The War in Israel Part 2 - Can My Private Words and Thoughts Really Save Lives?

תְּנוּ עֹז לֵאלֹקים, עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל גַּאֲוָתוֹ וְעֻזּוֹ בַּשְּׁחָקִים.

נוֹרָא אֱלֹקים מִמִּקְדָּשֶׁיךָ אֵ-ל יִשְׂרָאֵל, הוּא נֹתֵן עֹז וְתַעֲצֻמוֹת לָעָם, בָּרוּךְ אֱלֹקים.

We recite these two p’sukim (T’hilim 68:35-36) in the middle of Hodu, during P’sukei D’Zimrah. These p’sukim are referenced by:

  • The Zohar (Sh’mos 32), quoted by HaRav Yerucham Levovits (Daas TorahB’reishis 258)
  • Eichah Rabbah (1:33), quoted by HaRav Chaim of Volozhin in his sefer Nefesh HaChaim (shaar 1, perek 3 and 4)
  • HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (Daas Tevunos and Derech Eitz Chaim)

We present powerful and impactful words from the Nefesh HaChaim (shaar 1, perek 4) as a synopsis to what all of the above sources are deriving from these p’sukim and other sources: 

"וזאת תורת האדם" – אל יאמר בלבו ח"ו כי מה אני ומה כוחי לפעול במעשי השפלים שום ענין בעולם, אמנם ידע ויקבע במחשבות ליבו שכל פרטי מעשיו ודיבוריו ומחשבותיו כל עת ורגע לא אתאבידו ח"ו, ומה רבו מעשיו ומאוד גדלו ורמו, שכל אחת עולה לפי שרשה לפעול פעולתה בגבהי מרומים, בעולמות וצחצחות האורות העליונים.

One should not say in his heart, G-d forbid, “Who am I and what can I do with my lowly abilities in such a world?” He should know and establish in the thoughts of his heart that all the details of his deeds and his utterances and his thoughts at every time and moment are not lost, G-d forbid, and how great are his deeds that they all go up to the heights of the Heavens above.

האם זה לא מה שאנחנו מרגישים בליבנו: "מה אני, ומה כוחי לפעול במעשי השפלים שום ענין בעולם?" אבל זו טעות! ואנחנו צריכים להזכיר לעצמנו כל הזמן שזו טעות – ולקבוע בליבנו שהמעשים, הדיבורים, ואף המחשבות של כל אחד מישראל פועלים כל הזמן בעולמות העליונים, ומשפיעים כל הזמן על הנהגת הקב"ה בעולם – לטוב ולמוטב!

Is this not what we feel in our hearts: “Who am I and what can I do with my lowly abilities in such a world?” But this is a mistake! And we must remind ourselves all the time that this is a mistake, and we must establish in our hearts that the deeds and the utterances and even the thoughts of every Jew are functioning all the time in the upper worlds and have an influence all the time on what HaKadosh Baruch Hu does in this world for the good and for the better.

וכך מפרש הנפה"ח את דברי המשנה "דע מה למעלה ממך" (אבות ב:א): "אם כי אינך רואה בעיניך הענינים הנוראים הנעשים ממעשיך, אבל תדע נאמנה כי כל מה שנעשה למעלה בעולמות העליונים גבוהי גבוהים – הכל ממך הוא!"

And thus explains the Nefesh HaChaim the words of the Mishnah: “Know what is above you” (Avos 2:1): “Even if you don’t see with your eyes the awesome matters that are made from your actions, nevertheless you should know for sure that all that takes place in the upper worlds high above – it is all from you!”

We have no idea of how our thoughts and words are measured above. It is very possible that when we have a strong temptation to speak lashon ha’ra or hurtful words, but we restrain ourselves and don’t speak them, as a merit for our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael, that z’chus may be greater than completing all of T’hilim! Considering what the Vilna Gaon (Igeres HaGra) wrote:

וכל רגע ורגע שהאדם חותם פיו זוכה בשבילו לאור הגנוז שאין מלאך ובריה יכולים לשער.

For every second that Man seals his mouth, he merits on that account to bask in a “concealed light,” something that no angel or other creature can imagine.

ואומר הכתוב: מי האיש החפץ חיים אוהב ימים וגו' נצור לשונך מרע ושפתיך מדבר מרמה.

And it is stated in Scripture (T’hilim 34:13-14): “Who is the man who desires life, and loves days, etc. [that he may see good]? Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceitfully.”

It is not a stretch to envision the possibility. These types of private thoughts are all the more powerful because nobody knows. There are no accolades and no praise. It is just between us and Hashem.

Who can measure the impact of a kind word that lifts another Jew’s spirits and gives him strength to continue? Who can measure the value of just one more minute of Torah learning? Each time we strengthen ourselves and put forth that extra bit of effort as a merit, we could literally be saving lives.

Certainly, we need to keep up our T’hilim, fervent tefilos, and mindful and heartfelt brachos, which are certainly going to make great impacts up in Shamayim. At the same time, we must work to allow the words of the Nefesh HaChaim to penetrate deep inside of us. Every action, word, and thought during these days can save lives!! This is not an exaggeration. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to review the excerpts quoted on a daily basis for a period of time. The more we inculcate these words and believe them to our core, the greater our efforts will be, and the more lives will be saved.

Let us now review the pasuk that can also serve as a daily reminder that all of our actions, words, and thoughts have great impact.

תְּנוּ עֹז לֵאלֹקים

Give strength to Hashem – Through our every action, word, and speech, we “enable” Hashem to continue to bestow His flow of kindness and blessing.

עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל גַּאֲוָתוֹ וְעֻזּוֹ בַּשְּׁחָקִים

Hashem has arranged that His strength in Heaven depends on Yisrael.

נוֹרָא אֱלֹקים מִמִּקְדָּשֶׁיךָ

Hashem’s awesome conduct of the world comes from our k’dushah.

אֵ-ל יִשְׂרָאֵל, הוּא נֹתֵן עֹז וְתַעֲצֻמוֹת לָעָם

Powerful G-d of Yisrael, He gives power to His nation (to influence His conduct and control of the world).

בָּרוּךְ אֱלֹקים

…so that we can recognize that He is the source of all blessing in the world, which causes more blessing to flow down to us.


This segment is based on ספר לפניו נעבוד: וועדים בענין תפילה

(the “sefer L’fanav Naavod – Vaadim on the Subject of Tefilah” based on HaRav Shlomo Wolbe zt”l and [l’havdil bein chayim l’chayim] HaRav Gamliel Rabinowitz)