What should a truly pious individual, a chasid, pray for?
“עַל זֹאת יִתְפַּלֵּל כָּל חָסִיד אֵלֶיךָ, לְעֵת מְצֹא.” (תהילים ל"ב:ו)
“Every chasid should pray to You for this — at a time of Metzoh.” (Psalm 32:6)
The Hebrew word Metzoh is not clear. It may mean ‘finding’ or ‘leaving’ or ‘results.’
This “time of finding” or “time of leaving” must be something that is very important to the pious chasid. Something that may not be within his power to control. The Talmud records no fewer than five opinions as to what a chasid should pray for:
1. A good wife. This is a ‘time of finding', as a good wife is a ‘good find’ or ‘good catch.’ Rav Kook adds that finding an appropriate wife is an occasion which determines the ‘results’ and the lot of his life. The right partner in life can be a critical factor in determining one’s spiritual and material success, while the wrong partner may lead to emotional and financial instability.
2. Torah enlightenment. Maimonides wrote that revelations of truth are like one who is walking in the dark and lightning suddenly lights up the way. For some, these illuminating bolts of lightning are constant; for others, they occur frequently; and for others, only rarely. It is fitting to pray to merit these illuminations of truth on a constant basis, so that one may successfully find the path of truth and arrive at the highest level of human perfection.
3. Death. Death is the ultimate ‘hour of departure.’ It is also the ultimate barometer of life and the path one followed in life. For the wicked, death is a time of absolute darkness, as their lives were spent exclusively in the pursuit of material pleasures. But for the Chasid, who values spiritual goals, and whose life was guided by righteousness and piety, the day of death is not so tragic. “And she will laugh at the final day” (Proverbs 31:25). His soul was not overly immersed in physical pleasures, while love for spiritual life and its pleasantness are deeply ingrained in his soul.
4. Burial. Also, a time of departure, and a time for results. One should strive to achieve an impact on others that will cause good even after one’s death. One should desire an honorable burial — not as a platform for honor and self-aggrandizement — but as sign of one’s stature in order to provide inspiration and a positive influence on future generations.
The final opinion is the most surprising, even a bit shocking. Yet this is the opinion favored by the Talmudic sages in the Land of Israel:
5. A bathroom. We usually focus on the great, momentous occasions of life. Yet one must also attend to the smallest, most technical aspects of life. We constantly rely on God’s benevolence. Even the most banal matters can become the insurmountable obstacles to spiritual growth. A clean body, a hygienic environment, and a properly functioning digestive system may appear to be of minor significance. But without these basic prerequisites, one lacks the necessary peace of mind to advance spiritually. We should not overlook the need for Divine assistance even in the most physical, mundane aspects of life.
(Adapted from Ein Eyah I:39-40, on Berachot 8a)