Daily Email Archives

Bulletin Archives

Summer Archives

Public Announcements

Shatnez Publications

Past Events

Hakhel Recordings


Audio-Visual Resources


Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin





The Sefer Olas Tamid (by Rabbi Shmuel Hominer, Shlita) writes that it is important for us to realize that the Bracha is in the present tense, for we must realize that Hashem heaps Da’as and Sechel upon us each and every minute in all aspects of our existence. Whatever Hashem gives us is via Chonen, i.e., it is a free gift and is not based upon our great Zechuyos. When we recite the word Chaneinu we should intensely feel our direct receipt of this precious gift as Hashem takes wisdom, insight, and understanding and instills them within us every hour, every minute, and every second of our existence. Oh! How we should appreciate it!


The Sefer Yaaros Devash by Rebbi Yonasan Eibeshutz, Z’tl, teaches that Atta Chonen is the FIRST of our bakashos, our personal requests, because the creation of man and his distinction from all other land and sea creatures truly lies in his unparalleled capabilities in knowledge, wisdom and understanding. This is why the bracha states Atta Chonen LeAdam Da’as--for it is to man alone that these abilities were awarded, and it is for your ability to achieve the most that you can that you pray. During this bracha, one should especially think about his desire for success in Torah study--and that one uses his wisdom LeShaim Shomayim and for Emes. Essentially, then, you are pleading that you attain your Tachlis HaChaim. When the Moshiach comes, we will be blessed with the times of "U’malah Ha’aretz De’ah Es Hashem K’Mayim LaYam Mechasim"--the importance of knowledge and its proper use is so pervasive--that it is our final hope for all of mankind. As we recite these few powerful words, let us think of ourselves, our families, our friends, Bnai Yisroel, the world--asking Hashem to provide this FIRST of all gifts to us--not because we deserve it--but because we need and want to reach our own potential, and mankind’s potential--in this world, and the next!


The Siddur Yaveitz writes that if a person had a special insight in his Torah study or even while at work, he should think of it during the Bracha of Atta Chonen and think of thanking Hashem for the endowment. HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, likewise points out that when one is Mechadeish something in learning, he should recognize that what he has just experienced is a gift from Hashem. We suggest, then that this Bracha be made with a high degree of Simcha and appreciation. HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, (in the monumental work Rav Schwab on Prayer), provides a different insight to heighten our level of appreciation for this Bracha: "Throughout the ages, each generation has inherited the knowledge of the previous one and added to it. In our times this process has proceeded very rapidly. Today, one can see in his own lifetime the rapid and momentous strides that human intelligence has made in physics, technology, computer science…. One hundred years ago people were simply not aware of certain forces in nature that have been discovered and utilized by our generation. One hundred years from now the knowledge that we possess will be considered primitive. This is an ongoing process, because HaKadosh Baruch Hu has given man the ability to rise to higher and higher levels of knowledge and understanding." Ultimately, we will attain the highest level of understanding through our closer association with Hashem!

Especially in our generation, we should have a great feeling and real Kavannah when reciting this Bracha!


The Sefer Baruch She’amar (the Torah Temimah) notes that Atta Chonen is the only bracha of bakasha in Shemone Esrei that does not immediately begin directly with a request. Rather, it begins with a statement--Atta Chonen L’Adam Da’as--you grant a person knowledge. The Baruch She’amar writes that this may be because "Im ain da’as--Tefillah minayin--without the power of knowledge there is no initial opportunity for any Tefillah". Thus, these four words in a sense serve as an introduction to all of the bakashos of Shemone Esrei--clearly expressing that our power of Tefillah can only arrive through Hashem’s initial gift of precious knowledge to us . How powerful should our recitation of this bracha be!


The Mishna Berura to Orach Chaim 115: s.k. 1 writes that this bakasha is the Ikar HaShieilah that a person should ask of Hashem--that Hashem give him the sechel and da’as yashar to shun evil and choose good. The Sefer Baruch SheAmar adds that the word Haskeil is intended to denote not only knowledge but success at attaining the knowledge. We can now better understand, why, in Nusach Ashkenaz, Haskeil is our final request prior to concluding the Bracha--we need the success of making our intellect work for us as well!


