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The Blessing in Being Apart

The Blessing in Being Apart

How prayer unifies us


She exuded a rare inner beauty that struck me right away. As dusk descended on Jerusalem, we both moved closer to the Western Wall, eager to touch the sacred, sun-kissed stones.

There, as at every place of prayer, our differences fell away. The crowd surged forward, and I sensed a single heartbeat: the unified sound of a people who had come to talk to their Creator.

Pressing her lips to the ancient stones, she broke down, sobbing uncontrollably. Hers was a cry I had never heard before—a deep, raw grief that unveiled a tender vulnerability. She clung desperately to the wall, as if hoping it would comfort her.

For a moment, I could not remember why I had come. I placed my palms on the stones; they were burning. From the summer sun or from her hot tears?

That evening, I prayed for the brokenhearted girl who stood next to me. I prayed that whatever pain she was experiencing would not last a moment longer. I asked G‑d to send her a sign, a blessing, an angel to guide her.

As a child, you believe your prayers go straight to heaven. Life is simple, and in your own little world, things are the way they ought to be. Candy tastes good; holidays are fun; and when you pray to G‑d, He responds accordingly.

I remember when I lost this, when the innocence of my faith in G‑d was crushed.

“If the one I was praying for is gone,” I wanted to know, “where did my prayers go?”

Prayer elevates the soul, the adults told me. Though we may not see the body change, they said, the soul gains through every prayer.

Indeed, every soul agrees to live its predestined life in spite of the hurdles it knows it must breach because it yearns to complete its mission. And to that end, what our prayers accomplish for a departing soul is beyond our comprehension. That our perception is limited to the physical world renders the effect of these prayers no less potent than those that materialize before our very eyes.

But to my young mind, talk of souls and spirits was not satisfactory. I urged my mother for something more.

She related the story of a certain Chassid who journeyed to his rebbe, seeking relief from a life of sorrow.

“Pray,” his rebbe told him, “and things will get better.”

“But I’ve been praying for years!” cried the Chassid in anguish. “Where have all my prayers gone?!”

His rebbe answered with a stunning statement that carried so much pain, yet so much love.

“Someone else on this earth also suffers as you do, but unfortunately, he does not know how to pray. When you pray for yourself, you become a lifeline for him.”

Do not fear that your prayers go unanswered. On the contrary, they go farther than you could ever imagine. Your heartfelt plea is so sincere, so cherished by G‑d, that He is collecting your precious tears and distributing your prayers among all those souls experiencing similar hardships. G‑d is not making you wait; He is answering your prayer at a magnitude inconceivable to you.

The Torah tells us of the momentous birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah in their old age. In celebrating this miracle, our matriarch Sarah exclaims, “G‑d has made joy for me; whoever hears will rejoice over me.” The Midrashic interpretation of the words “will rejoice over me” offers an intriguing revelation: “Many barren women were remembered with her; many sick people were healed on that very day; many prayers were answered with hers; and there was much joy in the world.” (Genesis Rabbah 53:8)

Sarah’s prayers had spanned the hopes and dreams of people in faraway lands, so that when she was finally answered, it was on a cosmic level. Herein lies the mystical power of prayer.

The Talmud insists that G‑d did a favor for the Jewish people by dispersing them throughout the world (Pesachim 87b). Indeed, our geographical exiles serve to secure our physical survival, for should Jewish life be threatened in one country (G‑d forbid), Jewish communities elsewhere around the globe can come to their rescue.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn takes this idea one step deeper: Yes, there is a blessing in being apart, he explains. For if Torah observance is compromised in one particular place due to religious persecution, its heartfelt performance elsewhere endures to sustain the Jewish people spiritually, infusing those struggling far away with the strength to endure.

But there is yet another sense of “apart,” and this, too, carries a blessing.

Though intrinsically we are all one, G‑d created experiential distance between His creations. We are set apart by the nature of our challenges, exiled in our individual battles.

Yet when G‑d placed each soul in its own orb of experiences, He also granted us a window into each other’s lives. He created the finest yin-yang balance, where I deeply sense the despair of your struggle, but nonetheless still passionately believe in your redemption. And the blessing in being apart is realized when, through the hope that remains in my heart, your pain becomes my prayer.

Indeed, it is for a greater good that G‑d did not place us in the same existential exiles, for in His scattering our souls He created the necessary space between us to always lift each other’s spirits and yearn for a better tomorrow.

I believe that though we are finite beings—bound by time and caught in space—G‑d gives us a glimpse of someone else’s unrest and grants us the ability to transcend our human limitations. Though our apartness is so vast, when we choose to pray for another soul, we build a spiritual connection with that soul. It is like the path of time travel through a Tesseract: We enter the fourth dimension, bypassing all the confines separating us and uniting our souls in a bond otherwise unachievable.

