Torah Tidbits

2 September 2014 / 7 Elul 5774
Issue 951
Issue 951 -Shabbat Parshat Metzora
April 07, 2011

Wisdom & Wit

P'sukei d'Zimra: ASHREI Recounting Hashem's Greatness

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 from 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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