Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin
FOCUS ON TEFILLAH ARCHIVE
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
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,
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!”
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