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In the Bracha of VeLamalshinim, we ask Hashem to remove from our midst any and all heretical teachings and thoughts, so that all will in unison wholeheartedly believe in the Torah SheBichsav and the Torah Shebe’al Peh.  The Sefer Ya’aros Devash writes that when reciting the words U’Malchus Zadon/ VeHazeidim we should have in mind that we are davening for the destruction of Amalek (who attack us be’zadon).  In fact, the Ya’aros Devash writes that we fulfill a Mitzvas Asei from the Torah of Zachor Eis Asher Asah Lecha Amalek when we have this Kavannah.  We should feel an enmity in our hearts for Amalek, and pray that the enemies of Hashem and His people receive their just punishment (including any punishment we would deserve--for our sins stem from and through them), and that any bounty that they have or are to receive should flow through to us from Hashem’s Hand, Kime’az U’Mikedem--as in previous days.



Birkas HaMinim is really the 19th Bracha of Shemone Esrei, as it was instituted after the Churban, in Yavneh (Brachos 28B).  Thus, it seems to directly relate to our condition post-Churban, during which we are inundated by heretical thoughts and philosophies, and face enemies from within and without.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, explains that we accordingly first begin with Velamalshinim Al Tehi Sikva--may all of those who are antagonistic to Torah, who falsify reports against us and who antagonize or act with antagonism towards us, have no success or hope in their endeavors.  Furthermore, Vechol HaRisha KeRegah Toveid.  We do not daven necessarily that the evildoers be eradicated, but that the evil itself will be eliminated not over time--but KeRega--immediately.  Our plea for the immediate destruction of evil, HaRav Friedlander writes, exactly parallels our Tefilla on the Yomim Noraim of ‘Vechol HaRisha Kula KeAshan Tichleh’--i.e., that Risha be destroyed immediately--going up in smoke so that the world at large will acknowledge its fallacy.  Even in these ‘modern times’, we have movements to ban Shechita here, and Bris Melah there. Even in these ‘modern times’ we have leaders of Jewish sects who do not believe c’v that the Torah is from Hashem, and who aver that they do not await our return to the Avodah of the Bais HaMikdash.  Succinctly stated, we have needed this Bracha over the last 2,000 years--and we need it now.  Perhaps when the Bais HaMikdash is rebuilt…we can revert back to 18 Brachos.  May we find out in our day.  In the interim, let us be sure we impart all of the Kavannah that we can into this timely Bracha!



We have already mentioned that according to the Sefer Ya’aros Devash, we fulfill a Mitzvas Asei when we mention the zeidim, and our prayer for their destruction in this bracha.  Actually, we ask that Hashem punish the zeidim in four different ways (in Nusach Askhkenaz, in Nusach Sfard additional punishments are asked for as well).  Specifically, we ask that Hashem should Se’aker, Seshaber, Semager, and Sachniah the zeidim.  HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, in the monumental work Rav Schwab on Prayer ( a must for everyone’s home) explains that these four verbs represent four different types of punishments:


·        Se’aker--means to uproot, to prevent any future growth.  It is our Tefillah that any movement that attempts to take Jews away from Judaism--either by force or persuasion--shall be uprooted and grow no further.

·        Seshaber--means that they should break into various factions thus rendering them ineffective in their evil objective.

·        Semager--is our Tefillah that they be cut into small pieces. (Hakhel Note:  a Rav once noted that he does not know what Semager means--but it certainly does not sound good!)

·        Sachniah--means to humble them, so that any remaining individual zaidim are humbled and rendered harmless.  Hakhel Note:  Even with respect to Yerushalayim, we only once ask that Hashem hurriedly return (Meheirah) the Kisei Dovid there.  Yet, with respect to this Tefillah against the zaidim--within this one phrase we ask that Hashem take care of them Meheirah and then again BiMeheirah V’Yameinu.  This is how urgent our request is.  We add that a Rav once explained that V’Yameinu means not only in one’s own lifetime but in our lifetime, including the lifetime of even the eldest among us!



We conclude this bracha with the words Shover Oyvim U’Machniya Zaidim.  It is important for us to recognize that just as a Kiddush Hashem results from the Bnei Yisroel who miraculously leave Mitzrayim, there is equal Kiddush Hashem in the destruction of our enemies at Kriyas Yam Suf and in the wars to conquer Eretz Yisroel.  In this Bracha,

we strive not for violence, not for the vanquishment of others, but to bring the world to its purpose.  We have all kinds of enemies, we have the Malshinim (those that slander us), we have the Minim (the heretics), we have the people like Amaleik who are out for our physical destruction--even for our obliteration.  All of these are not only our enemies, but are Hashem’s enemies as well.  With the destruction of the tumah that they represent, more Kedusha is brought into the entire world.  It is perhaps for this reason that this Bracha is particularly placed in between the bracha of Hasheva Shofteinu and Al HaTzaddikim, both of which represent bringing greater Kedusha into the world through the Gedolim Olam we are davening for there. We must eradicate the evil, so that the good from all sides can shine forth.  Hakhel Note:  We reiterate that we mention the word Meheira more times in this bracha than in any other, for with the accomplishment of Sur Mei’rah soon we will be all the more close to the Aseh Tov which we so desperately await.  Let us pause for a moment--at each Meheira with the Kavannah that it happen speedily!



