The tefilah of Yaaleh V’Yavo is added to our Shemoneh Esrei and our Birkas HaMazon on Rosh Chodesh and on yamim tovim. Before we begin looking at the words, it is essential to try to understand the theme of this beautiful tefilah.

Why is this tefilah in the brachah of R’tzei? What is the theme of R’tzei and how does Yaaleh V’Yavo fit into that theme?

R’tzei is a brachah in which we ask that we ourselves, our tefilos, and our service to Hashem be “pleasing” to Him, and that we merit to see the return of His Sh’chinah in the rebuilt Beis HaMikdash in our days with our own eyes. This brachah is about the “enhancement of kiddush Hashem in the world” (Rav Schwab on Prayer) and about finding favor in the “eyes” of Hashem, in order to come closer to Him in our relationship, with the ultimate goal of bringing about the great worldwide kiddush Hashem that will occur when Hashem returns His Presence to the Beis HaMikdash.

The ability of our tefilos and mitzvos to impact the world depends upon our level at the time of the mitzvah, the quality of the performance of the mitzvah (awareness, love, simchah, purity for the sake of fulfilling Hashem’s commandments, and following the halachah carefully), and the time we perform the mitzvah (for example: all other quality factors being equal, mitzvos performed on Shabbos have 613 times the power of those performed during the week).

The brachah of R’tzei comes at a point during our Shemoneh Esrei where we have grown to a high spiritual level. In the first brachah (Avos), we deepened our recognition that Hashem is the bestower of kindness, that He will redeem us with love, and that He is our protector and shield. In the second brachah, we recognized more deeply that He is all-powerful and all-capable, that nothing is beyond Him. In the third brachah, we remember that it is only Hashem Who is perfect, separate and apart, and beyond our comprehension. It is only He Whom we can turn to and rely upon for every need we have.

With that recognition of total dependence on the Almighty, we then asked for various needs for klal Yisrael and for ourselves and others. By the time we reach the brachah of R’tzei, we are more connected to Hashem as a result of our enhanced recognition and our having davened to Him with love. We are therefore on a higher level than before we began our tefilah. This is the opportune time to ask that we and our tefilos should not merely be acceptable to Hashem, but that we and our tefilos should be “merutzim” – pleasing to Him and finding favor, and that our service to Him be received and accepted with love. The purpose of this request is to enhance our closeness to Hashem and to achieve a greater impact towards the worldwide kiddush Hashem that will, b’ezras Hashem, occur with the return of Hashem’s Sh’chinah to the final Beis HaMikdash.

Next week, b’ezras Hashem, we will discuss how Yaaleh V’Yavo fits so well into the theme of R’tzei.

[Based on Rinas Chaim by HaRav Chaim Friedlander zt”l on Shemoneh Esrei, and Rav Schwab on Prayer by Rav Shimon Schwab, ArtScroll]

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