The War in Israel Part 10: The Power of Ashrei

We have a built-in preparation to remind us of Hashem’s awesome power and loving kindness.  Ashrei, which we recite prior to Minchah, paves the way for us to make our requests after having internalized Hashem’s desire to bestow kindness and His unlimited ability to do so.

Proper preparation leads to more focused, mindful, and heartfelt tefilah. There are two essential prerequisites for proper preparation. The first is to arrive early enough to settle our minds and hearts and to recite Ashrei mindfully. The second is to study Ashrei outside of davening time. There are many resources available. The better we understand what we are saying, the more powerful our preparation and our ultimate tefilah will be.

As we have been writing, every single tefilah, especially Minchah, is a precious gift and opportunity that we cannot afford to lose. Hashem is “depending” on us to offer sincere and heartfelt tefilos so He can deliver the kindness He desires to shower upon us and the worlds. Our brothers and sisters are depending on us. Our loved ones are depending on us.

Ashrei also brings us closer to Hashem through greater praise of Hashem and recognition of His lovingkindness. Before the Shemoneh Esrei of Shacharis and Arvis, we mention the miracles and kindness that Hashem bestowed upon us when He took us out of Mitzrayim.

Rashi (B’rachos 4b), quoting the Talmud Yerushalmi, states that the reason we precede the morning and evening Shemoneh Esrei with praise is that it brings us closer to Hashem, and through that closeness, we can approach Hashem with our requests. The same can be said of Ashrei before Minchah for tefilah.

Given the daily opportunity and responsibility we have to impact the worlds and our fellow Jews, we are going to focus the next few segments on Ashrei. When we began the Weekly Tefilah Focus over 8 years ago, we began with Ashrei. The next few segments will contain some of the original material and some new material. It is our hope and prayer that through a renewed focus on Ashrei, we will merit, b’ezras Hashem, to elevate our preparation for – and actual tefilah of – Minchah and merit to become a “ben Olam HaBa,” which the Gemara in B’rachos (4b) assures us of, if we say Ashrei three times daily (with proper kavanah, which results in enhanced emunah and closeness to Hashem.

Ashrei 1

אשרי יושבי ביתך – Fortunate are those who dwell in Your house,

סלה יהללוך עוד – who still praise You continuously.

We all want to get to Olam HaBa and be considered a “ben Olam HaBa” while still in this world. The Gemara in Brachos1 teaches us that one who says Ashrei three times a day is assured to be a ben Olam HaBa. This clearly cannot mean mere recitation.  Chazal are telling us that this reward is reserved for one who thinks deeply about what the p’sukim in Ashrei are teaching us, and as a result, strengthens his emunah in Hashem.2

"אשרי יושבי ביתך" (Fortunate are those who dwell in Your house) – While some have the privilege of physically spending most of their time in a beis midrash, most of us do not have that privilege. David HaMelech, as a king, did not have that privilege either. Yet, he teaches us that wherever we are, we have the opportunity to be in Hashem’s House. We are wherever our minds and hearts take us. Whether we are walking down the street, waiting for a train, driving to work, or in the kitchen, if our minds and hearts are focused on serving Hashem, we are in fact in Hashem’s House at that moment. Whether we are thinking about who could use our help, how we can honor and uplift another with a compliment or kind word, thoughts of Torah, the mitzvah of preparing for Shabbos while in the kitchen on Erev Shabbos, we will in fact be so fortunate to be in Hashem’s House. The Chasam Sofer adds that our minds can make wherever we are into a makom kadosh.3

סלה" יהללוך "עוד (who still praise You continuously) – Those who consistently thank Hashem for the goodness in their lives, for both the large and small gifts, will be fortunate to feel that they are continuously dwelling in the House of Hashem. Through thanking Hashem on a regular basis throughout the day, we gain greater clarity into the core principle that ALL that we have is from Hashem and that we are completely dependent upon Him. Every time we thank Him, we reinforce this belief deeper inside of us.4

"עוד" also means that we not only thank Hashem for what we perceive as “good” but ALSO for what we perceive as “bad.” We know that in reality ALL Hashem bestows upon us is truly good. It may feel sweet or bitter to us, but it is in fact for our benefit. Fortunate is one who internalizes this truth.5

The Gemara6 teaches us that one who sings Hashem’s praises in this world will merit to sing them in the next world, as well. Hashem does not need our praise. Thanking Hashem and praising Him makes us better people and brings us closer to Hashem.

1 ברכות ד:

2 רבינו בחיי פרשת צו פרק ז’ פסוק ל"ז

3 שו"ת חתם סופר אורח חיים סימן קצ"ד

4 ס’ נפשי חולת אהבתך, מיוסד ע"פ רוקח א עמוד קל"ט

5 ס’ נפשי חולת אהבתך, מיוסד ע"פ מלבים תהלים כ:ה

6 סנהדרין צא: ומהרש"א שם