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The Levush writes that this bracha corresponds to the bracha recited by the Malochim at Kriyas Yam Suf--“Baruch Atta Hashem Shover Oyvim U’Machnia Zaidim--which they recited when the Mitzriyim were drowning at sea.”  The first phrase of the Bracha is:  VeLamalshinim Al Tehi Sikvah--and for the slanderers let there be no hope.”  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that this is not necessarily a curse against the slanderers--but a plea to Hashem that the slanderers not see the fruits of their slander, and thus cease to slander on their own.  However, to the extent any Malshin is a Mosser, that Malshin does have the Halacha of a rodef, and it is a Mitzvah to kill him rather than allow oneself to be killed.  Although the bracha does address our non-Jewish enemies later as well, the Eitz Yosef points out that the Malshinim here are the heretics within our people, those that do not believe in Torah Shebichsav and Torah Shebe’al Peh.  Hakhel Note:  We know so many of our brethren who are unaffiliated, or who ascribe to denominations under the term ‘Judaism’, which do not believe in Torah MiSinai and the other basics of our faith.  Although the leaders of these denominations may be more ‘educated’ and disbelieve maliciously or at least recklessly, many of their followers are simply ignorant of true Torah beliefs.  If we can use HaRav Kanievsky’s explanation, and pray with the words Al Tehi Sikvah that our ‘educated’ and uneducated brethren realize that there is no hope in their misbeliefs and disbeliefs--we can bring them back to the point that they too may recite the other 18 Brachos of Shemone Esrei.  May it be speedily and in our day!



The next phrase is “Vechol HaRisha KeRega Toveid--and may all wickedness perish in an instant.”  The Sefer Sifsei Chaim points out that we do not ask for the wicked to perish--but for the wickedness to vanish.  This is based upon Chazal who teach that Dovid HaMelech asked: “Yitamu Chataim Min Ha’aretz--that sin be expunged from the earth--and not the sinners.”  The Sifsei Chaim also points out that the language here is strikingly similar to the language we recite on the Yamim Noraim:  Vechol HaRisha KeAshan Tichleh”--where we ask that all evil go up in smoke.  All of this will happen when the world realizes Hashem’s authority--as then all of the designs of those fighting against that authority are shown to be nothing more than a smoke screen which suddenly dissipates.  The next phrase is “VeChol Oyvecha Meheirah Yikareisu” in which we pray that the enemies of Hashem, which are the enemies of K’lal Yisrael, are removed without achieving their intentions.  In Shemone Esrei we infrequently use the word ‘Meheirah’--quickly.  Whenever we do, teaches the Sifsei Chaim, it is because we are emphasizing that any delay in fulfilling our request causes Chilul Hashem, and--when our request is met, Kiddush Hashem will immediately result.  We daven for Kiddush Hashem--let us do so with full intent and sincerity!



We continue with the phrase “V’Hazeidim Meheirah Se’aker U’Seshaber U’Semager V’Sachinah BeMeheirah V’Yameinu--and may the purposeful evildoers be quickly uprooted, smashed, thrown down, and humbled speedily and in our day.  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains that the Zaydim are those who make Tzaros for K’lal Yisrael.  HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, includes the practice of communism and missionary practices (including the fundamentalists) as examples of Zaydim--for they intentionally fight against Torah and the Jewish religion.  We, of course, can include the leaders of certain Mideastern and other countries within the category of Zaydim against our people--and daven for the Se’aker, Seshaber…of each and every one of them.  It is extremely important to realize (as we have noted in the past) that within our one phrase we reference the word Meheirah--quickly--twice!  The second time we ask that it be BeMeheirah V’Yameinu--not only quick from a historical perspective--but so quick that it happens in our times so that we ourselves can see the Kavod Shomayim that results!  One additional point:  There are, of course, real differences between Se’aker, Seshaber… (in Nusach Sefard there are even more)--and we should accordingly feel the difference of the simple meaning of each word as we recite it. 



We conclude the Bracha with the words “Baruch Atta Hashem Shover Oyvim U’Machniyah Zaydim--who breaks enemies and humbles the intentional sinners.”  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, writes that by the breaking of our enemies we mean Ad LeKilyon--to their total destruction.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, points out that enemies must be broken because they want to harm us directly, while Zaydim are broad-based Reshaim and therefore humbling them may be sufficient.  HaRav Schwab, Z’tl, provides a slightly different explanation as to why we specifically ask that our enemies be broken and that the evildoers be humbled.  Oyvim means enemies who wish to destroy us physically--they must be broken. Zaydim refers to the evildoers who wish to destroy us spiritually. If they are humbled, they will not have the audacity to attempt to proselytize us.  What we are asking for here is that eventually all the movements that are bent on destroying the Jewish people--physically or spiritually--be eliminated.  Rav Schwab concludes that this Bracha is said in the present tense--as if it is happening now--because we have absolute faith that this will be realized!




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