Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin
FOCUS ON TEFILLAH ARCHIVE
This week, we reach the bracha of Selicha. In this bracha,
we ask Hashem for selicha (Selach Lanu)
and mechila (Mechal Lanu).
HaRav Yonasan Eibeschutz, Z’tl, explains that selicha refers to the
complete extinguishment of the sin, while mechila still requires yissurim.
Accordingly, HaRav Eibeschutz continues, one should
sincerely plead for selicha in this bracha--so that his sins are forgiven without having to suffer through difficult
yissurim which would cause bitul Torah or Tefillah.
As in the bracha of Hashiveinu discussed last week, we plead with the
words Selach Lanu Avinu--asking
our Father to mercifully
wipe away our iniquity entirely so that we can begin our lives again without
the hurt of yissurim and with
fresh resolve and new dedication. This
bracha contains very powerful requests--and the kavana that we have should
match the inherent potency of the bracha!
The following is excerpted from the monumental
work Rav Schwab on Prayer, the
teachings of Rabbi Shimon Schwab, Z’tl:
“…Boruch Attah Hashem Chanun HaMarbeh LiSloach--Blessed are you
Hashem, the gracious One who pardons abundantly.
Chanun, as opposed to
Chonein, is the pu’al form, and means “You graciously grant the requests
that are made of You.” If we
pray for forgiveness, HaKadosh Baruch Hu ‘allows Himself to be
entreated’, and even adds to the forgiveness, He is HaMarbeh
L’Sloach: He increases His
forgiveness to the point that He considers the aveiros that we have done
B’Shogeig to have been Zechuyos.” Hakhel
Note: The more we focus on the
exact wording implanted in the Shemone Esrei by the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah
the more we can appreciate its explosive potency.
We need not have the in depth and hidden meanings at our finger tips
or on our minds--but we most definitely should have the powerful plain
meaning of the words focused in on the 5-10 minute Shemone Esrei that we
pray. Over the course of a day,
this amounts to approximately a half hour or less of paying good attention
to what you are saying--in your audience with the King of Kings .
Oh, how worthwhile it is and will be o have that focus!
(As to the singular importance of the ‘plain meaning’ of the
words, see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 98, Mishna Berurah seif katan 1).
is important to note that this is the only
bracha in Shemone Esrei (at least in Nusach Ashkenaz) that has the word Ki--because
in the bracha three times. This
brings to the fore Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s superlative thought on Teshuva
in one of his classic Teshuva Shiurim (all of his must-listen-to Teshuva
Series is available through yadyechiel.org).
Rabbi Frand points out that we begin our Vidui with the phrase ‘Aval
Anachnu Va’Avoseinu Chatanu--but
we and our fathers have sinned. What
is the ‘but’ all about in
Vidui? Why is Aval
an essential part of our Teshuva? Rabbi
Frand brings that the essence of Aval is
taken from Yosef’s brothers--who upon being accused of being spies,
exclaimed ‘Aval Ashaimim Anachnu...--but
we are guilty....’The ‘but’ there conveys the brothers’ stark
realization that all that they had done until that point was based upon
excuses--But this, But that--while in real truth the test of Yosef coming to
them alone should have been handled otherwise--and he should have not been
thrown into the pit, nor sold into slavery.
With the words Aval Anachnu Va’Avoseinu Chatanu we honestly convey that our sins
are also based in excuses--but I
had to look at that, but I had to
say this, but I had to go there, but
I had to eat something, but I
didn’t have time, but I
couldn’t do it.... the
beginnings of Vidui are admitting the excuses--and ridding yourself of them.
One should look out for the word ‘but’
in anything that you are about to rationalize or justify--to make sure that
you won’t have to Teshuva for that ‘but’.
In the Bracha of Selach Lanu- with the word Ki
mentioned three times we
suggest that we ask for pardon and forgiveness--BECAUSE we realize the
foible of the ‘but’ syndrome, and BECAUSE we recognize that Hashem is
Pardoning and All-Forgiving despite the pretexts and excuses. When saying
the word Ki--remind yourself of the ‘buts’ of the past--and concomitantly
plead and rejoice in the way out of the ‘Aval’s--the
Ki’s that Hashem so graciously
provides us with!
teaching is excerpted from the
Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah by Rabbi Meyer Birnbaum, Shlita.