Suddenly I know you, and your insurmountable struggle has almost become my own. I want to change the world for you; I want to step where you cannot because your pain has crushed you.

On that late summer afternoon at the Western Wall, G‑d highlighted the blessed gulf between the brokenhearted girl and me, fueling my prayer, and bringing us closer to one another than we ever could have been.

Granted, I don’t know where my prayers went that day or how they impacted her life. But as the Rebbe once wrote to Israeli general and politician Rehavam Ze’evi, “An honest, heartfelt blessing from one to another is potent, and will materialize—sometimes in full, and sometimes in part; sometimes immediately, and sometimes after a while ... .”

Many people walk through our lives, to be sure, but none do so without reason. If G‑d has shown you the struggle of a stranger, it is so that one more prayer is sung in this world. Sing, and let the heavens resound with a fervent song of redemption for all of humanity.

Sara Hecht is a freelance writer, composer and singer from Australia. To book Sara for a musical performance, visit
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Chava M. golus November 19, 2015

Thank You Thank you Sara for sharing this powerful thought. It resonates and heals in a number of ways.

Thanks for publishing. Reply

Maria Virginia Destefani March 4, 2013

Amaizing! Beautiful I could not stop crying, just what I needed...
Thank you very much, G-d bless you always! Reply

sara yaffee Brooklyn, New York March 18, 2012

WOW WOW loved it Reply

k.o.smith Denison, tx,u.s.a. January 16, 2012

What a great story and lesson Thank you for the wonderful lesson the Jewish people are a light to all the earth, our G-d was so very right to give the Torah to Israel.This lesson gives so much in-sight to prayer and also comfort to me, when i pray every morning for our members. Reply

Jewell Martinez, Ga January 11, 2012

WOW! Thank you so much, what a blessing! Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma January 11, 2012

apart and a part a party a partie Dear Chabad, Look to the words.

We are part and a part. Language contains the dichotomy, the essence of profound paradox. First G_d used the letters to Create the World, and they are emergent for those who can see this, from the Hebrew aleph bet. Then G_d wrote us all into a story, that is within the potentials of all letters, and we are actualizing that story through the letters, not the other way around. It' s hard to get one's head around this, but this is intentional. Life is a mystery, life is "my story", a "mine" field, for us all, with geodes, with plans that blow up, and staying alive is truly no accident. All our days are numbered, and in fact, so are the days in Hebrew.

The keys are in the words, and the hidden nature of this is being revealed. Listen, ponder, and learn, as a pond is water, so is this a story of what nourishes us all, Mayim.

Ahora means now, and a hora, a line dance.

We can plumb this miracle forever, we're here, to dance It's not over, when it's over Reply

Chana Lew BROOKLYN, NY January 10, 2012

touched by your words beautifully written. thank you for sharing your thoughts, experiences and teachings. Reply

Dovid Klein Chicago, Illinois January 8, 2012

The Power of Prayer to G-d The above article by Sara Hecht is very well written and very moving and heartfelt. Reply

Cheryl Blossvale, NY January 8, 2012

Thank you ...for sharing your knowledge. Thank you for your encouragement to pray and to wait. Reply

Anonymous Brussels, Belguim January 8, 2012

Absolutely beautiful article. Tears, chills, comfort and a warm heart all in one. And to comment number one.. Wow!! I had a similar habit which has dwindled, definitely time to rekindle! Reply

Anonymous January 8, 2012

AMAZING ARTICLE Thank you so much Sara. Truly amazing and written so well. Love your camper from 2007. Reply

Anonymous Basel January 8, 2012

for all time Thank you for your deep and moving thoughts. Yes, one must remember that prayers span for all eternity. Our forefathers and mothers prayed for us and we are continually blessed by what they did for us. In the same way we must believe that our prayers affect the entire world for the generations to come and for all time, and that our prayers will be a piece of the puzzle that leads to the final redemption, which should come speedily and in our days. Reply

raf wellington January 4, 2012

how are you so brilliant Reply

Anonymous December 23, 2011

I am pretty sure this works When I was in college 25 years ago, I would hear sirens and my two little daughters and I would pray. We also prayed before I drove. We were X-ian at the time, but no matter even now, our prayers were heard. Sometimes other students would come pray with us. We were busy with our pauses as the university was across the street from a hospital. We prayed for the safety of the people for whom the sirens blared, and we prayed for wisdom for the rescuers. We did this for ambulances, police cars, and firetrucks. We did it after I left college, too, and we prayed before I drove, because I was scared.

A couple of years ago, my house burned down. I got my kids out and called EMS and stood watching it burn and then heard sirens. Out of habit, I prayed, then I remembered all those times that I'd prayed with my children when we heard sirens. It would be months before I realized the danger I'd been in, but when it sunk in how close I came to not making it, I knew the prayers came back. Reply

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