----------------------------------------------  SECOND SET  -------------------------- ------------------------------------


We begin with the words Atta Chonen L’Adam Da’as.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, points out that unlike all of the other brachos of Bakasha which begin directly with a request, this Bracha, which serves as the introduction to all the other brachos of Bakasha, initially begins with praise of Hashem--that he graciously (and free of charge--chinam!) bestows man with knowledge.  HaRav Kaniesvky explains that Da’as is even greater than Binah, in that through Da’as one can explain his thinking.  The Adam referred to here, Rav Kanievsky continues, is a Chochom U’Bar Ma’aleh  (see Tosfos to Sanhedrin 59A).  Although Torah knowledge is not specifically requested in the Bracha, HaRav Kanievsky points out that “Ain Da’as Elah Torah”(Sotah 49A)--and Torah is clearly intended.  Nevertheless, we may infer that because Torah is not directly referred to in the bracha, our request is also meant to include a plea that all of our actions be undertaken and completed with sechel hayashar--appropriate and complete presence of mind!




HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, in the Sefer Rinas Chaim writes that while all of the Bakashos we make in Shemone Esrei are items which we need urgently--nevertheless the first Bakasha for a healthy and active mind is the prerequisite to all of the other Bakashos.  Simply stated, without sechel, a person would not know that he should be asking Hashem for everything else that follows--nor would he know what to ask for and how to ask for it!  Indeed, as the Mishna Berurah writes in his commentary on this Bracha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 115, seif katan 1) the goal of man in life is to choose good and detest evil--and without the intellect to do so he would be lost.  All of this intellect comes from One Source.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, emphasizes in Mishlei (3:5):  Vi’ehl Binasecha Al Tishaein--do not rely upon your own understanding.”  Truth be told, it is at first blush easier for a person to understand that his might is not his and that his money is not his than for him to understand that his wisdom comes only from Hashem as well.  A person readily recognizes that a doctor is Hashem’s Shaliach, and that his boss, and his customers and clients, are as well.  However, it is harder for a person to fathom that his insight, his ability to understand, his reasoning and his power of association are not ‘his own’.  It is for this reason that Shlomo HaMelech especially teaches that this is not the case at all--and that our own wisdom does not even serve as an addition or support to the wisdom Hashem grants us--for all our wisdom, all our intelligence, all of our understanding comes only from Him.  We can well understand, then, why this bracha--with Kavannah--is so crucial to attaining our potential, our goals--our role--in life!




We move now to the second phrase of the bracha:  U’Melamed Le’enosh Binah”.  Enosh was the grandson of Adom HaRishon whose generation had sunk to a very low level.  Thus, Enosh represents man at a low point.  Nevertheless, Hashem grants even a coarse and base man Binah--the ability to understand one thing from another.  Indeed, if the generation of Enosh would have used the Binah that Hashem afforded them properly--and they did have the opportunity to do so--world history would have been forever changed.  Even if we live in a generation similar to that of Enosh, we must personally endeavor to use the Binah that Hashem grants us properly.  It is significant that we refer to Hashem here as a Melamed--one who teaches.  The other place in our Tefillos in which we use the term Melamed is, of course, HaMelamed Torah LeAmo Yisroel.  When we picture a Melamed, we should envision a caring and loving teacher, meaning to instill as much understanding as he can into the seemingly indifferent student who does not properly appreciate and understand the gift that he is being given.  We therefore suggest that while reciting these words, a person should especially sense his humility for being given something that he does not really deserve and does not fully appreciate.  We should also feel the love of Hashem as we recite the word--Melamed!




Sometimes we lose sight of just how beautifully precise the words of our Tefillah really are.  The Siddur Otzar HaTefillos brings that (in Nusach Ashkenaz) there are seventeen words in the bracha of Atta Chonen, which number corresponds both to the number of times that the term Chochom is used in Koheles and the gematria of the word Tov--(it is good).  Additionally, the Otsar HaTefillos notes that we recite Atta Chonantanu within the bracha (for, as Chazal explain--if we do not have the understanding to distinguish between Kodesh and Chol--how can we make Havdalah?)  The Havdalah in the bracha is incredibly symbolized by the word Binah itself which is an acronym for Besomim, Yayin, Ner, Havdala!  With all of this preciseness, we note that the verb of Chonen--to please grant us for free is used three times in this short bracha in order to emphasize and reemphasize that all of our knowledge, insight, perception and understanding is an absolute gift from Hashem.  Indeed, HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, teaches that upon one’s attaining a Torah insight, or successfully explaining a difficulty, he should exclaim:  “Thank you, thank you Hashem!”




Previous Bracha                                                                                                                                                   Next Bracha


Back to Tefillah Archives