The Sefer Orchos Chaim of
the Rosh (36) writes--”What good is it to ask for Selicha in Selach
Lanu--if one does so without having Kavanna?”
Indeed, HaRav Yecheskel Sarna, Z’tl, writes that asking for
forgiveness without Kavanna ridicules the concept of asking for forgiveness.
On the other hand, the Sefer Olas
Tomid concludes if one does recite Selach
Lanu with a feeling of remorse over specific sins that he has done in
the past, and with a Kabbala not to do so in the future-- then he has
fulfilled the Mitzvas Asei in the Torah of Teshuva within his daily Shemone
Chaim, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, asks why the two Brachos of
Hashiveinu and Selach Lanu are
not, in fact, combined as one. After
all, does not Hashiveinu begin the Teshuva process and Selach
Lanu complete it--as two parts of one whole?
HaRav Friedlander answers that Chazal specifically separated our
Bracha of Selach Lanu in order for
us to fulfill the Fifteenth Ikar HaTeshuva listed in the Sha’arei Teshuva (1:41-42). The
Fifteenth Ikar is Tefillah--that one should daven to Hashem and ask for
His mercy in forgiving and erasing his sins.
HaRav Friedlander concludes that it is part of Hashem’s incredible
kindness--that He allows us to come back to Him and pray time after time
with this fault and that foible, and still forgive us through our Tefillos
to have our Teshuva accepted. It
is for this reason that we conclude the Bracha with the words HaMarbeh
LeSeloach--for Hashem abundantly forgives us--time and time again, and
brings us to the level of Selichah, as if we had not sinned!
What a daily opportunity--and we have it three times a day!
SECOND SET --------------------------
The Machzor Kol
Bo teaches that this bracha begins with a Samech and ends with a Ches which
in Gematria totals 68--the Gematria of Chaim,
and this is to teach that one can be forgiven for his sins in the zechus of
his Torah--which is called Chaim (“Toras
Chaim”). How exact are the
Brachos of Shemone Esrei--even the first and last letter of our Bracha is
especially determined to convey a message!
We note that, just as in the prior Bracha of Hashiveinu
in which the terms Avinu and Malkeinu were used in the first two phrases of
the Bracha, so too, do we follow the same order again in the first two
phrases of this Bracha--“Selach Lanu
Avinu Ki Chatanu, Mechal Lanu Malkeinu
Ki Fashanu. We begin with
asking for Selicha. What is Selicha?
HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, brings two approaches: (i)
the Ramban (in this week’s Parsha!, Bamidbar 14:17) writes that
Selicha refers to Hashem dropping the punishment that was otherwise
deserved; (ii) the Malbim
(ibid.), however, writes that Selicha
means the actual erasure of the sin (mechikas
hacheit) from Hashem’s records--and this is even greater
than Mechilah. One final thought
for today: We ask Hashem, as ‘Avinu’, to forgive us for our chataim--which
are usually taken to mean unintentional sins.
By this, we ask Hashem to look upon our sins--no matter how they may
have originated--as unintentional--just as a father looks with a loving eye
upon his children.
The Sefer Olas
Tomid writes that one should actually express his Viduy in this Bracha--and
by doing so he fulfills a Mitzvas Asei of the Torah.
When expressing one’s Viduy, one should have in mind two distinct
thoughts: (i) that one regrets
what he has done in the past, and (ii) one accepts upon himself to be
careful going forward regarding this sin.
The Olas Tomid provides
specific examples to jar one’s thinking: one
should express his Viduy on any Bitul Torah, Lashon Hora, jealousy and the
like that he has sinned with that day. Moreover,
because the word chait really
means chisaron, or lacking--one should express in his Viduy any Mitzvah or
good practice that he has skipped over and not done, and take upon himself
to be more careful with it in the future. We
now continue with the next phrase of the Bracha:
“Mechal Lanu Malkeinu Ki
Fashanu--Forgive us King because we have rebelled against You.”
