The Ability to Pray for Another

Day 11 – Berachos 12

וְאָמַר רַבָּה בַּר חִינָּנָא סָבָא מִשְּׁמֵיהּ דְּרַב: כֹּל שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר לוֹ לְבַקֵּשׁ רַחֲמִים עַל חֲבֵירוֹ וְאֵינוֹ מְבַקֵּשׁ — נִקְרָא ״חוֹטֵא״. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״גַּם אָנֹכִי חָלִילָה לִּי מֵחֲטֹא לַה׳ מֵחֲדֹל לְהִתְפַּלֵּל בַּעַדְכֶם״.

And Rabba bar Ḥinnana Sava said in the name of Rav: Anyone who can ask for mercy on behalf of another, and does not ask is called a sinner, as it is stated following Samuel’s rebuke of the people: “As for me, far be it from me that I should transgress against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you, but I will teach you the good and the right way” (I Samuel 12:23). Had Samuel refrained from prayer, he would have committed a sin.

Berachos 12b – Sefaria

The Gemara tells us that anybody who is able to pray on behalf of another should do so. One can ask – why doesn’t the Gemara simply say that one should pray on behalf of others, and if one is unable to, its ok. Why the seemingly extra words of “Anyone who can ask”?

Rav Steinman Zt’l explained so beautifully, that when it comes to interpersonal relationships, many times one has in his or her heart a grudge or feeling of jealousy against another. A prayer for someone that you bear a grudge against, is not considered a wholehearted prayer and is not necessarily answered.

Therefore, he explains, the Gemara says that only one who is able to pray wholeheartedly and drop any grudges against the other, should pray for his friend.

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