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From
Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
For parents to share with children at the Shabbos Table

Parashas Beshallach

Ashrei

"How fortunate we are, Abba!"

"I agree, Avi. Which particular aspect of our fortune are you referring to?"

"How fortunate are we to be sitting here in the House of Hashem, Abba, praying to Him! How privileged are we to be members of His nation!"

"Indeed we are blessed, Avi. And you are especially fortunate. You have expressed the theme of the first two verses of 'Ashrei', the central prayer of Pisukei DiZimra!"

"Wow! Please teach me about 'Ashrei' Abba."

"With pleasure, Avi. First I must tell you that I am fortunate to have a son who is such an eager learner. The Gemora (Berachos 4b) states that whoever recites this tefillah three times a day is assured a place in the World to Come."

"That's it? That's all it takes to get a place in Olam Habo?"

"Excellent question, Avi. Abudarham explains that a person does not receive Olam Habo in the merit of this mitzvah alone. Rather, if his mitzvos and aveyros are equally weighted, this one can tip the scale in his favor."

"But Abba, we already learned on Rosh Hashanah that one mitzvah can tip the scales of judgment."

"Yes, Avi. Our Gemora is teaching us that the tefillah of 'Ashrei' carries the full weight of a mitzvah. The Yesod ViShoresh HaAvodah adds a warning. 'My brothers and companions, the Gemora's promise of a place in the world to come definitely does not apply to one who says this tefillah without kavannah (concentration). The Creator's intention was not that we say 'Ashrei' habitually without any seichel (discernment) or understanding. Rather the matter depends upon the intentions of the heart. Therefore, a person should be extremely careful to have kavannah when saying this Mizmor.'"

"Does the Gemora give a reason for the amazing power of 'Ashrei' Abba?"

"Yes it does, Avi. It is a prayer which is totally dedicated to praising Hashem and His magnificent deeds. The ultimate praise of the Almighty is stated in verse sixteen: 'You open Your hand, and satisfy the desire of every living thing.' This simple statement describes Hashem's might and mercy. He instills in each and every living thing (from the mighty rams to the eggs of insects) the 'ratzon' (desire) to live and seek its food. The Almighty then fulfills their desires by supervising over all creation and preparing food for them.ii Siddur Iyun HaTefillah This verse is so important that the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 51:7) rules, that if one says it without kavannah he must go back and repeat it."

"I see, Abba. The entire Mizmor should be said with concentration; however this particular verse is unacceptable without kavannah. I really appreciate the importance of 'Ashrei', Abba. May we learn it from the beginning?"

"Surely Avi. Here we go. As we said before, we declare our good fortune to be members of Hashem's nation, sitting in His house of worship and study. The next two verses contain a commitment to exalting, blessing and praising His great Name all the days of ones life. 'I will exalt You, my G-d, the King, and bless Your Name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, and extol Your name forever and ever!' We should accept this commitment with great happiness!iii Yesod ViShoresh HaAvodah We then proceed to praise the Almighty Creator, Whose vastness is unfathomable. Each generation adds its own special praise of Hashem's deeds.iiii See Malbim on Tehillim 145:3,4 as elucidated in Kinder Torah Parashas Vayakhel Pikudei 2010

The next three verses declare our commitment to continually speak of His glorious majesty, wonders, awesome might, goodness and righteousness."

"That requires real dedication, Abba."

"Yes, Avi. It is truly appropriate for the Creator of the Universe. We then describe His incomparable mercy, patience, and kindness. The Yesod ViShoresh HaAvodah finds this an appropriate time to pray for Divine mercy. We now proceed to declare that the entire world will recognize and appreciate the Almighty's awesome deeds. His Kingdom is eternal."

"We can recognize it by contemplating His Hand in nature and the world's events."

"That is a brilliant insight, Avi! The next seven verses reveal Hashem's merciful kindness. He supports the fallen ones and straightens the bent. He opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing. He is righteous, compassionate, and close to all who call upon Him sincerely. He does the will of all who fear Him, saves them, and protects them. It is worthy to note that Hashem's might is revealed in His acts of kindness.1 This is mentioned in great detail in the second blessing of the Shemoneh Esray, 'You are mighty forever Hashem . . .' The blessing then proceeds to list twelve chassodim (acts of loving kindness) including feeding the world, healing the sick, releasing the imprisoned, resurrecting the dead, and bringing the salvation."

"The truly Mighty One does not need to show His strength with physical force."

"Indeed. This brings us to the conclusion of 'Ashrei' which anticipates that great day when all flesh will bless His Holy Name forever and ever, Halleluka!"

Kinderlach . . .

'Ashrei' is a very powerful tefillah. When recited three times daily with kavannah, it carries the weight of a mitzvah which can tip the scales of judgment. It is the central prayer of Pisukei DiZimra, and consists totally of praise, blessing, and glorification of the Almighty. 'Poseach es Yodecha' is the central verse of 'Ashrei'. It must be repeated if it is said without kavannah. It, along with several other verses, extols Hashem's might through His merciful acts of kindness. Kinderlach, say 'Ashrei' three times each day with great kavannah. Pray for Divine mercy. Appreciate the Almighty's compassion. Earn for yourself a place in the World to Come.

Renew Your Loyalty

The Jewish people witnessed awesome miracles at the Red Sea. The water split like a piece of chopped wood, the sea bed dried out, and twelve paths formed for the twelve tribes. Each tunnel had a sapphire-like finish to the walls and marble-like floors. There was food and drink aplenty for the weary Jewish travelers. The Mitzrim were foolish enough to follow the Jewish people into the sea, and they met their ultimate fate there. They were punished for all of the evil they did to our nation. Our ancestors saw them washed up out of the sea, broken, battered and near death. What was the reaction of the Jewish people to these mind-boggling miracles? The first blessing after Kriyas Shema in the evening prayers describes the Kriyas Yam Suf, then states, "Moshe and the Children of Israel willfully accepted Your rule with great happiness and sang Shira." The Shira itself states "Hashem will rule for ever and ever." These incredible miracles inspired our nation to renew their loyalty to Hashem and His Torah.

Kinderlach . . .

Don't let an opportunity for inspiration pass by. The next time you hear someone say Bircas HaGomel (the blessing made upon being saved from danger) stop and think for a second. Hashem just saved that person from a terrible fate. That is an opportunity to thank Him and renew our loyalty to Him. When He saved us from a terrible fate at the Yam Suf we were inspired to renew our loyalty to Him, Any time He saves us from danger, we can be uplifted to a new closeness with our Creator.

________________________

i Siddur Iyun HaTefillah
ii Yesod ViShoresh HaAvodah
iii See Malbim on Tehillim 145:3,4 as elucidated in Kinder Torah Parashas Vayakhel Pikudei 2010

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