The Avudraham points out that a sin which a father may consider to be
unintentional may leave a king
with no choice but to deem it intentional--because after all, any infraction is pogem
the Kavod HaMelech. Accordingly,
we ask Hashem, as the King of the universe, to forgive us for these serious
offenses. The term Mechila
itself, writes HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, (in the name of the Sefer Nachal
Eshkol) is based in the word chalal--meaning
that we ask Hashem to weaken, reduce and downgrade the extent of what we
have done. In a related
explanation, HaRav Friedlander brings the Radvaz to the effect that Mechila
means a cleaning-out--we ask Hashem to clean out the aveirah, just as a pipe
filled with garbage and gook is emptied out as much as possible.
If we picture our aveiros for what they really are--garbage and
gook--we could perhaps save ourselves many times from having to ask for the
Selicha and Mechila we so importantly request in this Bracha.
The next phrase in the Bracha is: “Ki
Mochel V’Sole’ach Atta”. The
Eitz Yosef points out that in the
order here we now mention Mochel
before Sole’ach, even though
previously in the Bracha we asked for Selicha and then Mechila.
The Eitz Yosef explains
this reversal of order here as follows:
We want Hashem to downgrade our intentional sins to
unintentional sins because of the Teshuvah
MeYirah that we do. When
Hashem does this, He is Mochel--reducing
the seriousness of the sin and rendering it a shogeig,
an unintentional sin. Once we
are left with the unintentional sin, then through our Teshuva we look to
Hashem to be a Sole’ach--removing
the sin completely. HaRav Chaim
Friedlander, Z’tl, echoes this thought by explaining that we are now describing how Hashem is not only a Mochel--but even a Sole’ach--completely
eradicating the sin and its effects. HaRav
Friedlander adds that the words Mochel and Sole’ach are
in the hoveh--present tense, in
order for us to emphasize that Hashem always
conducts Himself with such Chesed--pardoning us and forgiving us--not only
annually, not only monthly, not only daily--but at each and every one of our
There are four brachos which ‘explain’ why we
plead to Hashem for assistance: Ki
Mochel V’Sole’ach Atta, Ki
Go’el Chazak Atta, Ki Kel
Melech Rofei Ne’eman V’Rachaman Atta and Ki
L’Yeshuasecha Kivinu Kol HaYom--then in the broad-based Bracha of
Shema Koleinu, we find a double emphasis on the explanation of why we come
before Hashem--Ki Kel Shom’ea Tefillos VeSachanunim Atta and Ki Atta Shome’a Tefillas Amecha Yisroel B’Rachamim.
Hashem, of course, needs no explanation as to why we come before Him!
We should take each of these points in Davening as directed to us--to
awaken us as to why we are
standing before Hashem and making this specific
request--and be inspired to sincerely plead our request before Him!
In the context of our Bracha here--we humbly admit that we have
sullied ourselves with sin--and now approach Hashem to actually clean up the
mess that we have made--and He
We conclude the Bracha by praising Hashem as the Chanun
HaMarbeh L’Selo’ach. HaRav
Chaim Kaniesvky, Shlita, explains that the term Chanun
means that Hashem ‘gifts’ forgiveness to us--for
free, and is based on the Pasuk in Yoel
(2:13): “Ki Chanun V’Rachum Hu
V’Nicham Al HaRa’ah”. The
final phrase of HaMarbeh L’Selo’ach--Who pardons abundantly, reminds us that not
only does Hashem forgive us once or twice, but time and time again.
He does not lose patience with us, nor does He ever, ever cease
heeding our sincere Tefillos. This
last phrase, too, is based on a Pasuk (Yeshaya 95:7) “V’El
Elokeinu Ki Yarbeh LiSeloach”. Time
after time after time, Hashem wipes out the hurtful and dangerous sin that
had actually once been in existence in this world--oh, how we must at least
recognize and appreciate this Great Gift--when reciting these words!
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