Quote: Many Seforim ask a question, how does tefillah work? If Hashem has decreed that a person will be lacking parnasah, how should Tefillah be able to change the bodings [see Ramban (Parshas Vayetzeh 30 2)].

The Sefer Haikrim (4 18) explains that through the Tefillah THE PERSON rises to a new level of connection to Hashem, and relative to the person who came IN to the shul, the one leaving it is a new person. Hence Tefillah doesn’t change Hashems mind, it changes the person who is davening, and consequently we are judged differently. The initial decree was only given against the person while he stays on his initial level, however, if the person manages to change his status, his judgment changes too.

Many Seforim use this concept to explain how tefillah can change a heavenly decree [See Baal Shem Tov (Amud Hatefilah 159)].

Suppose for example two brothers are deathly ill, both pray, change themselve in the same manner, doing the same stuff etc. but one dies and the other one get cured and stays alive. In such a hypothetical case what did the prayer do for the one that died?

  • 1
    How do you know that they both changed themselves in the same manner in the depths of their souls? Sep 15, 2016 at 16:16
  • 1
    A related concept is expressed during the High Holidays - "Repentance, prayer and charity pass over the bad decree." How is prayer able to do this?
    – DanF
    Sep 15, 2016 at 18:58

2 Answers 2


the prayer will accomplish that he did his duty of praying to God for help as the shaar bitachon writes:

You know what was said about Asa, despite all of his piety, when he relied on the doctors as written "during his illness, he did not seek help from G-d, but only in the doctors" (Chronicles II 16:12) (i.e. he did not also pray ), and he was punished for this. And the verse says "Blessed is the man who trusts in the L-ord; the L-ord shall be his refuge" (Yirmiya 17:7).

and earlier there

The alchemist's skills will not accompany him in the afterlife, they may only provide him, in this world, security from poverty and from needing other people. But for one who trusts in G-d, the reward for his trust will accompany him in this world and in the next, as written "Many are the pains of the wicked (in the afterlife - PL); but one who trusts in G-d will be surrounded by kindness" (Tehilim 32:10), and "how great is Your goodness that you hid away for those who fear You" (Tehilim 31:20).



Rav Albo explains that our livelihood is calibrated. G-d's decrees are not black and white, either one gets a million rand or one gets nothing, regardless of what one does. Rather, the decree is calibrated according to one's actions. In other words, to use the example of the farmer, if one puts in the effort and ploughs his field and does whatever is necessary - reaping, employing workers, finding buyers - then one will have a successful harvest and earn a decent living; and if not, he won?t. (Of course, it could be that for some people, their particular decree is that their crops will fail even if they put in the effort; and for others there may be a special decree that they become wealthy without lifting a finger - for example, by winning the lottery. That is certainly possible. However, the decrees in heaven take our efforts and actions into account and can be calibrated accordingly.)

Thus we see that although there are decrees which are issued on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur, they are linked to our actions. Coming back to the discussion regarding prayer, Rav Albo says that prayer is the same: decrees are linked to our prayers. Meaning, a certain decree may have been issued, but G-d built into the original decree that it is dependent on our praying. G-d does not change his mind because we nag him. Rather, He issues the decree in such a way that our prayers can change its outcome For example, suppose G-d forbid there was a decree of ill health for a particular person. It could be, based on what Rav Albo says, that although the decree has been given, the person will be healed by praying. Or, it could be that, unfortunately, even with prayer, the person won't be healed. That, too, could have been part of the original decree. But we are required to pray, because it can affect the outcome of the decree - not because it''s causes G-d to change His mind, so to speak, but because prayer was part of the original decree.

Furthermore, Rav Albo says, through the process of prayer we actually change who we are, and that in itself has the ability to change the decree. When we pray to G-d, we are transformed and uplifted. In fact, Rav Albo compares prayer to the process of repentance. Prayer, like repentance, changes who we are. It could be that a certain decree was issued, but if a person repents the decree might be changed in the merit of his or her repentance. The purpose of prayer is not to change G-d?s mind but to change us . G-d issued the decree based on who the person was at that particular time. If, through the process of prayer, one has changed, if one has become uplifted and closer to G-d, then it is as though he or she is a new person and consequently the decree may change - not because G-d changed His mind, rather because the person has undergone a process of spiritual transformation. Prayer is a golden opportunity which Hashem has given us to become new people, to change ourselves and become closer to Him and thereby affect heavenly decree.

Prayer is about changing who we are. When we change ourselves, we have the ability to change the world. There is always hope and the possibility of changing G-ds decrees, not in the sense of making G-d change His mind, but because the very nature of a decree is that it can be changed. In other words, G-d may have put the challenge of the decree before us so that we change it through our prayers. G-d, in His kindness, has given us a framework which is responsive to our actions; and it is up to us to pray, transform ourselves, and thereby influence our fate.

Could it be that although one dies and another one lives, in both cases the decree changed, although from a human perspective it seems that in one case it didn't?

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .