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17.  RETZAI (Avodah)


The Seder Hayom writes that this bracha is the first bracha after our requests have been concluded, and in it we ask that Hashem find favor in our service of Him.  In fact, in the time of the Bais Hamikdash--may it speedily be rebuilt--the specific request was that the Avodah in the Bais Hamikdash should find favor in Hashem in Hashem's eyes--and that Avodah included the Ishei Yisroel--the fire offerings, the karbanos of K'lal Yisroel.  At this time, we daven that our Tefillos be accepted in place of the Avodas Bais Hamikdash, which is the Avodah Sheleima --and that we once again see with our own eyes (VeSechezena Aineinu) the original Avodah.  This essential bracha thus contains a great dual purpose and character--asking that our Avodah now give nachas ruach to Hashem--and demonstrating our yearning for the Avodah Sheleima of the Bais Hamikdash.  Oh--how we should utter the words Vesechezena Aineinu with longing--our very own eyes should be zoche to see the fulfillment of the greatest dream of all mankind and of all time!



Many ask why this bracha is grouped together with the last two brachos under the title of Hoda’ah, as opposed to being grouped together with the other brachos of Bakasha.  After all, even the first word--Retzeih--is a plea to Hashem to be pleased and look favorably towards us, with the bracha continuing with the plea for Hashem to restore the Avodah to the Bais Hamikdash.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, answers that all of the prior brachos of Bakasha can refer to an individual’s needs as well.  From Retzeih and on we are not asking for individual needs--but only for communal needs--and we thank Hashem because it is only He who can respond to the needs of the millions and of the entire world.  HaRav Kanievsky also explains (based upon the Yerushalmi) that when we ask that the Avodah be returned LiDvir Beisecha, the word Dvir refers to the Kodesh HeKedoshim because it is from there that Hashem is ‘Medaber’--communicates to His people in this world.  Finally, HaRav Kanievsky was asked why we ask Hashem in this Tefillah to again accept our Tefillos (U’Sefillasam BeAhava Sekebel B’Ratzon)--after all, didn’t we just ask Hashem to accept our Tefillos in Shema Koleinu?!  He answers that here we are asking for an elevated level of acceptance--an acceptance not only B’Rachamim or even B’Ratzon--but B’Ahava--showing His love for us!  Remember to have Kavannah when reciting the word B’Ahava--as we ask for Hashem’s loving acceptance!



The Sefer BeRumo Shel Olam brings in the name of the Shelah HaKadosh that in this bracha one should plead with Hashem, Beshivron Lev, that his Tefillos be accepted in the place of a Karbon, until the day that our Karbanos come back--which we also pray for with the words VeHashev Es HaAvoda LiDvir Baisecha.” The Ya’avetz incredibly writes that if one does not answer Amein to this bracha in Chazaras Hashatz he could be “MeAkev Bias HaMoshiach chas veshalom”.  This is an especially important remark to those who hastily answer Modim without first answering Amein to our bracha of Retzei.  Instead, one should clearly enunciate Amein, stop for a moment, and then begin his recitation of Modim D’Rabanan.  We now come to perhaps the most well-known phrase in the bracha--VeIshei Yisroel U’Tefillasam BeAhava Sekabel B’Ratzon--may the Karbanos which we will bring, and our Tefillos at all times, be accepted because of the love You have for us.  The Midrash teaches that the term Ishei Yisroel applies even in today’s day, as the Malach Michoel offers the Neshamos of Tzaddikim on the Heavenly Mizbe’ach.  (Although, beyond our understanding, what we can understand at a minimum is that much is happening on our behalf in the Heavens above).  The Shulchan Aruch HaRav adds that the Tzaddikim in this world, by their pure and holy actions, are our Ishei Yisroel in the here and now--as their Tefillos, their words and actions have a purifying effect on us all.



a.  Our note yesterday was on VeIshei Yisroel U’Sefillasam, and our next point of discussion for today would have been the punctuation of this phrase.  A reader ‘did our work for us’ by beautifully explaining as follows:  “The G’ra avoids the problem saying that Bizman She’ein Bais Hamikdash Kayam, the punctuation should be moved, so that the period is after Ve’Ishei Yisroel and before U’Sefillasam . So that the bracha reads:

   ... Vehasheiv
       Es Ha’avodah Lid’vir Baisecha
       Ve’Ishei Yisroel
       U’Sefillasam Sekabel BeRatzon...

   ... And restore:
       (a) the service to the Devir of Your home
       (b) and the fires of Israel.
   And may You accept their prayers willingly...

If we say the phrase is “ VeIshei Yisroel U’Sefillasam BeAhava Sekabel” together , or even that this was the phrase originally when the Kohanim said the bracha in the Bais Hamikdash (Tamid 5:1), the question remains: What did Anshei Keneses HaGedolah mean by Vehasheiv Es Ha’avodah Lidevir
-- this was being said during the Avodah?!!?

Perhaps we can say that “Devir Baisecha” refers to the Kodesh HaKedoshim only when it contains the Aron.  Thus, the Kohanim are asking not for the Avodah in general, but the Avodas Kohein Gadol as it was done on Yom Kippur in Bayis Rishon.  They were asking HaKadosh Baruch Hu to return the Aron to Bayis Sheini, so that it too may have a Devir, and thus we can return to having an Avodah in it!”

b.  In the bracha of Retzei, the Shoresh of ‘Ratzoh’ represented in Retzai and Ratzon is mentioned three times in this one bracha.  With this we clearly indicate that we desperately need Hashem’s Ritzui--His appeasement, His desire and His willingness to bring us back to the Avodah in the Bais HaMikdash.  If we are pleading Hashem for His Ratzon (whether or not we may deserve it)--all the more so must we demonstrate our Ratzon when reciting the bracha!


The Sefer Avudraham writes that the last three brachos of Shemone Esrei are distinguished in that they are focused on Kavod Shomayim.  Our bracha of Avodah, for instance, pleads for the final return of our Avodas Hashem to its optimum state in the Bais HaMikdash.  We conclude the bracha with the words V’Sechezenah Aineinu BeShuvcha L’Tzion BeRachamim--may our eyes see Hashem’s return to Zion with mercy.  The Chofetz Chaim notes that our abilities to see, hear and speak are not based in our Guf, in our body--but are really empowered by our Nefesh.  What we see, hear, and speak in this world will then be translated into what these abilities accomplished for, or against, the Nefesh in this world.  We therefore plead here for our very eyes see the Shechina return to Yerushalayim--thereby fulfilling their true purpose and goal.  The Sefer Baruch SheAmar further explains that the reason that we specifically ask for our eyes to see the return (as opposed to the experience by our other senses) is based on [the deeper meaning of] the Pasuk (Yeshaya 52:8-see there) Ki Ayin BeAyin Yiru BeShuv Hashem Tzion.  We then add that the return should be BeRachamim, also based on the Pasuk (Tehillim 102:17)--Atta Takum TeRachem Tzion.  The reason that we conclude our request with the word BeRachamim is because the Chevlei Moshiach could c’v bring extreme distress.  As the Gemara (Sanhedrin 98B) records “May it come, but I not see it”--therefore we ask that the Moshiach come (and all of the brachos listed at the top of this Bulletin on his arrival be recited) not out of or in a state of Yesurim and pain--but B’Nachas U’Vehashket--so that we will want to and can see it with our very own eyes!  May our tefillos in this bracha be sincere and fulfilled!


