Perek 18 contains the story of the visitors that came to visit Avraham, and the message that they brought him about Yitzchak's impending birth:

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The Talmud Yerushalmi (Sota 7:1), as well as the Midrash Rabbah explain that Hashem engaged in complicated machinations in order to be able to speak to Sara, because Hashem longed to hear discussions from tzadkaniyot. But we need to understand what this longing means and where it comes from.

The Midrash in Lech Lecha (45:4) discusses when Hagar became pregnant with Yishmael. Our foremothers (Sara, Rivka and Rachel) were all barren, and all had to spend years childless before finally becoming pregnant, but Hagar became pregnant right away. Rav Yochanan ben Pazi compares this to a weed that is not planted and not cultivated, but grows of its own accord, while grain must be planted and cultivated and tremendous effort must be spent in order to harvest just a small amount. So why were our mothers barren? Rav Chelbo in the name of Rav Yochanan says that Hashem longed for their tefilla and for their discussion, quoting Shir Hashirim 2: "Yonati Bechagvei Hasela…" why did I make you barren - in order that "Har'ini at mar'ayich, hasmi'ini et kolech", so that you should show your countenance and make your voice heard. There are two types of longing - for their prayers and for their discussions. We see that these two things are separate, but connected.

The longing for Tefillah:

In Shmot Rabbah, the Midrash brings a Mashal that is hard to understand: A King is riding through the land and he hears a princess crying out for help. He saves her, and then desires to marry her. But she is not so ready to accept him just because he saved her that time. So the King stages another attack on the princess, giving him the opportunity to save her again. When she cries out the second time, he reacts by saying, I just wanted to hear your voice again.

The Midrash in Shmot Rabbah uses this Mashal to explain the situation at the edge of the Yam Suf. The Bnei Yisrael cried out to Hashem for help, and He saved them and brought them out of Mitzrayim. Hashem wanted there and then to "marry" them - to give them the Torah and make them His nation. But He saw that the Bnai Yisrael were not yet ready. So he brought them up against the Yam Suf, with the Mitzrim chasing behind them and the desert wilderness closing them in. They cried out again, and Hashem split the Yam Suf allowing them to cross, destroying the Mitzrim in the process. The Bnei Yisrael then sang the Shira, and Hashem was able to "hear their voice" again.

But why did Hashem need to stage the second crisis?

It is like a car, which has two wheels that make it move. There is a wheel that transfers power from the engine to the axles, and there is a wheel that rotates the axles so that the tires revolve. If the first one is turning, but the second one is not connected to it, then the car will have no power to move. It will be running in neutral, and no matter how much gas is injected into the engine, the car will not move. The connection between the two is the essential element needed to move the car.

The Ramchal (Derech Hashem 4:5) explains the matter of tefilla as the necessity for us to awaken and come close to Hashem, and to stand before him. Hashem has all the power in the world, but without us to translate that power into an effect on the world, Hashem would have no influence in this world.

That is the meaning of the word "Tefillah" - "Chibur" or connection. The same is true of the word Tefillin. They are a physical connection that mirrors the spiritual connection of Tefillah. The root of the word is TAFEL - meaning subordinate (Otzar Hatefillot on the Mitzvah of Tefillin). The connection between us and Hashem represented by Tefillah, is where the power and the subordinate are both essential in order for the world to progress.

Hashem's longing is to have a beneficial effect on His creations. But in order for this to happen, it is necessary for us to turn to Hashem and to connect to him. It is human nature to turn to Hashem only in times of crisis. Therefore, Hashem does a chesed by creating crisis situations so that we should turn to Him and make a connection. Based on that connection, there is greater influence in the world.

The meaning of "discussion":

The Gemara in Brachos 26b states that the forefathers instituted the tefillot, and that among them, Yitzchak instituted Mincha. The Gemara brings the quote from the Torah, "Vayetze Yitzchak Lasuach Basadeh Le'et Erev", and explains that the word "sicha" means "tefillah".

Rav Kook, in the introduction to his Siddur "Olat Ra'ayah", says that "Sicha" is from the root word "Siach", meaning weed - a form of vegetation that grows of its own accord. In this form of connection, the neshama "grows" of its own accord and comes close to Hashem. The most appropriate time for this form of connection is toward the end of the day, when a person is ready to end his trials for the day and grow higher of his own nature.

The Gemara in Sukkah (21b) talks about the issue of a person sleeping under a bed in the Sukkah, and relates how Rabban Gamliel referred to his servant Tavi, who was a talmid Chacham, who slept under the table in the Sukka. Rabban Shimon Bar Yochai explained that from this "sicha" of Rabban Gamliel's we learn two things - that an eved is patur from the mitzvah of Sukka since it is an Asei SheHazman Grama, and that sleeping under a table in the Sukka, a person is not yotzei. The Gemara then asks why Rabban Shimon used the term "sicha" rather than "dvarav" as was usually done, and answers that even a "sicha" from a Talmid Chacham must be studied, quoting Tehillim 1:3, "Va'alehu Lo Yibol". How is this quote used to prove the Gemara's point? Because the term "aleh" is a leaf, referring to the part of vegetation that is "tafel", or less important. The leaves are not the fruit, and provide no nourishment, but yet they are not to be simply ignored or discarded. In the same way, "sicha" comes from "siach", meaning weed vegetation.

That pasuk in Tehillim in full is as follows:


Since the root of the tree is connected to a source of life (the waves of water), all of its "growth" succeeds, including the leaves (which Rashi calls the "Psolet" or waste material). From here we see that even the casual conversation of a talmid chacham has something that can be learned from it.

The Or Hachaim discusses how one is to behave when he has sinned, and Hashem reveals Himself to him. He cites Sara's behavior as a partial admission and partial denial. Sara couldn't fully deny that she had laughed, because she had. And she couldn't fully admit that she had because of fear for Hashem's honor.

So here we see another example of how even the casual conversation of a tzaddik can teach us powerful lessons.

And that is what Hashem longs for - for effecting perfection and good in this world through our coming close and becoming complete (a) through tefillah - the very act of standing before Hashem, and (b) through even the casual conversations of tzadikim and talmidei chachamim, which are meant to teach us and bring us closer and make us more connected to Hashem.