Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Understanding Tefilah: Hodu – 2

Rav Dovid Lessin

“Hit’halelu b’shem kadsho, yismach lev mevakshei Hashem,” “Find praise in His holy Name.  Be glad of heart, he who seeks Hashem.”  

The Meiri explains that “finding praise” in Hashem’s holy Name means feeling proud to be associated with Hashem every time His name is invoked.  In our times, when religious freedom is no longer a given and those who live by the word of G-d are labeled as outdated and not “with” the times, it is more important than ever to remain proud of being associated with Hashem.  We need not be apologetic; we have chosen to live in accordance with the ultimate truth. This should be a source of pride for each of us.

What is the connection between seeking Hashem and being glad of heart?  Rav Kook writes that we are not a people of finding, but a people of seeking. What gives meaning to life is having a purpose towards which one is always striving.  That sense of meaning is what true happiness is about.

“Dirshu Hashem v’uzo, bakshu panav tamid,” “Search out Hashem and His strength, seek His presence always.”  

The G”ra writes that only one who knows the midot of Hashem and of His Torah (“uzo”) is fit to search for them.  When one truly understands the depth and beauty of Hashem and of Torah, he feels compelled to search them out.  L’mashal, if a lost orphan hears of a warm, loving father who can provide a home, sustenance, and direction in life to children who come to him, how could the orphan not run at that opportunity?

The word for “presence” here is “panav,” which literally mean “His face.”  The Ramchal speaks of the concept of “haarat panim,” the radiance or countenance of Hashem’s face.  He explains that we aim to turn Hashem’s “face” towards us, which we achieve by following His will.  When Hashem is facing us, it means that there is more of His presence in the world and in our lives in particular at that moment.  In this pasuk, we are being encouraged to always be looking for ways to turn Hashem’s face towards us, which in turn strengthens our relationship with Him.

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