Thursday, April 16, 2015

Understanding Tefilah: Mizmor Shir Channukat HaBayit L’Dovid - 11

Rav Lessin

“Shma Hashem v’chaneini, Hashem heyei ozer Li.” “[Please] listen, Hashem, and favor me. Hashem, be a help to me.”

After all Dovid’s pleading, he now asks Hashem directly to hear his call for help.  Why must he do that?  Isn’t Hashem always listening?  “Shma” doesn’t only refer to hearing the words that have been spoken; it also means accepting those words so that they register their intended impact (see Rashi on Bereishit 37:27).  It is in not enough for Dovid to beseech Hashem with words of praise and thanks.  Now, towards the end of the mizmor, he makes sure to daven for Hashem to hear and accept his heartfelt prayers.

In this pasuk, Dovid also offers a simple and pure prayer: Hashem, please help me.  There’s nothing more beautiful and innocent than a Jew turning to G-d and speaking in straightforward, uncomplicated terms.  Dovid shows us that when we speak to Hashem, we don’t need to find lofty words in order to express ourselves.  Simple, heartfelt words are the best way to communicate.

“Hafachta misp’di l’machol li, pitachta saki vat’azreini simcha.” “You turned my lamenting into dancing for me; You opened my sackcloth and braced me with joy.”

We understand that Hashem can reverse any bad decree and make it good.  But here it sounds like the lamenting itself turns into dancing!  Rav Kook explains that all hardships in the world only exist in order to bring an appreciation of the good things in one’s life.  Lamenting over loss creates a contrast by which a person realizes that he cannot take advantage of what he does have, no matter how small.  In that way, the lamenting forms the contours of a picture of the positives in one’s life that can bring him to dance and rejoice.

In order for the verse to be parallel, we would have expected it to read “pitachta saki vat’azreini malbush shel simcha,” “You opened my sackcloth and braced me with a garment of joy.”  What does it mean that joy comes to replace the mourner’s garment of sackcloth?  Dovid is telling us that joy itself can be worn as a garment.  In addition to one’s actual clothing, one can wear an aura of joy in the way he presents himself to the world.  He can exude happiness not only through his clothing, but through the way he carries himself, the way he looks at people, and the way he allows Hashem’s light to shine through his presence.

“L’maan y’zamercha kavod v’lo yidom, Hashem Elokai l’olam odeka.” “So that my soul will sing and not be silent.  Hashem is my Master, and I will forever thank you.”

The Mefarshim point out that the word “kavod” here is a reference to the neshama.  What is the connection between these two concepts?  When one acts with kavod toward another person, he is showing that this person stands out in some positive way, that in some way he is a cut above the rest.  We refer to the neshama as “kavod” because it is the most exalted entity in the created world, a piece of Hashem himself imbued into a person of flesh and blood.  In this pasuk, Dovid acknowledges that the purpose of Hashem’s salvation is so that a person will use the most precious thing he has, his soul, his essential self, as a means to sing to Hashem.

In truth, the soul is always singing.  The nature of the soul is to sing Hashem’s praises and to yearn for a close connection with Him.  We may not always hear our inner voice singing, but our job is to follow in Dovid’s footsteps and learn to amplify that voice within us.  Dovid encourages us all to not remain silent, to bring out the song from our souls, and to openly express our thanks to G-d, forever.

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