Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Shmone Esrei Is About Connecting to the Creator

The shmone esrei is divided into three distinct section: three paragraphs of praise (shevach), 13 of requests (bakashos), and a final three or thanks/acknowlegdement (ho'da'ah).  (The observant reader will note that adds up to 19, not 18.)  Each section has its unique character that expresses itself in halachic distinctions.  The shevach and ho'da'ah are inseparable units that must be said correctly from start to finish.  The bakashos need to be said in order, but to correct a mistake in the middle that requires a repetition requires only going back to the bakashah in which the mistake occurred.  One may make additions for personal needs in the bakashos, but no personal additions may be made in the shevach nor ho'da'ah.

There is a very nice distinction that shows up in the change we make between winter and summer that spans both shevach and backashos.  In the winter: "mashiv ha'ru'ach u'morid ha'gashem" in shevach, "v'sein tal u'matar livracha" in the bakashos.  Summertime: "morid ha'tal/" in shevach, "v'sein bracha" in bakashos.  The question is like this: suppose is it summertime, but where you live really, really needs rain.  Not just you personally, but the entire country.  Even in that case, you are not allowed to add "mashiv ha'ru'ach u'morid ha'gashem" in shevach nor "v'sein tal u'matar livracha" in the bakashos; if you add either or both on purpose, you must repeat shmone esrei.  In fact, even you accidentally add "mashiv ha'ru'ach u'morid ha'gashem" in shevach, you must still repeat your shmone esrei; the entire t'fila is rendered useless as far as fulfilling your obligation.  However, if you accidentally said "mashiv ha'ru'ach u'morid ha'gashem"-- even in "bareich alein", and certainly in "shma koleinu" -- then you do not have to repeat.  You have fulfilled your obligation to daven that service.

Why the difference?  It is in no way a praise that rain comes in the summer.  Even if your country needs rain, Eretz Yisrael does not; so rain in the summer is a problem.  On the other hand, if you ask for rain and you really need it locally, it is an inappropriate request, but it's still a valid request.

Let's take that last idea bit further.  First of all, HaShem knows you, your situation, your future, and your needs much, much better than you do, it is really always inappropriate to ask for anything you don't have.  Second, HaShem loves you and only created you and this entire world for you to have fun (see hakdama to M'silas Yesharim if you don't believe me).  So if you don't have something, you don't need it; in fact, you don't really even want it.  It's as ridiculous as someone without cancer asking for chemotherapy or pain meds.

So why ask at all?  Because HaShem wants a relationship with you, and that is something (the only thing, in fact) that you control.  So a request, even a bad request, is still a connection; so you daven properly.  But a bad praise is not a connection at all.  In fact, it's worse because it's trying to connect to the wrong thing.  Hence, you get to daven again.

"Hakol bidai shamayim chutz mi'yiras shamayim" could be translates as, "HaShem runs the show, but you are in charge of deciding whether you want a relationship with your Creator."  Seems like a pretty obvious choice... I wonder why I keep turning away...


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…