רוֹמְמוֹת אֵ-ל בִּגְרוֹנָם, וְחֶרֶב פִּיפִיּוֹת בְּיָדָם.
They say high praises of the Almighty (in a loud voice) with their throat, and these (praises) are like a double-edged sword in their hand (against their enemies).
When we praise Hashem in our throats (meaning: praising Hashem fervently, fully engaged, and not merely with lip service), that is like wielding a double-edged sword (a powerful weapon).
We win or lose our wars against our enemies on the battlefield of Torah and tefilah (our prayers) – not in the air, ground, sea, or strategic command center. WE can join the elite commando unit of the Israeli Defense Forces by training ourselves to engage and concentrate fully with all of our minds and hearts when we praise Hashem in the first three brachos of the Shemoneh Esrei and when we recite the brachah of V’LaMalshinim.
The first three brachos of the Shemoneh Esrei are the praise brachos. Along with the brachah of Modim, these first three brachos are arguably the most important brachos in the Shemoneh Esrei. In them, we are in essence stating and internalizing that:
• Hashem is “גומל חסדים טובים–Gomel chasadim tovim” – He bestows undeserved kindness that is pure good (only He knows what is truly for our benefit), and He is our Savior and Shield.
• Hashem is the “כל יכול–Kol Yachol” – He can do anything and everything.
• He is perfect and unique – He is the only address to turn to for all of our needs.
In short, He desires to bestow kindness, He has the ability to bestow any and every kindness, and He alone can uniquely bestow kindness upon us.
We are now in the days of Chanukah, which were enacted in order to recognize, appreciate, thank, and praise Hashem for His great kindness and miracles. Why is recognition, appreciation, thanks, and praise of Hashem so important that a pasuk in Tanach states that our nation was created for the purpose of praising Hashem?
One answer is that thanks and praise bring us close to Hashem in more than one way. First, it certainly generates feelings of loving Hashem, our true benefactor, for everything we have in life, including life itself. Second, from feelings of love and of the obligation to “reciprocate,” we will want to serve Him and come close to Him at the highest levels possible, which is first and foremost learning Torah, emulating His ways, and performing mitzvos.
The Rambam writes that the more a person thanks and praises Hashem constantly, the more praiseworthy and elevated he becomes. How can we implement this Rambam on a practical basis in our busy and hectic lives?
When waking up, Modeh Ani is our first opportunity to thank Hashem that He is “לפניך–l’fanecha.” We are never alone. Hashem is with us throughout our day and throughout our lives. We thank Him also for returning our neshamah and our functioning minds and bodies. A mindful and heartfelt Modeh Ani is a powerful way to start our day!
One practical suggestion to consider is to work on thanking Hashem throughout our day by stopping for 30 seconds as we transition from one part of our day to another. Appreciate and thank Hashem for the gift that He has just given to you. The following are some examples: After you daven, stop and thank Hashem for the awesome privilege of speaking and connecting to Him. Thank Him for being able to think and to speak the words. Thank Him when you put on your talis and t’filin and when you are able to daven with a minyan. After preparing a meal, thank Hashem for the ability and privilege to do so. After performing a chesed or giving tz’dakah, thank Hashem that you had the privilege to be a giver. After learning Torah, thank Him for the great gift (in addition to the great simchah while reciting the Birchos HaTorah mindfully with heart) and awesome privilege of hearing and speaking the words of Hashem.
These opportunities to thank and praise Hashem do not require much time. They can be literally a few seconds each. They do require mindfulness and awareness of Hashem, which ideally should be constant but is very challenging, especially in our times with so many distractions.
At the end of our thanks, we should ask Hashem to continue the kindness that we are thanking Him for into the future. He is waiting for us to ask, because He wants to bestow kindness. Ending our spontaneous thanks to Hashem with a request is an opportune time to ask. Even simply adding “kein yirbu” (so should this kindness continue and increase) to our thanks would be very beneficial.
The Chafetz Chaim writes that we should not limit ourselves to the three structured tefilos (Shacharis, Minchah, and Maariv). Rather, we should speak to Hashem in our own native language many times a day. Since these spontaneous moments of praise, thanks, and requests come from the depths of our hearts, they are extremely powerful.
Specific to defeating our enemies, focus on the brachah of V’LaMalshinim in Shemoneh Esrei. That is our opportunity to fight on the front lines. In this brachah, both our external enemies and the willful sinners who want to destroy Torah and rebel against Hashem are dealt with. We ask Hashem to totally cut off our external enemies and to humble (stopping them from their evil plans and ultimately bringing them back to t’shuvah) those who want to cause trouble to Torah-observant servants of Hashem. We ask for this to happen speedily and, if not speedily, at least in our day. If we plead with Hashem in this brachah, we will be doing our part in the fight against our enemies. We need to internalize deeply how crucially important and powerful our tefilos are and how much they are needed!
Finally, let us internalize that our greatest weapon is remembering that Hashem desires to bestow kindness upon us, has the ability to bestow any and every kindness, and He alone can uniquely bestow kindness that is always to our benefit. Recognition, appreciation, thanks, praise, and request is the formula to our ultimate redemption and success in the final battle of our long exile. May we experience the coming of Mashiach and our ultimate redemption speedily in our days.