Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 31 May 2014 / 2 Sivan 5774

The Shemoneh Esrei The First Blessing (3)

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

“Possesses (Koneh) Everything”

We say in Pirkei Avot that we and everything that is ours belongs to G-d. All is in His hands: health, wealth, even the ability to digest the food we eat, to see and hear along with the rest of our abilities, are all given to us by G-d. We therefore owe our lives to Him.

An example of our total dependence on G-d can be learned from how the Egyptians sold themselves as slaves in exchange for food during the time of famine, saying: “Take possession of us and our land for bread, and we, along with our land, will become slaves to Pharaoh.” (See Rabbi Schwab on prayer.)

A Deeper Explanation:

The simple meaning of the word “Koneh” is “possesses.” Others, however, explain this word in connection to this beracha, to mean “creates” — as in the verse “Creator (Koneh) of heaven and earth.” According to the latter opinion, one may ask: Why wasn’t the usual word for “creates” — “Boreh” chosen?

A possible answer is that since G-d constantly recreates the world from utter nothingness (ex nihilo), He therefore, by definition, possesses all of His creations in His act of creating. Accordingly, the word “Koneh” can be understood to encompass both ideas — “possession” and “creation”.

“And Recalls the Kindness of the Forefathers”

The Forefathers fulfilled the entire Torah before they were actually commanded to do so. Their deeds are therefore referred to as “kindness” (chessed) rather than mere actions. This is in accord with the definition of the title “Chassid”, one who serves G-d beyond the letter of the law, out of pure love.

Since we assume that we are not worthy of redemption on our own merit, we request that G-d remember the kind deeds of our Forefathers and send us a Redeemer in their merit (Arbah Turim, Levush).

Perhaps the idea here is that since the Forefathers fulfilled the entire Torah before it was given, their actions were therefore not done out of obligation. We likewise ask G-d to provide for us, their descendants, not because He is obligated, but rather as an act of kindness.

Recalling the Divine Promise

Another explanation of the phrase “And recalls the kindness of the Forefathers” refers to the kindness that G-d promised to the Forefathers; namely, to redeem their descendants from exile and give them the Land of Israel (Ben Ish Chai).

According to this explanation, we also depend on the merit of the Forefathers, since it was based on their merit that G-d promised to redeem us and give us the Land of Israel

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