Tachanun 1

The next few segments will cover what we refer to as “Tachanun.” We plan, b’ezras Hashem, to return to Hallel after we conclude exploring Tachanun, so that we can be inspired to sing the Hallel on Yom Tov with greater joy, meaning, and enthusiasm.

We will be covering the Ashkenaz version of Tachanun, which is chapter 6 of T’hilim without the first pasuk (p’sukim 2-11).  Sefardim recite chapter 25 of T’hilim.

Some view Tachanun as an extension of Shemoneh Esrei and as the time when Hashem accepts our tefilah of Shemoneh Esrei (Rabbeinu Bachya and the Beis Yosef). It is therefore best not to speak from the start of our silent Shemoneh Esrei until after Tachanun.

David HaMelech organized and wrote many of the psalms in T’hilim. He was a Prophet and did so with ruach ha’kodesh. Each perek in T’hilim can be understood and contemplated in three ways.

On the one hand, David was writing about his own life. His life included many trials and tribulations, great pain and sorrow. David at times expresses his pain and anguish, but he was also able to thank Hashem and sing His praises throughout his life’s challenges and difficulties, as well as his salvations and great joy. David writes (T’hilim 101:1): חֶסֶד וּמִשְׁפָּט אָשִׁירָה"–chesed u’mishpat ashirah (Of kindness and justice do I sing).” I will sing to Hashem whether I am experiencing His lovingkindness or judgment.

A second way to think about each chapter is on a national klal Yisrael level. We can gain strength on a national and on a communal level when we think about a perek as referring to the Jewish people as a whole. David composed the T’hilim with that in mind.

Lastly, each of us can see ourselves in each chapter. David provided us with a great gift. Whether we are celebrating a joyous event in our lives or whether we are crying out from the depths of anguish and pain, so many reach for their T’hilim.

We will begin by focusing on the overall theme in this perek of T’hilim.

The Malbim writes that David composed this chapter after the event of “Bas Sheva.” He became gravely ill after that episode, and he composed this chapter out of the depths of his pain and anguish, which are evident throughout this chapter.

At the same time, the Meiri writes that he was referring to B’nei Yisrael’s pain and anguish of our long and bitter galus. Although Hashem, in His infinite mercy, has blessed us with great spiritual and material prosperity over the last number of years, we must still remember that the Sh’chinah has been exiled together with us. We lack the ultimate connection with Hashem that a rebuilt Yerushalayim and Third Beis HaMikdash will provide. Our Father in Heaven has not only lost His “home” but has lost his connection with the vast majority of His children.

Lastly, each of us individually can express our personal pain.

We present below the first few p’sukim of Tachanun from the Pathway to Prayer Siddur (by Rabbi Mayer Birnbaum). In the next segment, we will focus specifically on pasuk 5. We will see how all three levels described above can be contemplated and felt in this one pasuk.

ה' אַל בְּאַפְּךָ תוֹכִיחֵנִי, וְאַל בַּחֲמָתְךָ תְיַסְּרֵנִי

Hashem, do not rebuke me with Your anger (so I’ll be able to withstand it), and do not punish me (physically) with Your rage (but like a father treats his son).

חָנֵּנִי ה' כִּי אֻמְלַל אָנִי, רְפָאֵנִי ה' כִּי נִבְהֲלוּ עֲצָמָי

Be gracious to me, Hashem, because I am devastated and weak (and don’t continue to be angry at me); heal me, Hashem, for my bones are terrified (from the punishments I already received).

וְנַפְשִׁי נִבְהֲלָה מְאֹד, וְאַתָּה ה' עַד מָתָי

And my soul, too, is very terrified (that I might die from this illness); and You, Hashem, until when (will you see my suffering and not heal me)?

שׁוּבָה ה' חַלְּצָה נַפְשִׁי, הוֹשִׁיעֵנִי לְמַעַן חַסְדֶּךָ

Turn back, Hashem, from Your anger (and) free my soul (from my sickness); (even if I don’t deserve it), save me for the sake of Your kindness.