Torah Tidbits

24 April 2014 / 24 Nisan 5774
Issue 958
Issue 958 - Sh’lach - 19th Anniversary Issue
June 16, 2011

Wisdom & Wit

ASHREI The Power of Sincerity

Meaning: translation…
Happy are those who dwell in Your house; may they always praise you, Selah. Happy is the people for whom this is so, happy is the people whose G-d is Hashem…
Theme: An essential concept of the prayer
Recognizing the Object of Our Praise
Contemplating Hashem’s greatness and benevolence is required to properly praise Hashem.
Insight: Deeper meanings…
Praising Before Praying
The Gemara (B’rachot 4b) explains that the essential text of ASHREI is Psalm 145 - T’HILA L’DAVID, a psalm of praise by King David. It contains twenty-one verses that follow the order of the alef-bet, the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each verse offers a different praise for Hashem’s sustenance of the world, climaxing with the verse POTEI’ACH ET YADECHA UMASBI’A L’CHOL CHAI RATZON (You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing), which refers to Hashem’s daily sustenance of every living creature.
Despite this emphasis on the material bounty with which Hashem endows the world, ASHREI does not begin with T’HILA L’DAVID, but rather, with the words ASHREI YOSH’VEI VEITECHA OD Y’HAL’LUCHA SELA, (Happy are those who dwell in Your house; they will continue to praise you, Selah.) The Mishna (B’rachot 30b) teaches that frP’sukei d’Zimra: ASHREI