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


The Levush teaches that the Bracha of Retzei corresponds to the bracha that the Malochim recited when the Shechina descended upon the Mishkan.  Chazal teach that the reason this Bracha is placed here, after Shomei’ah Tefillah (and not before, as one of the Brachos relating to the Geulah), is because the ultimate Makom of Tefillah is the Beis HaMikdash which is known as Beis Tefillasi.  Regarding this Bracha, the Sefer Ya’aros Devash writes:  VeYispallel Me’od LaHashem Sheyachzir HaAvodah Limkomo--one should daven with great sincerity that Hashem return our Service to its proper place.”  The Ya’avetz in the name of the Shelah HaKadosh also emphasizes that the bracha also applies to our times--for we are to pray here with a broken heart that Hashem should accept our Tefillos in the place of a Karbon.  The Ya’avetz further notes that this Bracha is so important that if one does not answer Amen to it in Chazaras HaShatz, he is, c’v, me’akeiv (withholds) the Bi’as HaMoshiach!  Let us begin our study of the Bracha itself.  The Bracha commences with the words:  Retzei Hashem Elokeinu BeAmecha Yisrael U’V’Sefilasam--Hashem be appeased by Your people Yisrael and their prayers.”  As we have noted previously, the combination of the two Names Hashem Elokeinu is a specific appeal to Hashem’s endless mercy, as evidenced by these two Names of mercy.  Following Hashem Elokeinu, we refer to ourselves as Amecha Yisrael.  You may recall that non-coincidentally (as it never is), the Bracha of Shema Koleinu just concluded with the very same phrase Amecha Yisrael as well.  Last week, we provided four explanations of the term Amecha Yisrael there, which are equally applicable here.  Finally, the term Retzei itself is closely related to the term Rotzeh--which we used to conclude the Bracha of HaRotzeh BeSeshuvah--we ask Hashem to take-in and accept our Tefillos, as if we had expressed them with all of the proper Kavannos, and with all of the proper meanings.  At least when we express the request--let us have the proper Kavannah--so that our sincerity is clear, pure and meaningful! 




HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, points out that in the Bracha of Retzei we reference the terms Retzei, BeRatzon and LeRatzon.  The emphasis on Ratzon is based upon our pleading to turn the moment into an Eis Ratzon--a time when our Tefillos are more acceptable to and accepted by Hashem.  With the emphasis on Retzei and Ratzon, we additionally emphasize our absolute belief that everything in our life is based upon Hashem’s Will, and His Hashgacha Pratis over us.  Indeed, living itself is marked by Chaim BeRetzono (Tehillim 30:4).  There is one other point.  Just as a good son wants to please his father, in this Tefillah we express our desire that our Tefillos and our actions appease and please Hashem, as our Father in Heaven, as well.  We continue now with the next phrase in the Bracha of:  Vehasheiv Es HaAvodah LiDvir Beisecha--and restore the Avodah to the Kodesh HaKodashim.”  The Sifsei Chaim explains that after having just asked Hashem to be pleased with us and our prayers, we immediately recognize that we are in a tekufah, a period, of galus--a time of sorely felt Hester Panim.  The light of Hashem’s Shechina will shine upon us only when the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt, and the great Kedusha that reigns there, and in the services performed there, will draw us so much closer to Him.  The reason the Kodesh HaKodashim is referred to as the Dvir of the Bayis is because it is from the Kodesh HaKodashim only that the Dibur of Hashem comes forth towards His people, as the Pasuk (Shemos 25:22) teaches: “ViDibarti Itecha Mai’al HaKapores Mibein Shenei HaKeruvim.”  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 94:1, Mishna Berurah seif katan 7) rules that when davening Shemone Esrei we should view ourselves as standing before this very Kapores. This is the one time that we refer to the Holy of Holies in the Shemone Esrei and our longing for it--let us make it count!



The Bracha continues:  V’ishei Yisrael U’Sefillasam B’Ahava Sekabel BeRatzon--the fire offerings of Yisrael and their Tefillos accept with love and favor.”  There are different approaches to the term V’ishei Yisrael, and whether it is connected to the earlier part of the Bracha, or whether it is connected to U’Sefillasam (as we have presented it here).  The Avudraham in fact brings both opinions.  Importantly, the G’ra accepts the first opinion--putting a period after V’ishei Yisrael--connecting the fire offerings to the service in the Beis HaMikdash (Dvir Beisecha).  The other possibility is that the term Ishei Yisrael refers to the Neshamos of the Tzaddikim in Shomayim (see Tosfos to Menachos 110A) or perhaps even to the people of Israel (the term Ish is similar to man), in which case it can be combined with the next phrase of U’Sefillasam B’Ahava Sekabel B’Ratzon.  At this point, we not only ask that our Avodah is accepted B’Ratzon, but also B’Ahava--love.  When one demonstrates love, he does something above and beyond what is otherwise expected, and what is otherwise deserved.  We are asking Hashem to demonstrate this love to us--by accepting us and our prayers.  The previous time we had used the term B’Ahava in Shemone Esrei was back in the first Bracha where we stated:  U’Meivi Go’el Livnei Veneihem LeMa’an Shemo B’Ahava.”  It is clear that the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah, with their Ruach HaKodesh, very judiciously utilize the term B’Ahava--and so we should very much appreciate and emphasize its meaning--as we recite it here!



