In this weeks Parsha, just moments before Yaakov blessed all his children he called over Yosef and told him something strange. “Yisrael (Yaakov) said to Yosef, ‘I am about to die… I have given you Shechem, which I took from the emorite with my sword and my bow – B’Charbi U’Bekashti” (48:21-22) Unkelos translates B’Charbi U’Bekashti, my sword and my bow, as ‘B’tzulasi U’Bebausi’ which doesn’t mean sword and bow, it means with my prayer and my request. What could be the reason that Unkelos decided to “mistranslate” what Yaakov said?
There are two levels to our three daily tefillos; our prayers and our requests.
Our prayers are what has been prepared for us by the Anshei Knesses Hagedola, who compiled the siddur we use today. Yet our requests are something more. Our requests are the personal things we can ask for in Shemonah Esrei that start from our heart, these bakashos which are in our own words have much more strength than the other prayers. In Shemonah Esrei there’s a Bracha for livelihood, for health, for just about anything, yet our personal additions are a change in the flow of tefillah. A new path in serving HaShem is being created with every uttered word. A Mashul is given of a well known road, there, hiding in wait are bandits who prey on the unsuspecting merchants traveling through. Yet if a merchant was smart he would trailblaze. He would create a new road. A new road that would be impossible for bandits to know about.
This is our prayer and our requests.
Our prayers are a well travelled road. Tens of millions of Jews for hundreds of generations have “travelled” on this road. Yet the bandits lie in wait; the distractions, the Yetzer Horah who attempts to hijack our prayers. Yet if we trailblaze, and we ask from our heart for anything; for things important – like livelihood, good friends, success in Torah Study, to things that are somewhat mundane. All these things can be our prayers, you can trailblaze that path that no one can ambush you on. These requests, these pleas are yours and no one else’s in the world – they came from your heart and because of that they have so much more strength.
“Bakashti, with my bow” comes from the word Bakasha, request. We can inference that both a bow and a request need to be used the same way. How is this so? Just like one who desires to shoot an arrow a great distance must pull the bowstring back close to his heart, so too, one who wants his prayers to fly straight, strong, and true must start from his heart.
Pray your prayer, request your request, trailblaze that new path in your service of God.