Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 31 January 2015 / 11 Shevat 5775

The Shemoneh Esrei - The Ninth Blessing - Part 3

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

“Bless for us Lord our G-d this year...”

Of all of the thirteen blessings of requests only this one begins with the word “bless”. The reason is because in this blessing, more than the others, we are asking for physical abundance and prosperity. In fact, the word “bless” in the holy language connotes increase and abundance. For example, we find that when Yitzchak planted a field that yielded a hundred times the usual amount, the verse concludes — as if stating the reason for the unusual occurrence — that G-d blessed the field. Through our prayer to G-d for a prosperous year we hope to be worthy of Divine blessing from Above.

Heaven’s Decree

The question is raised: Since one’s financial status for the coming year is decided on Rosh Hashana, why is it necessary to pray for parnasa (livelihood) on a daily basis? The answer is that based on a person’s actions the judgment rendered on Rosh Hashana can change for better or for worse. For example, a person may have been motivated to do sincere teshuva during the High Holidays, changing his actions for the better. In return G-d may have given him a favorable judgment. If, however, he returns to his old ways afterwards, thereby distancing himself from G-d, his verdict can changed for the worse. We are taught in the Talmud that a person’s negative actions can cause a “good decree of even seventy years” to be reversed and replaced with a bad one. (Rabbi Avraham, son of the Vilna Gaon)

“… And satisfy us from Your good”

Is a person ever satisfied with what he has? According to the Talmud the answer is “No”. In fact, it is stated there that a person’s greed can get so out of control that no matter how much wealth he may amass he will always want more. “He who has one hundred will desire two hundred, and he who has two hundred will desire four hundred.”

When, however, one keeps in mind that all the good he has comes from G-d, he will remain humble and content with his lot. In connection to this the Sages teach that a truly “wealthy” man is one who is happy and content with his lot (Avot 4:1). We therefore ask G-d to grant us “satisfaction” in addition to His “good”, since one can experience true good only if he is also satisfied with his portion. This becomes possible when one internalizes the fact that whatever he has is Divinely ordained.

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