Since Shavuos is the day of judgment for Torah and spiritual matters, the tefilah of Ahavah Rabah, which we recently completed, is of special significance. We are therefore reprinting Ahavah Rabah 6 and 7 in order to inspire ourselves to plead with Hashem in this powerful tefilah for the spiritual success of our children and ourselves. We wish all an uplifting, inspiring, and enjoyable Yom Tov.
Ahavah Rabah 6
Torah: The Air We Breathe
Avinu, HaAv HaRachaman, HaM’racheim – racheim aleinu
Our Father, the merciful Father, Who acts mercifully, have mercy upon us
There are no supplications in all of the prayers that are more powerful than these, actually like a person who is pleading in order to save his life. [HaRav Avigdor Miller in Tefilas Avigdor]
Rav Miller zt”l points out that in this tefilah we are expressing a progression, adding level upon level of compassion and mercy in our description of Hashem’s compassion and in our relationship with Him. We add that these levels come on top of those already describing the great and eternal love Hashem has for us, the great and powerful compassion He showed us in the past, invoking His great Name and the z’chus of our Avos and their bitachon. Why such seemingly excessive pleading, here in this tefilah in particular?
Rav Miller explains that the knowledge and fulfillment of Torah is the greatest salvation for our souls, and there is no greater danger in our lives than living without Torah. Accordingly, we are pleading here for our very lives, our eternal spiritual lives. As the Chofetz Chaim writes in siman 47 of the Mishnah B’rurah, this is one of the primary places in tefilah (In fact, he lists it first before other parts of tefilah that precede Ahavah Rabah in sequence) where we daven for our children as well. We are pleading for their eternal lives as well as our own.
We begin with “Avinu (our Father).” A father certainly has a great and powerful love for his children. We then add “HaRachaman (the Merciful),” which is meant as a title or description. Hashem’s umanus (“profession”) is rachamim. His midos are rachamim.
We then proceed to add “HaM’racheim” – the One who actively has rachmanus upon us. All compassion in the world comes from One Source. Human beings who deliver that compassion are messengers of Hashem, the One Source. Finally, we add “racheim aleinu” – a request for Hashem to have compassion upon us.
Why do we need such seemingly excessive pleading to learn and live Torah for ourselves and our children? Isn’t it enough to put in our best efforts and ask for Hashem’s help in our normal manner? Rav Shlomo Wolbe (sefer Alei Shur 2:590-591) quotes the Gemara in Maseches Nidah (70b) in which the Gemara says that it is not enough to sit and learn. The Gemara states: “Many did that and it did not help them (to become chachamim).” Rather, one must sit and learn and beseech Hashem for rachamim. Rav Wolbe then writes these most powerful words:
And who knows how many potential g’dolei Torah are getting lost and are not becoming what they could have become – because their tefilos are [conducted] with skipping portions and with [undue] haste, without kavanah (intent and concentration) from the depths of the heart!
When we daven for others, we fulfill many mitzvos. A partial list includes the mitzvos of Tefilah, V’ahavta L’Rei’acha Kamocha, V’halachta Bi’Drachav, Emunah, Bitachon, Yichud Hashem, Chesed, Bikur Cholim, and more. B’ezras Hashem, we will delve into this topic at another point in time.
Let us all storm the heavens and beseech Hashem for rachamim as we plead to Hashem in this unique tefilah. Let us plead for all of klal Yisrael, our children, family, and friends – and ourselves. Nothing less than our eternal lives are at stake.
Ahavah Rabah 7
A Plea for Passion
V’sein b’libeinu l’havin u’l’haskil, lishmoa, lilmod, u’l’lameid
Instill in our hearts to understand and to elucidate, to listen, to learn, and to teach…
Rav Chaim Friedlander zt”l (Rinas Chaim) and Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l (Tefilas Avigdor) explain that the words “v’sein b’libeinu” apply to all the requests that follow. We ask Hashem to place in our hearts (and in our children’s hearts) the desire to want to internalize and to clarify, to accept, to learn and to teach Torah.
How can we ask Hashem to place in our hearts the desire to want all of these spiritual requests? Isn’t that our job? We know that while results are completely in Hashem’s domain, our role is creating the desire and putting forth effort, even in ruchniyus – spiritual matters. Why are we asking Hashem to do what we are obligated to do?
The answer is that we need to acknowledge that we need Hashem’s help to accomplish anything, even the desire and effort, which is our role and responsibility. We need siyata diShmaya, heavenly assistance, in every step of our lives. Therefore, not only do we ask for success, but we ask here also for Hashem’s assistance in desiring all these steps of serving Him through internalizing, learning, teaching, and living Torah with love.
We will briefly explain the words in this beautiful request, based on the explanations of HaRav Friedlander (Rinas Chaim) and HaRav Miller (Tefilas Avigdor). We preface each of the statements below with, “We ask You, Hashem, to place in our hearts (and in our children’s hearts) the desire:
l’havin – to focus on the depth of Torah and place it deeply into our hearts;
l’haskil – to understand and internalize the Torah so clearly within our hearts that its teachings become like a simple, straightforward matter to us, and thereby guide our every thought, speech, and action;
lishmoa – to accept guidance from our rav, rebbeim, parents, and others;
lilmod – to toil in Torah, learn with hasmadah, and grasp quickly;
l’lameid – to have the ability and the z’chus to teach Torah. One who loves Torah is not satisfied just to learn but wants others to learn as well. His own learning is with the mindset of teaching and living Torah.
Let us remember the Chofetz Chaim’s advice of also davening in this brachah for our children.
Integrating Mitzvos into Our Daily Lives
The mitzvos of learning and teaching Torah are equal to all the mitzvos combined. Each word of Torah is a separate mitzvah.
There is a mitzvah to teach Torah to our children, grandchildren, and students. While we learn Torah, we can also fulfill the mitzvos of V’ahavta L’Rei’acha Kamocha and g’milas chesed, since our Torah learning creates brachah, protection, healing, and salvation for the world. When we teach, we are also performing a great chesed directly for those people we are teaching. We also fulfill the mitzvah of V’halachta Bi’Drachav, emulating Hashem’s Ways, since Hashem teaches Torah to the Jewish People, as we state in the Birkas HaTorah each morning.
We do not need to be a rebbe in order to teach Torah. Any time we are with others and share a Torah thought, we are teaching Torah. When we share Torah with another person for just a couple of minutes at a gathering or in a car, we perform hundreds of mitzvos of the highest caliber, we bring brachah to the world, and we come closer to Hashem and to the person with whom we are sharing the Torah.
We also have the opportunity to teach Torah by living Torah. When we follow halachah and behave in a manner befitting Torah Jews, modeling exemplary midos, we are teaching Torah as well.
Let us seize these precious opportunities.
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