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: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…