Yotzeir Ohr #15
is too awesome for praise
When we praise Hashem, we must be careful to be cognizant of the fact that when there is suffering in the world, this, too, is from Hashem. Whether we see something as sweet or bitter, we are to praise Him for it. Although we may not understand the reasons for the suffering, nevertheless, we recognize that it is “Hu l’vado” – He alone – Who brought this about. [based on HaRav Schwab on Prayer]
We recognize that He alone knows what the world, klal Yisrael, each community, each family, and each individual needs at precisely this moment in time – at every moment in time. Each of us has actually already agreed to and accepted all that will occur in our lives even before we arrived in this world. Rabbeinu Bachya (D’varim 22:8) writes that Hashem informs each creation what it will endure over the course of its life, and all agree and accept.
One of the purposes of tefilah is to force us to think and come to a deeper understanding. HaRav Avigdor Miller zt”l points out that the word tefilah comes from the word “פלל–pileil,” which means to think (“רְאֹה פָנֶיךָ לֹא פִלָּלְתִּי–I dared not accept the thought that I would see your face” – B’reishis 48:11). Tefilah is “עבודה שבלב–avodah she’ba’leiv” – service of the heart and mind. What are we supposed to be thinking about and feeling? Bitachon. Tefilah is meant to penetrate deeper and deeper into our minds and hearts how we are totally dependent on Hashem in every aspect of our lives. We also think about Hashem’s lovingkindness and awesomeness, and we accept His judgment, and all that occurs, as being for our best with love. We should strive to walk away from every tefilah with a greater awareness, appreciation, and love of Hashem.
Tefilah Focus encourages all to select specific small segments of tefilah – even two words, as in today’s segment – and achieve the purpose of tefilah and of life through focusing on that specific phrase or brachah for that particular tefilah. The rest of tefilah can remain whatever it is, but at least once during each tefilah we should connect deeply. HaRav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler zt”l writes that the one segment where we really connect to Hashem is the entire purpose of that tefilah. HaRav Miller said that one should devote a much longer time on one little area and not rush through the davening. “Let the people keep galloping, but you’re standing still, and you’re thinking in that one brachah. You’re thinking about the ideas in the brachah or in the pasuk.”
As an example related to praising Hashem even for the bitter, we have a tremendous opportunity to connect deeply and to fulfill at least three mitzvos min HaTorah (Biblical commandments) when we say the pasuk in Ashrei: “צדיק ה' בכל דרכיו, וחסיד בכל מעשיו–Righteous is Hashem in all His ways, and magnanimous in all His deeds.” We can think about specific events in our lives that were bitter, and proclaim in our minds and hearts that “You, Hashem, are just and righteous in all Your ways.” This is the mitzvah of “להצדיק את הדין–l’hatzdik es ha’din” – to proclaim Hashem’s judgment as just. We would also be fulfilling the mitzvah of Loving Hashem and of Bitachon by thinking about how Hashem knows what’s best and how He gave me precisely what I needed – with love and compassion – despite the fact that it was painful. The physical and/or emotional pain is real, and we are not negating that at all. We are, however, internalizing that the pain is for our ultimate benefit, delivered out of Hashem’s infinite wisdom, love, and compassion.
As we approach Elul, it would be an ideal time to take to heart the purpose of tefilah and to implement “tefilah focus.” If we are not already walking away from tefilah with greater awareness, love, and bitachon, as a result of greater and more concentrated focus on one specific area during each tefilah, NOW is the time to begin. “Tefilah focus” has the potential to transform our tefilos and our lives.