Parashas Vaeira

In the opening section of this week’s parashah, Hashem tells Moshe (Shemos 6:6-7): “Therefore, say to the Children of Israel, ‘I am Hashem, and I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt, and I shall rescue you from their service; I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments, and I shall take you unto Me as a people, and I shall be a God to you.’” The Midrash remarks (Shemos Rabbah 6:4):
The term therefore signifies an oath, as it is written (Shmuel Alef 3:14), “Therefore, I have sworn regarding the house of Eli.” The Holy One Blessed Be He swore that He would redeem them.
The daily Shacharis and Maariv prayers include a berachah praising Hashem for redeeming us from slavery in Egypt and other plights; the berachah concludes with the words, “Blessed are You, Hashem, who redeemed Yisrael.” Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 111:1 states a halachah calling for an uninterrupted juxtaposition of the Amidah to these concluding words (smichas geulah l’tefillah). Yerushalmi Berachos 1:1 (quoted by Rashi on Berachos 4b) finds an indication for this practice from a juxtaposition of verses:
1. Tehillim 19:15: “May the words of my mouth and the mediations of my heart find favor before You, Hashem, My Rock and My Redeemer.”
2. Tehillim 20:1-2: “For the conductor, a psalm by David. May Hashem answer you on the day of distress; may the Name of the God of Yaakov fortify you.”
The Maggid suggests that the above-quoted Midrash provides a reason for this practice. He builds his explanation on another halachah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 218:5): “If a person has had several miracles done for him, when he arrives at one of the places where a miracle was done for him he must mention all the other places and include them all in one berachah.” The Maggid explains this halachah via the example of a traveler who survived an attack by a bandit and afterward survived another attack by a lion. Had he been killed by the bandit, he would never have experienced the rescue from the lion. On the other hand, had the lion killed him, his rescue from the bandit’s attack would have been for naught. Thus, when a person reaches a place where he experienced a miraculous rescue, it is fitting for him to mention other miraculous rescues he experienced, for these other miracles provided him the capacity to benefit, or continue to benefit, from the miracle he experienced in the place where he now stands.
In the same way, our redemption from the Egyptian enslavement was not a permanent redemption, but it served as a clear guarantee from Hashem – in effect an oath, as the above-quoted Midrash indicates – that He would ultimately grant us a final redemption. Indeed, another Midrash about the redemption from Egypt describes an explicit promise from Hashem to redeem us in the future as well. Hashem told Moshe, in response to his query, that the Divine Name he should convey to the Jewish People was the Name “I Shall Be as I Shall Be” (Shemos 3:14). The Midrash explains that Hashem was telling Moshe that just as He was with the Jewish People in their current plight, so, too, He would be with them in future times of trouble (Shemos Rabbah 3:6). Moreover, Yirmiyahu (in verse 3:14) conveyed to us Hashem’s promise that He would ultimately bring us to Zion. Whenever we are faced with a threat, we know that Hashem will eventually rescue us, for otherwise the redemption from Egypt would have been for naught and Hashem’s promise of a final redemption would be nullified. It is in this vein that David HaMelech, in asking Hashem to save him from his enemies, referred to Hashem as “Hashem, My Rock and My Redeemer” – just as Hashem was our Redeemer in the past, so, too, will He be at all times. As indicated in the adjacent set of verses, Hashem will answer us and fortify us when we face distress. This is a key idea behind the halachah of smichas geulah l’tefillah: We say to Hashem, “Just as You preserved us in the past, please preserve us and care for our needs now.”
The above explanation sheds light on the opinion that holds that smichas geulah l’tefillah is not absolutely essential on Shabbos as it is on weekdays (Rema on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 111:1). In the weekday Amidah, we pray for the things we need for survival: health, livelihood, rescue from troubles, and other basic needs. These are things we need to continue in existence until the time of the final redemption, and without which the final redemption would not be possible. Hence, it is fitting to juxtapose without a break the berachah praising Hashem as our Redeemer to the Amidah, for the topics of the two prayers are directly related. But in the Shabbos Amidah, we appeal to Hashem’s generosity (“open your mouth wide and I will fill it” – Tehillim 81:11) and ask for joy, pleasure, contentment, and tranquility. Since these requests go beyond what we need to survive to see the final redemption, they are not directly related to Hashem’s role as our Redeemer, and thus do not call so strongly for smichas geulah l’tefillah.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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