Birchos HaShachar: Do Not Bring Us Into the Power of Error
ואל תביאנו לא לידי חטא, ולא לידי עברה ועון... Do not bring us into the power of error, nor into the power of transgression and sin… *****
After we ask Hashem to help us to make learning and living Torah both second nature and instilled with freshness and enthusiasm, we ask Him not to bring us to any type of sin. The three different languages of חטא–cheit (error), עברה–aveirah (transgression), and עון–avon (sin), represent different levels of aveiros. Cheit represents unintentional aveiros. Aveirah means we lost this battle with the yeitzer ha’ra and succumbed to temptation, while avon refers to premeditated, intentional sin.
There are two difficulties with this request. First, we just finished asking Hashem to help us to be accustomed to learn and live Torah. Shouldn’t that preclude us from at least the aveiros that are intentional? Second, the entire request is problematic, since we are in effect asking Hashem to do our job for us. One of the reasons we are here is to battle and overcome challenges. How can we just ask Hashem to help us not to come to sin? Isn’t that our role to put forth the necessary effort not to sin?
The answer to the first question is that battling the yeitzer ha’ra is a lifelong battle. Chazal teach us that one who is greater spiritually than his friend has a more powerful yeitzer ha’ra. There is no such concept as “I won the war against the yeitzer ha’ra.” We win battles but the war continues until we take our last breath. Every day, every moment, the battles continue. As we grow, we overcome certain temptations but face new and perhaps even more challenging ones. Challenges often become more subtle and, in a sense, dangerous, as the yeitzer ha’ra tries to convince us that aveiros are actually mitzvos. We become convinced that an aveirah is the greatest mitzvah we can perform, and so we lose our awareness of reality. A classic example is starting a machlokes, a dispute, and sometimes war, over who has priority to lead the minyan when one has a yahrzeit or other obligation. There is a hierarchy in halachah, and generally the rav or gabbai makes the decision. However, sometimes one feels so strongly that he must “honor” his deceased relative by “grabbing the amud” that he feels it is worth any cost. Machlokes, lashon ha’ra, lack of honor for the rav, and lack of respect and love for our fellow Jew are just some of the aveiros that are trampled in this pursuit of mitzvah. Ultimately, it is certainly no honor for the deceased relative, but the person is misguided by the yeitzer ha’ra.
Another example is the person who must kiss the sefer Torah at all costs when it is taken out. It doesn’t seem to matter if he pushes someone aside or even runs over him to do it. How can an otherwise wonderful individual who learns Torah and has such a passionate feeling to kiss the sefer Torah be so misguided? This is the blinding force of the yeitzer ha’ra.
Recognizing that living a Torah life still means that there are challenges and that the yeitzer ha’ra will try to confuse us, we daven for help, for only Hashem’s help will ensure that we do not become misguided in our observance.
The second question is how can we ask Hashem to do our job for us? Chazal teach us “הבא לטהר, מסייעין אותו” (He who comes to purify, he is assisted in his efforts). What does it mean “comes to purify”? Certainly efforts in learning musar and having a rebbe or a rav to discuss matters are part of our effort. What we often fail to recognize is that our desire and pleading to Hashem for help is actually fulfilling the “הבא.” It is not that we are asking Hashem to make us avoid aveirah, but rather, our sincere desire and pleading is a major component of our effort.
(The above is based on Praying with Fire, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, quoting the Maharsha in Yoma 38b and HaRav Matisyahu Salomon.)
Since this tefilah is a big part of our effort to purify ourselves and gain Heavenly assistance, may we be zocheh to spend a few seconds, before saying this brachah, to think about our desire not to go against Hashem’s Torah and ratzon and to say these requests with great sincerity and feeling.
Many say short but powerful tefilos daily to ask Hashem to help them not to speak any hurtful or harmful words. If anyone would like an email of the tefilah, please email us at WeeklyTefilahFocus@gmail.com.
Since hishtadlus includes tefilah for help, it applies equally to any area of challenge with which we personally struggle, and is particularly appropriate immediately before entering a potentially toxic situation. This can apply to guarding our speech, guarding our eyes and our minds, etc.