Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 7 November 2015 / 25 Heshvan 5776

Shemoneh Esrei: Eighteenth Blessing

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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In the “Modim” blessing we offer thanks to G-d for all of the good that He bestows upon us. As such, it is fitting to pause for a moment before reciting this blessing in order to awaken a feeling of genuine gratitude within one’s heart.

“We give thanks (modim) to You…”

Rabbi Hutner explains that the root word for thanks in Hebrew can also mean to agree or admit. Accordingly, one can explain that in order to truly thank G-d one must first agree that all that G-d does is for the good. Once one is “modeh”, i.e. admits in his heart that everything given to him by G-d is in reality good, he can then thank G-d properly.

We find an example of the above idea in the Talmud. Rabbi Akiva was once travelling. Unsuccessful in finding lodging in town, he was forced to spend the night in the forest alone. Instead of seeing his situation as negative, he proclaimed, “All that the Merciful One does is for the good. That night his donkey and rooster were killed and his only candle was blown out by the wind. Nevertheless, he still persisted in his belief that whatever G-d does is only for the good, thus accepting his dismal situation. That very night, marauding soldiers attacked the city, captured its inhabitants, and took them all as slaves. Rabbi Akiva proclaimed to his students, “Did I not tell you? All that G-d does is for the good! Had the candle remained lit, the soldiers would have seen me; had the donkey brayed or had the rooster crowed, the soldiers would have heard and come and captured me!”

Despite how things appeared, Rabbi Akiva saw everything he encountered as an expression of Divine mercy, and through his great faith in G-d he was miraculously saved from danger.

“We shall give thanks to You… for Your miracles that are with us every day.”

This refers to the constant “hidden miracles” that G-d does for us morning, afternoon and night. In fact the Talmud relates a story regarding the verse that states, “I thank You, G-d, because You were angry with me.” (Isaiah 12:1) Two people embarked on a trip. One became injured and could not journey on. He began to hurl imprecations and curses regarding his lost opportunity. Shortly afterwards he heard that the boat he was to sail on sank in the middle of the ocean, whereupon he began to thank and praise Gd for saving him. Though we do not see it with our eyes, we too are the recipients of countless miracles.

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