How to pray on Rosh haShana? By Rabbanit Coty Bittón

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We are very close to Rosh HaShana. The day on which we will be judged. Then come the aseret yeme Teshuba, the days of repentance, which conclude on Yom Kippur. During this period, our Teshuba must be accompanied by Tefila, prayers, to ask HaShem for His forgiveness and giving us the opportunity to continue in His book of life.
I would like to share with you some thoughts about Tefila. As a Jewish woman, I’m always proud of our matriarchs. One of them was Hannah, the mother of the prophet Shmuel. In the Haftarah of Rosh HaShana we read the story of Hannah and her Tefila.

Hannah was not able to have children. The same problem that affected virtually all our matriarchs. Our rabbis said that “HaShem wants the Tefila of righteous people”, and that’s why sometimes good people face some very difficult challenges. Hannah is a typical case. Her situation forced her to be creative. And she composed one of the most beautiful and eloquent Tefilot. Let’s see.

Hannah was desperate. Elqana, her husband loved her, but she could not have children. It was very painful for her every time she saw Peninnah, Elqana’s other wife, who did not hide how busy she was taking care of her seven children. In Shiloh, where Elqana and his family visited the Mishkan during Holidays, Hannah prayed to HaShem very eloquently, pouring her heart out to HaShem, asking the Almighty to grant her a son. From this Tefila our Sages learned many technical details that apply to the Amidah (reciting the Tefila standing, moving our lips without raising our voice, the prohibition of drinking alcohol before praying, etc.).

But the main lesson is what we learn from Hannah’s eloquence.

When praying, Hannah did not simply “ask” HaShem for a child. Hannah “presented” her case before HaShem with smart, solid and creative arguments.

1. Hannah first formulated a new way to address HaShem, referring to the Almighty as: “God of the armies (or hosts)”. Our Hakhhamim explained that in this case “armies” refers to the armies of heaven: stars, and galaxies. Like a human army, they move in a precise and harmonious way, obeying the orders of the commander in chief, HaShem. Hannah told HaShem: “You, God of hosts, who have created billions of stars and billions of giant celestial bodies, can’t you grant me just one little baby?”

2. Hannah also told HaShem: “I am a woman. I have been given breasts and reproductive organs. But what good is my female body for if I can not conceive and nurse a child?”

3. According to the Midrash, Hannah also argued: “I fulfilled the three commandments of women (the name Hannah in Hebrew is an acrostic which includes these three mitzvot: Hallah, a piece of the bread dough given to the Kohen; Nidda, family purity; and Hadlaqat Haner, lighting candles before Shabbat). Therefore, don’t I deserve to be granted a son? ”

From Hannah we learn that when we pray and ask HaShem for our needs, we need to be persistent and use, very respectfully, all the arguments we can to show that we deserve a positive response to our request, as Hannah did.

Finally, we also learn an extremely important lesson from Hannah’s story. As we know, at the end HaShem gave her a child. And then Hannah prayed again. This time with more devotion, and much more eloquently.Because now Hannah prayed to thank HaShem. We also learn from Hannah that in the same way we pray to HaShem with all our heart to beg Him for everything we need and want, we should not forget to pray to HaShem thanking Him for everything He gave and gives us. And that we need to convey our gratitude to HaShem, very especially, when our prayers are answered.

These High Holy Days, let us take Hannah as the model for our Tefila. Let us pour our hearts out to HaShem, asking Him to inscribe us in the book of life. And let’s not forget to thank HIM for everything we have received and we receive from Him.