Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 13 September 2014 / 18 Elul 5774

The Shemoneh Esrei - The Fifth Blessing Repentance (Teshuva) - Part 1

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

“Bring us back, our Father, to Your Torah, and bring us near our King to your service.”

The blessing for repentance (teshuva) immediately follows the request for knowledge and understanding. The reason for this is that with understanding comes the responsibility to discern between right and wrong. Thus, when looking back to the past, one will see more clearly the mistakes that caused him to become distanced from G-d. In addition, with the ability to discern between right and wrong one becomes more responsible for his future actions.

Regarding the above ideas King David writes, “My sins are always before me,” meaning that he was constantly doing teshuva for his past sins based on his new and more profound awareness of G-d.

Our Father — Our King

We call out to G-d, referring to Him first as our father, and only afterwards do we refer to Him as our King. Since a father loves his son without condition, he will always accept him back when he repents. This is not so when dealing with a king, who may deal with a sinner harshly, even when attempting to repent. Thus, the Zohar explains that the right hand of G-d draws close, while His left hand pushes away. Once, however, we arouse G-d’s love for us as a Father, we can apply the verse, “Your (right) hand is spread out to receive those who repent.” G-d’s right, so to speak, relates to loving-kindness, and can therefore be connected to G-d as a loving Father.

Torah ― Avoda (service)

The relationship of a father to a son entails mainly the responsibility for the father to teach his son the proper way of life. Regarding a king, however, the essential element that unites him to his subjects is the obligation of the people to do the bidding of their king.

Accordingly, it is understood why when referring to G-d as our Father we mention learning His Torah, while, when referring to G-d as our King, we mention serving Him. The Torah represents the “way of life.” G-d, through the Torah, acts as a father, teaching us the proper way to conduct ourselves in the world. Regarding the obligation to serve G-d through the performance of the commands, we relate to G-d more as a King, just as one is obligated to follow the commands of a king.

Body and Soul

In yet a deeper sense we can say that when referring to G-d as a father, it is the soul — which is likened to a son — that is speaking. However, when the body speaks to G-d, it calls Him King. Since it is the body that needs the commandments in order to achieve a higher degree of self-purification, its main connection to G-d is likened to one that serves his King.

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