Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi
"When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, Give me children, or I'll die!’ "Jacob became angry with her and said, "Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?" (Bereshit 30: 1-2)
In the middle of this week's parasha, we read of a strange conversation between Yaacob avinu and Rahel emenu. After years of marriage, Rahel sees that she is not conceiving a child, and demands from Yaacob:
"Hava li banim, ve'im ayin, metah anochi" - "Give me children, and if not, I will die."
Yaacob immediately responds to her if it was he who was preventing her from having a child. Yaacob avinu already had three sons from Leah (Rahel's sister), which obviously showed that he was able to produce children. Yaacob was telling his wife that the fault lied with her and not with him.
We need to understand what actually is transpiring in this dialog between Yaacob and Rahel. Did Yaacob have the power to make her pregnant, that Rahel came to him demanding children? It is obvious that Rahel believed so. She wanted Yaacob to pray longer, and with more kavana (intent), so that she would have a baby. What Rahel did not realize was that Yaacob was already praying for her, for he loved her more than his other wives, but Rahel wanted him to do more on her behalf.
Yet still, why did Yaacob answer Rahel in such a way: "Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?"
Rahel, in saying what she did, hurt Yaacob tremendously. She was content to fall into a depression until she passed away, being like a "dead person", and forgoing on life. Nothing was more precious to Yaacob than Rahel- herself. When she threatened him, giving him that ultimatum- either give her kids or she will die- Yaacob could not hear it. And so Yaacob decided that he had to teach his wife an important lesson.
Yaacob told her that she was the reason why she was not conceiving a child. Her prayers were not what they should be. Rahel looked to blame Yaacob and the method of his prayer instead of looking to her own prayers and analyzing them.
As we see later in the parasha, in pasuk 22, Hashem answered Rahel. She learned the lesson from Yaacob, and prayed strongly on her own. Hashem answered her, and blessed her with Yosef Ha'Sadiq.
"Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, "God has taken away my disgrace." She named him Joseph, and said, "May Hashem add to me another son." (Beresheet 30: 22-24) And indeed, this is a lesson that we can all learn from. The power of tefillah is mind-boggling. When one has an unfortunate circumstance befall them, or if one is ve'shalom sick, there is no better prayer than that of the person that the circumstance fell upon. Rahel wanted Yaacob to pray harder, but never thought that she should pray harder and do more.
Indeed, today, many people go to rabanim and ask them to pray for them. There is nothing wrong with this practice on a general level. The tefillah of a saddiq is powerful. However, one must realize that the prayer of the Sadiq is only secondary to that of the person who is going through the problem. The answer is to pray! Yourself! If a tragedy has hit you or your family, remember that you have Hashem you can always turn to- ask the gabbai for the keys to the shul, come at night, open the hechal, and cry to Hashem. no one's tefillah will help you more than your own.