Counting Our Blessings

For the week ending 7 January 2023 / 14 Tevet 5783

The Amidah (Part 32): The Final Paragraph: Personally Speaking

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“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 Avrahom Chaim Feuer)

“May Hashem, guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking deceitfully. To those who curse me, let my soul be silent, and let my soul be like dust to everyone. Open my heart to Your Torah, then my soul will pursue Your commandments. As for all those who design evil against me, speedily nullify their counsel and disrupt their design. Act for Your Name’s sake, act for Your right hand’s sake, act for Your sanctity’s sake, act for Your Torah’s sake. That Your beloved may be given rest, let Your right hand save and respond to me. May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before You, Hashem, my Rock and my Redeemer. He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace upon us and upon all Israel. And let us say: Amen.”

It is only once our hearts are open to Hashem’s Torah, only once we have committed ourselves to living Hashem’s Torah, that our souls will be able to pursue His commandments. The Mishna in Pirkei Avot (4:2) begins with a statement by Ben Azai that exhorts us to “Run to perform a ‘minor’ mitzvah.” In Ruach Chaim, Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin explains that due to the fact we are physical beings, we are not naturally drawn towards keeping the commandments. In their essence, the commandments are spiritual, and our physicality serves as a barrier to the spiritual realms. This is why we need to run after them, in effect to pursue them. Otherwise, they will always remain distant from us. But, catching them up is not enough. Once we have caught up with a mitzvah, we must endeavor to perform it with enthusiasm and excitement.

Rabbi Yehuda Zev Segal (1910-1983) was renowned for his brilliance and his righteousness. His insightful understanding of human nature made him widely sought after by people from all over the world. He was the head of the Yeshiva in Manchester, England, and introduced the concept of daily study of two halachot pertaining to proper speech. His closest disciples describe Rabbi Segal’s almost child-like delight when performing mitzvahs. Despite the fact that he was one of the spiritual mentors of his generation and looked up to by tens of thousands of admirers, he had no inhibitions about running to perform mitzvahs. Even in his last years of life in this world, he could be found urging others to be immaculate in mitzvah observance, while he continued to fulfill mitzvahs with an enormous smile on his face

To be continued…

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