “recitation.” In fact, it has the potential of constituting a human-divine connection, stronger and more intimate than prophecy.
Something to have in mind, especially these challenging days, when taking those three steps forward.
© 2023 Rabbi Avi Shafran