1. Tos says we don't have the merit of our Avos anymore but we do have the bris avos. what are these terms and what are the differences?
2. if Hash-m answers our prayers through bris avos, does it make a difference if he doesn't answer them through the merit of the avos?
rabbi karr, passaic, nj
1. The MARGALIYOS HASHAS (55a) quotes the YISMACH MOSHE who gives a simple explanation. He explains that Zechus Avos is the merit which the Avos have for doing the Mitzvos, while Bris Avos is the fact that they made a special covenant with Hash-m. Though the merits of the good deeds of the Avos may have long since been depleted, the very nature of a Bris is that it is supposed to be eternal, as we see throughout Tanach that people made covenants between their descendants "Ad Olam" -- "forever."
2. Accordingly, it would seem that the difference does not lie as much as in whether we are answered or not, but the way we are answered (i.e. are we answered right away, without difficult Yesurim, etc.). Two people who stand before a king, one who has merits for generations and one whose merits have long since been used up, are obviously looked at differently.
It must be noted that many Acharonim cite the approach of the OR ZARUA (Hilchos Tefilah ch. 106) who says that one can still access Zechus Avos through Tefilah. The SFAS EMES understands that this is also the opinion of RASHI. However, it does not seem to be the opinion of RABEINU TAM in Tosfos.