The Amidah (Part 23): Blessing of Thanksgiving (Part 2)
“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 eighteenth blessing continues: “For our lives, which are committed to Your power, and for our souls that are entrusted to You; for Your miracles that are with us every day… And for Your wonders and favors in every season – evening, morning and afternoon. The Beneficent One, for Your compassions were never exhausted, and the Compassionate One, for Your kindnesses never ended – always have we put our hope in You. For all these, may Your Name be blessed and exalted, our King continually forever and ever.”
Rabbi Yitzchak Blazer cites Rabbeinu Bachya ibn Paquda (Chovot Helevavot) to explain the three different descriptions that appear in our blessing:
- For our lives, which are committed to Your power
- For Your miracles that are with us every day
- For Your wonders and favors in every season
Rabbeinu Bachya writes that every Jew needs to give three different kinds of thanks to Hashem. First, every person – Jewish or not – must thank Hashem for having made them an integral part of His world. Every single creation in this world benefits from Hashem’s sustenance and it is incumbent upon us to acknowledge this fact. Second, we must thank Hashem for having selected us, as Jews, to be His Chosen People and for protecting us constantly. And last, we must thank Hashem for having created us in His image and for supplying us with our needs. Rabbi Blazer correlates these three categories of thanks to the three statements that we recite. The first statement of thanks corresponds to, “For our lives, which are committed to Your power,” which is a generic statement applicable to all mankind. The second category of thanks corresponds to “For Your miracles that are with us every day,” which is applicable to the chosen nation. And the last statement, “For Your wonders and favors in every season” is a reference to the fact that Hashem provides for each individual.
Our Sages teach that the Jewish day begins at nighttime (Brachot 2a), which is why our blessing at night continues with the words, “Evening, morning and afternoon.” I once heard the most poignant explanation about why the Jewish day begins at night. In Judaism nighttime symbolizes a lack of clarity. The absence of light represents the difficult times that we all experience, both individually and nationally. Daytime, on the other hand, represents the clarity and the goodness in our lives. In Judaism, the light follows the darkness to teach us that despite whatever adversities we are grappling with right now, there will come a time when the darkness in our lives will be banished. The sun will rise and spread its beneficence and life-giving heat into every dimension of our existence.
In its narration of the Creation, the Torah states at the end of the first day (Bereshet 1:5), “And there was evening and there was morning….” At its very onset, the Torah is teaching that regardless of how difficult things may seem in our lives, the darkness is always a prelude to the light and the warmth of the sun that will follow it. Possibly the most significant message found within our blessing is that we do not just thank Hashem for the daytime. Rather, we thank Him for the darkness as well because only through experiencing the darkness are we able to appreciate the light. In the words of the Midrash (Tehillim 22), “If I would not have sat in darkness, [my life] would not have been illuminated.”
From the time of Avraham onward, perhaps the notable characteristic of the Jewish nation has been our ability to never give up hope even under the most threatening and bleak circumstances. As our blessing declares, “Always we put our hope in You.”
Rabbi Meir Shapiro (1887-1933) was the legendary initiator of the Daf Hayomi. He also opened and headed the famed Yeshiva in Lublin, Poland, called “Chachmei Lublin.” He was one of the most dynamic and charismatic spiritual leaders in pre-Holocaust Europe and was renowned for his brilliance and his multi-faceted talents. Rabbi Shapiro asks why Noach was not successful in saving his generation from the flood. After all, the Torah describes Noach as being the most perfectly righteous person in his generation (Bereshet 6:9). Presumably, if anyone could influence all those around them, it would have been Noach.
Rabbi Shapiro suggests that Noach believed that people of his generation were beyond salvation. Due to the fact that they had sunk to the very lowest spiritual levels, Noach thought that there was no longer any hope for them. Therefore, Rabbi Shapiro explains, it is now possible to understand why it was specifically a rainbow that Hashem sent as His sign that the world would never again be totally destroyed by a flood (ibid. 9:8-11). A rainbow typically occurs when there is a beautiful day, when suddenly it becomes overcast and pours with rain. As the weather begins to clear up, the clouds disperse and the sun returns. And when the sun hits the rain, a beautiful, multi-colored rainbow is formed in the sky. The rainbow teaches that no matter how dark the world may be, after the darkness the sun will shine and reflect its beautiful light into the world. That, says Rabbi Meir Shapiro, was the message that Hashem was sending to Noach. There is always hope. Never give up on others and never make the mistake of assuming that they are beyond redemption.
To be continued…