The Power of Sincerity

Meaning: translation…
Righteous is Hashem in all His ways, and magnanimous in all His deeds. Hashem is close to all who call upon Him—to all who call upon Him sincerely.
Theme: An essential concept of the prayer
Seeking Our Hearts
Hashem seeks and answers our heart- felt prayers.
Insight: Deeper meanings…
How Our Troubles
Initiate Salvation
KAROV HASHEM L’CHOL KOR’AV L’CHOL ASHER YIKRA-UHU VE- EMET. Hashem is close to all who call upon Him—to all who call upon Him sincerely. The words, KAROV HASHEM L’CHOL KOR’AV L’CHOL ASHER YIKRA-UHU appear to be redundant. However, the Ba’al Hafla’ah in Panim Yafos explains that the first part of the verse, KAROV HASHEM L’CHOL KOR’AV, refers to an individual before he actually calls upon Hashem. Hashem, in His kindness, awakens him so that he can meet the description of L’CHOL ASHER YIKRA-UHU - he will be roused to pray to Hashem BE-EMET, sincerely. When the person prays with sincerity, Hashem can help him in his time of great need.
Sometimes, Hashem must press upon a person or the Jewish people as a whole to arouse the kind of sincerity needed to evoke a Y’SHUA. For example, at the end of the Egyptian exile, Par’o makes the conditions of slavery harsher by refusing to supply the Jews with materials to make bricks, while still requiring “the same production quota (see Sh’mot 5:7-8).”
Why did Hashem begin our salvation by worsening our situation? Rav Mattisyahu Salomon explains (With Hearts Full of Faith (Artscroll, p.124- 125) that ”When Hashem wants to redeem us but finds insufficient merit to justify redemption, He intensifies the darkness. ... The hardships are to bring us to reach up to Hashem with higher levels of prayer…”
On a personal level, we may believe that we are praying with every ounce of KAVANA we can find within ourselves, yet Hashem sees far more in us than we can perceive. Embedded within our troubles, He sends us a loving message: “I know you and care about you, and I know there is a depth to you that you have not yet tapped.” The difficulties may really be Hashem’s call to us, urging us to uncover the powerful emotions and kavana in the deeper recesses of our hearts.
Misfortune and difficulty—whether related to health, finances, children, family or even spiritual issues—are a part of every life. When these troubles serve as the spark that ignites our passion and sincerity in prayer, then we transform those troubles into “the beginning of our salvation.”
Visualize: Images that bring the prayer to life
Digging Deeper and Deeper
Two men purchase a plot of land. The seller tells one of the men, “Some- where on this property, I believe there may be a buried treasure.” He tells the other man, “Somewhere on this property, there is a buried treasure.”
Both men decide to excavate and see if they can find the treasure. After months of work, however, the first man quits. “This is ridiculous,” he says. “There’s probably no treasure at all.”
The second man, however, believes that the treasure is there. It’s just a matter of finding it. Thus, he persists, digging deeper and deeper until he finds what he is seeking.
Likewise, a person who believes that prayer “might help, and it can’t hurt,” prays differently from one who believes, “this is the one and only place to find help.” The second person keeps praying, digging deeper and deeper into his heart until he finds his answer. It is this second type of prayer that is described by L’CHOL ASHER YIKRA- UHU VE-EMET.
Did you know…:
Ashrei is recited three times each day. It is first recited in P’sukei d’Zimra, a second time towards the end of Shacharit, and a third time at the start of Mincha. The Zohar explains that the first time Ashrei is recited, it is intended to serve as praise to Hashem for providing all of our needs. The other two times Ashrei is recited, it is intended to serve as a prayer and supplication that He will indeed continue to provide for us.
om here we learn that one should only rise to pray (Sh’moneh Esrei) with an attitude of reverence, as Rama (98:1) states: “Before praying (Shemoneh Esrei), one should consider the loftiness of G-d, may He be exalted, and the lowliness of man”...
The Gemara (B’rachot 32b) states that the pious men of earlier generations would spend an hour before prayer contemplating these thoughts, and the source for this practice is the verse ASHREI YOSH’VEI VEITECHA… Praiseworthy are those who dwell in Your house, they will continue to praise you, Selah. Rashi expounds that these pious men understood this verse to mean that before beginning the tefila (Shemoneh Esrei), one must be YOSH’VEI VEITECHA, sit and meditate in Your [Hashem’s] house.
Then one can Y’HAL’LUCHA,  properly praise Hashem. In fact, the reason we recite ASHREI before Mincha is in order to fulfill our obligation of waiting in contemplation before reciting Shemoneh Esrei.
ASHREI presents a unique opportunity to awaken to Hashem’s attributes of greatness, focus upon the unbounded goodness Hashem gives us every day, and nurture a sense of gratitude in our hearts. Despite the fact that in our times, we may be unable to contemplate for one hour before we pray Shemoneh Esrei, the custom of the pious ones is reflected in the Shacharit prayer, which provides much time for thoughtful meditation from the beginning of P’sukei d’Zimra until Shemoneh Esrei is recited.
(Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 93:1).
Visualize: Images that bring the prayer to life
Open the Package!
Dovid’s wealthy uncle from Israel, whom he had never met, arrived at his nephew’s home in America. He entered the house carrying a large bag filled with giftwrapped boxes. “This is all for you, my nephew, Uncle Shmuel told Dovid. “You’re the only relative I have, and I want you to have all these gifts.”
Dovid said “Thank you! You’re the greatest uncle in the world!” Then he set the bag aside, planning to open each gift later on, in private. Uncle Shmuel responded, “Open the packages, Dovid! How can you say thank you when you don’t even know what’s in there?” And so Dovid obliged.
With each new gift, his gratitude toward his uncle and his admiration for him and his generosity grew stronger. Each package was a treasure, and it was all for him. Now when he said “thank you,” it was a response overflowing with emotion.
Like Dovid in the story, each of us receives a vast endowment of gift packages every day from Hashem. If we do not stop to consider the contents of these packages, our gratitude is only a shadow of what it could and should be. Our recognition of Hashem’s kindness is stunted. P’sukei d’Zimra is our way to open our packages every day, so that our love and awe toward our Benefactor can arise from the deepest, sincerest place in our hearts.
Think about the joy of receiving a gift you especially wanted. Picture and feel the feeling. That is the “happy” you can connect to when you say the word ASHREI throughout this tefila.

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