We continue with the phrase:  U’sehi LeRatzon Tomid Avodas Yisrael Amecha--and may the service of Your people always be favorable to You.”  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, points out that by the word Tomid--always, we ask that Hashem revitalize and renew our finding of favor in His eyes.  It is interesting to note that in the last Bracha of Shema Koleinu and earlier in this Bracha we referred to ourselves as Amecha Yisrael, and we now refer to ourselves as Yisrael Amecha--putting Yisrael first before Amecha.  We may suggest that with this we emphasize that even if we ourselves are not worthy, we ask Hashem to recall the zechus of Yisrael, who is otherwise known as the Bechir She’beAvos--the chosen one of the Avos, from whom the twelve Shevatim came forth.  [We found that the Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah gives a different explanation to the juxtaposition of Yisrael and Amecha, see there.]  The Bracha now continues:  VeSechezenah Eineinu BeShuvecha L’Tzion B’Rachamim--may our eyes see Your merciful return to Tzion.”  Here, we make one of our most powerful requests in all of Shemone Esrei:  We ask not only that our own eyes witness the return of Hashem to Tzion, but that the return occur B’Rachamim--without the devastation and destruction that could otherwise accompany the Chevlei Moshiach or the war of Gog U’Magog--but through Mercy, in peace.  If it is difficult for us to shed a meaningful tear at this point, at the very least the two great requests contained in this phrase should be made with true supplication and real meaning and feeling.  One should feel it in the here and now!



We conclude the bracha with the words: “Baruch Atta Hashem HaMachazir Shechinaso L’Tzion--Who restores His Shechina to Tzion.”  The Pasuk in Eicha (1:6) writes: “VaYeitzei Min Bas Tzion Kol Hadara--all of the beauty of Tzion left her.”  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that this Pasuk is the reason we refer to Tzion here, as we appeal to Hashem that Tzion’s beauty return with the complete and outward presence of the Shechina.  HaRav Schwab, Z’tl, in the monumental, must-have-in-your-home Sefer, Rav Schwab on Prayer (Artscroll) teaches as follows:  “This Bracha is said in the present tense, although it has not happened yet, because we have such Emunah that HaKadosh Baruch Hu will return His presence to Tzion that we can visualize it before our eyes, as if it has already taken place. How can we explain the difference between Tzion and Yerushalayim?  HaRav Schwab explains:  “Usually, the word Tzion refers to the Beis HaMikdash, as in Tzion Mishkan Kevodecha, and the term Yerushalayim means the city, V’Lirushalayim Ircha [Tanach is replete with examples of these uses.]  Tzion conveys the idea of the ‘outstanding’ aspect of the Jewish nation. It describes the Beis HaMikdash, with its focal point being the Kodesh HaKadashim, which contains evidence of the Torah Shebichsav and Torah Shebe’al Peh.  It radiates the truth of Torah to the world through the Sanhedrin that sits within its portals, Ki MiTzion Teitzeih Torah (Yeshayahu 2:3).  Therefore we could say that Tzion, the Beis HaMikdash, represents the neshama of the Jewish nation.  Yerushalayim, the city, could be said to represent the guf of the Jewish nation. It is the embodiment of the Torah MiTzion in the physical life of Am Yisrael.  Accordingly, Yerushalayim, as the incorporation of the Torah MiTzion--with all the mundane activities of the physical life of the Jewish nation-- has great kedusha as well.  The Navi describes it as: “VeHaya Kol Sir BeYerushalayim U’VeYehuda Kodesh LaHashem Tzevakos--and it will be that every pot in Yerushalayim and in Yehuda will be holy unto Hashem...” (Zechariah 14:21).  Even the cooking pots will be Kodesh LaHashem!  For a broader explanation of the concept of Tzion see Rav Schwab on Prayer, where HaRav Schwab comments on the words “Yimloch Hashem L’Olam Elokai’ich Tzion.”  How important--how enlightening!



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