The Weekly Tefilah Focus is now concentrating on a review of the brachos in Shemoneh Esrei of Binyan Yerushalayim, Malchus Beis David, and the Avodah to prepare ourselves to properly contemplate on a daily basis our loss of the open presence of the Sh’chinah and the Beis HaMikdash, and to express our longing for the coming of Mashiach and the return of the Sh’chinah to the Third and final Beis HaMikdash – may we merit so, speedily in our days. We will, b’ezras Hashem, resume with Az Yashir after Tish’ah B’Av, should we have to experience another one this year.
Shemoneh Esrei 45: A Servant’s Plea
R’tzei, Hashem Elokeinu, b’amcha Yisrael u’vis’filasam
Be favorable, Hashem our G-d, toward Your people Israel and their prayer
We now address the last group of brachos in Shemoneh Esrei. In the Gemara in B’rachos (34a), Rav Yehudah says that one should not make requests in the first three brachos or in the last three brachos of Shemoneh Esrei. These are reserved for praising Hashem (the first three) and thanking Him (the last three).
However, when we look at the brachos of “R’tzei” and “Sim Shalom,” they seem to be full of requests. Tosafos explains that Rav Yehudah’s statement and limitation only pertained to requests on behalf of an individual. These brachos, however, contain requests for the entire klal Yisrael. The Avudraham (quoted in sefer Tal’lei Oros) explains that the requests contained in these last three brachos are actually requests for kavod to Hashem, because they relate to our avodah and shalom, which are “k’vod HaKadosh Baruch Hu.”
As we turn to the brachah of R’tzei, we are struck with a powerful question addressed by HaRav Avigdor Miller zt”l (in sefer Tefilas Avigdor). He asks: We just completed the brachah of Shomei’a Tefilah, where we asked Hashem to hear and accept our tefilos. R’tzei, at first glance, seems to be exactly the same request?
HaRav Miller explains that the brachah of R’tzei is not asking Hashem to accept our tefilos, for we just, in fact, completed that request in “Shomei’a Tefilah.” Rather, we are now asking Hashem to accept our avodah of tefilah.
The key word in this brachah is the word “ratzon.” Rabbeinu Yonah (in shaar 1:42) explains that it is possible that Hashem forgives us for our sins and frees us of pains and decrees as a result, but He may still not desire us.
Imagine that someone wronged us. He asked our forgiveness so we forgave him, but since he hasn’t really tried to repair the relationship in a meaningful way, we don’t feel as close to him as we once did. We certainly won’t be inviting him to our home for a Shabbos meal.
Here, too, it is our “ratzon” to repair the relationship between us and Hashem to such an extent that we resume or even enhance our original relationship of warmth and closeness.
This brachah is all about expressing our intense desire for the close relationship between us and Hashem. The level of closeness will be determined by the intensity of our love and desire for that closeness.
Rav Miller points out that we mention the word “ratzon” three times in this brachah. This brachah was originally composed at the time of the second Beis HaMikdash (the words “v’hasheiv es ha’avodah” were added later on). The original intent, therefore, was for the acceptance of our avodah in the Beis HaMikdash. When we conclude the brachah with “Ha’machazir Sh’chinaso l’Tziyon,” that refers to the level of the Sh’chinah (meaning the closeness between Hashem and klal Yisrael) that was present in the first Beis HaMikdash but not in the second.
Next week, b’ezras Hashem, we will see how each phrase in this brachah asks Hashem to accept us and our avodah with “ratzon” (favor), because our ratzon (desire) and greatest joy is to serve Hashem with sh’leimus (perfection) and ahavah (love). We ask Hashem to grant us the ultimate pinnacle of closeness to Him in the place where Hashem’s presence and closeness can be felt to the greatest extent. May it occur hastily in our days.
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