Counting Our Blessings

For the week ending 26 March 2022 / 23 Adar Bet 5782

The Amidah (Part 9) - Blessing of Forgiveness

by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer
Library Library Library

“Prayer is not a miracle. It is a tool, man’s paintbrush in the art of life. Prayer is man’s weapon to defend himself in the struggle of life. It is a reality. A fact of life.”
(Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer)

The seventh blessing reads: “Behold our affliction, take up our grievance, and redeem us speedily for Your Name’s sake, for You are a powerful redeemer. Blessed are You, Hashem, Redeemer of Israel.”

Once we have accepted upon ourselves to purify ourselves, and have asked Hashem to forgive us, we are now able to entreat Him to take us out of exile. The opening words of our blessing are paraphrased from Tehillim (25:18), which states, “Look upon my affliction and my toil.” Now, we are asking Hashem to see how weak we are, and how much we are suffering at the hands of others. We are telling Hashem, and perhaps, ourselves, that we, the Jewish nation, cannot ensure our survival. Only He can.

That is why we ask Him to fight against our enemies. Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra (1090-1165) was one of the most prominent and illustrious scholars from Spain. He was truly multifaceted, publishing one of the most significant commentaries on the Torah in his era. He also wrote commentaries on Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings). He authored works on Hebrew grammar, mathematics, astronomy and astrology. He was also an accomplished poet, writing many beautiful poems. In recognition of his enormous contribution to science, a crater on the moon — Abenezra — was named after him. In his commentary on Tehillim, the Ibn Ezra explains that “my affliction and my toil” refers to King David’s battle against the Evil Inclination. He is describing his unceasing struggle to prevent the Evil Inclination from dragging him into sin. Rabbi Aharon Kotler was the legendary founder of the famed Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey, and the undisputed spiritual leader of the Yeshiva world in America at the time. He points out that King David is one of only three people who are granted the title of gever, man, in Tanach. Rabbi Kotler explains that King David earned such a remarkable title because no one fought the Evil Inclination as King David did. Just as the Evil Inclination never stops trying to trip us up, so, too, King David never gave up his battle against it.

Rabbi Baruch from Rika was still running around trying to raise money for poor families when in his eighties. His friends did their best to try getting him to slow down. But he told them, “My dear friends, you are not first to tell me to take it easy. The Evil Inclination has been telling me that for a long time! And I always told him, ‘You are much older than I am, and yet you have not retired. When you give up doing your work, I’ll give up doing mine!’”

The second part of the blessing is based on a verse in Mishlei (22:23), “Hashem will take up their grievances.” The commentaries explain that Hashem protects the weak against the powerful and the wealthy. In our blessing, we depict the Jewish nation as being persecuted and tormented. We anticipate the moment when Hashem will redeem us from this interminable exile. But, in the meantime, we entreat Hashem to “redeem us speedily” from the dangers and oppression that befall His Chosen nation every single day.

There is a delightful tale told about a Chassid who went to his Rebbe to ask for advice about a matter that greatly disturbed him. The Rebbe took both of his hands in his own, and while gently squeezing them he told him in Yiddish that Hashem would help — “G-t von helfen.” The Chassid left the Rebbe’s room feeling very relieved. Just outside the door, the Rebbe’s young son was playing, and when he saw the Chassid, he asked him what his father had told him that caused him to look so happy. The Chassid told him that the Rebbe promised him that Hashem would help. The child looked at the Chassid and asked him if his father had told him when Hashem would help. The Chassid seemed confused and answered in the negative. So, the Rebbe’s young son told the Chassid to go back to his father to ask what he was supposed to do until Hashem helps him. The Chassid proceeded to do so, and when he came out again, the Rebbe’s son asked him what his father had said. The Chassid answered that the Rebbe told him that until Hashem helped… Hashem would help!

Our blessing concludes with the words, “Redeemer of Israel.” The word redeemer is written in the present because, as we await the long anticipated redemption, Hashem is constantly protecting us from the virulent hatred and derision from the other nations of the world.

Numbers are always extremely significant in Judaism and contain profound lessons. Our blessing is the seventh blessing in the Amidah. The Maharal (Ner Mitzvah) writes that the number seven represents nature and the natural cycle. For example, there are seven days in the week because Hashem created the world in seven days. The blessing for redemption being the seventh blessing teaches that however difficult any era might be, the redemption will certainly take place. It has been built into the natural cycle of world history. And, until it happens, may it be very, very soon, Hashem will always watch over us. It is fascinating to note that in our blessing we do not ask Hashem to bless us with tranquil lives, devoid of any difficulties or hardships. However perfect such a life may sound, our Sages teach that it would offer less opportunity for personal growth. The difficulties and imperfections that we encounter in life — on both an individual and national scale — help us develop and flourish in becoming productive members of the Jewish nation.

To be continued…

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