Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 28 February 2015 / 9 Adar I 5775

The Shemoneh Esrei - Eleventh Blessing: Part 1

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

“Restore our judges as in earliest times and our counselors as in the beginning.”

Questions: Why is it not sufficient to simply request to “restore our judges” and “counselors” without mentioning that they should be as in the beginning? Moreover, since this is a blessing for the restoration of justice, why are counselors mentioned at all?

The first judge and counselor a person will ever encounter is himself. Since a person’s reasoning can easily be manipulated it is not wise to trust one’s own judgment. Before a person makes a decision about a particular matter, for example a purchase for a new outfit or something more serious like a decision to go out on a shidduch date with a woman he has heard about, a dialogue within his own mind usually takes place.

This silent conversation which seems to be the expression of one’s own thoughts is in fact a debate between two different entities deep within a person. The higher spirit, which is expressed through pure intellect, feeds the subconscious with good and true advice. In direct opposition to this, man’s heart, which is the seat of his passions and desires for physical pleasure, feeds his imagination with negative and false advice.

On a conscious level the average person is not aware of the two voices within; to him all of the potential ideas seem to be his own. Only when a person is devoted to attaining inner perfection can he acquire the sensitivity to properly discern between these two voices.

According to the above we can understand how the same person can decide not to continue going out with a particular person, only to change his decision moments later. The conversation may sound something like this: “She is not the right girl for me; I need someone mature and settled.” Moments later his inner voice says something like this, “She looked so nice the other night. Maybe I’ll go out with here again, and see if she says she is ready to settle down.”

What is the source of this duality found within us? The Sages explain that before the first sin of the tree of knowledge, both body and soul functioned in perfect harmony. In this pure state, man's intellect had a clear vision of truth. After the sin, however, body and soul separated, creating the inner battle mentioned above.

Accordingly, we can understand why we ask that our judges and advisers should be restored as in the beginning. We are asking that the clear and true advice of the soul overpower that of the tainted heart. We are asking that our decisions (judgments) be in line with the advice of only the soul and not the body. Simply put, when push comes to shove, make sure it is the soul that does the shoving.

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