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.
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