Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Understanding Tefilah: Hodu - 1

Rabbi Dovid Lessin

Introduction: The first section of Hodu (until “V’halel la’Hashem”) was written by Dovid HaMelech (Divrei Hayamim 1, perek 16, recorded also in Tehillim 105, 96, and 106) to be recited by the Leviim upon the Aron’s return to Ir Dovid.  Subsequently, the first half of these psukim were sung every morning during the morning Korban Tamid offering, whereas the second half were sung along with the Korban Tamid Bein Ha’Arba’im in the afternoon.

“Hodu La’Hashem Kiru Bishmo, Hodeu Ba’Amim Alilotav.” 
“Give thanks to Hashem, declare His name. Make His acts known among the nations.”  

The Ramban (Bereishit 12:8) explains that this is exactly what Avraham Avinu did when he first entered Eretz Yisrael, traveling around the country, setting up mizbachot, and literally calling Hashem’s name throughout the land.  Why did Avraham do this?  Because when you love someone, there is a surge of energy propelling you sing your beloved’s praises to everyone you encounter.  Avraham had spent years discovering Hashem, and in that time had developed a deep love for the G-d he found.  It is not a coincidence that Avraham’s middah is chesed, giving, because he expressed his love for Hashem through loving people, Hashem’s children.  When Avraham entered Eretz Yisrael, he wanted the whole world to know what he had discovered, and so he traveled around telling people all about it, declaring Hashem’s name.

Similarly, Dovid HaMelech possessed a deep love for Hashem, which he developed through contemplation of Hashem’s incredible kindness in his own life.  He too wanted the world to know of this truth, and so he implored his followers to turn their attention to the entire world while proclaiming Hashem’s name.  He clearly felt that one’s understanding of Hashem’s greatness is too wonderful to be kept only to one’s self.

But it works in the other direction as well.  Through singing Hashem’s praises we can generate feelings of love for Hashem within ourselves.  This requires slow contemplation of what it is we’re saying, and what the words mean.  Just as a man who praises his wife thoughtfully and accurately will develop more love for her, so too we can use that tool to think carefully about Hashem’s greatness and specific kindness with us, and come to love Him more.

“Shiru Lo Zamru Lo, Sichu B’Chol Nifl’otav.” 
“Sing to Him, make music to Him, discuss all His wonders.”  

The Chofetz Chaim used to say that a person should channel all of his positive energies into the service of G-d.  “You want to sing?” he would ask.  That’s wonderful – sing “to Him.” “You want to make music?” he would ask. That’s also wonderful – make music “to Him.” “You want to discuss?” There’s nothing wrong with that (the Chofetz Chaim himself was known to be a talker) – discuss “all Hashem’s wonders.”

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