Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 2 May 2015 / 13 Iyyar 5775

The Shemoneh Esrei - The Twelfth Blessing - Part 3

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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“May the wicked kingdom be speedily uprooted and smashed and utterly destroyed ― and subjugate them speedily in our days.”

The wording of this blessing is quite puzzling. If we’ve already asked to utterly destroy and uproot evil, what then is meant by the latter request to subjugate evil? (Rabbi Yaakov Emden)

In order to clarify the seeming contradiction in asking to both eradicate and subjugate evil, one must first understand that the evil that exists here below has a spiritual counterpart above. In fact, this aspect of evil above is the root and cause of the existence of evil forces in the world. It is taught in the Zohar that there are, in reality, two levels of evil that exist above. One level is completely evil. This level is the true root and source of all evil. The second level is a mixture of good and evil, as is taught regarding the sin of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. (Zohar)

When the blessing mentions the complete destruction of evil, it is speaking about the first level. However, regarding the second level we do not pray for its complete destruction, but rather for its subjugation and ultimate inclusion in G-d’s perfect Divine Kingdom, both above and below.

This idea can be understood from an example of human social behavior. It is well known that a person is greatly influenced by his environment. Even someone born with a good nature will find it difficult to develop his good traits if he is raised and educated in a wicked place, where sinful behavior is socially accepted. Instead he will likely accept the false and evil ideologies of his land. If, however, this same person would be in a positive environment, where no evil existed, he would develop to be a fine and descent person. Thus, by totally destroying the root and cause of evil above, the potential good which lies latent in all things will become empowered, subjugating the secondary level of evil within.

According to the above we can understand what will take place in the future era of redemption, when the world will attain its destined state of perfection. Then, the entire world, including the most wildest of animals, will live in peace and tranquility. May we see the fulfillment of G-d’s promise, as those days He will be King across the land and He and His name will be One.

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