Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 13 June 2015 / 26 Sivan 5775

Shemoneh Esrei: The Fourteenth Blessing: Part 1

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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“And to Jerusalem, Your city, may You return with mercy.”

An explanation seems needed in order to understand the precise meaning of the above phrase, “May You return with mercy,” for how can G-d’s return to Jerusalem, which will mark our long awaited redemption, be defined as anything other than an act of Divine mercy?

Although the Jewish People have been faced with bitter hardship and tragedy over the years, its end will be of great joy and triumph. Thus, the Torah as well as Rabbinic literature is replete with G-d’s promise that He will return us to the holy Land of Israel to live in peace and tranquillity. How exactly this will occur, however, is not entirely clear. It is for this reason that the nature of the events at “the end of days” is one of the most mysterious and intriguing questions discussed today.

Many explain, based on the words of the Prophets, that before our “happy ending” will arrive there will be a great war with much bloodshed, devastating the world together with the Jewish People of that time. Others say that the wars talked about in the Torah will not necessarily take place in a physical sense; rather they can be fought and won on a spiritual plane. The Jewish nation as a whole, through good deeds, can defeat the source of evil ‘above’, and thereby conquer its physical counterpart ‘below’.

One may ask: If the first opinion quoted above is based on Divine prophesy, how can anyone argue against it? One may further ask: If one can, in fact, argue against those prophesies, then can one also argue against other prophesies that state that there will in fact be a final redemption? The answers are clear. There is a well-known principle that ‘negative’ predictions by a prophet may or may not come true, while any ‘good’ prediction must certainly come true, or else the prophet is false.

According to this we can explain the source of the above argument. Since everything depends on us, if the Jewish People repent, turning to G-d loyally and accepting His decrees wholeheartedly, then G-d will act towards them with mercy and accept them with open arms. All of the negative decrees will be cancelled, and replaced with revealed kindness and mercy. Not only will our end be blissful, but the road that leads us there will be the same as well. We therefore beseech G-d to return to Jerusalem, not as was prophesied, but instead, through mercy.

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