Parashas Vaeira

This week’s parashah recounts the initial phases of the process through which Hashem freed the Jewish People from Egypt. 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.”
We previously presented the Maggid’s discussion of this halachah in his commentary on the parashah. The Maggid explains that we are saying to Hashem: “Just as You preserved us in the past, please preserve us and care for our needs now.” The Maggid continues by explaining 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 to continue in existence, 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 and ask for joy, pleasure, contentment, and tranquility. Since these requests go beyond what we need to survive to the final redemption, they are not so closely related to Hashem’s role as our Redeemer, and thus do not call so strongly for smichas geulah l’tefillah.
We now present a parable that the Maggid puts forward to bring out this point. A man needed to travel to a foreign country, whose language he did not know. Before approaching the border, he sought someone who spoke both his language and the language of the other country to serve as an interpreter. He came across a young boy, the only son of a pathetic widow, who spoke both languages. He asked the widow to let him take her son along with him. She insisted that he give her a firm promise that if he did not bring her son back safely, he would give her everything he owned. He made the promise, and he took the boy along. He guarded the boy like the apple of his eye from all the hardships of the trip. When they encountered a high hill or a deep valley, he supported him almost to the point of carrying him. The boy imagined that the great care the man extended to him was out of love and high regard for him.
At one point in the trip, they stopped at an inn. The man ordered for himself a lavish meal, and for the boy he ordered bread, soup, and some vegetables. The boy, having thought that the man cherished him, was astonished that he ordered for him such a miserable meal. Unable to hold himself back, he asked he man: “Why is it that you treat me so well while we are on the road but here at the inn you are so stingy with me?” The man replied: “You are bright enough to understand that all the attention I give you on the road is not because I love you so much, but because I promised your mother that I would either bring you back safe or give her everything I have. So, until I bring you back home, I guard you with the utmost care from everything that might threaten your life or cause you harm but I don’t provide you fancy meals, since you can survive quite well on simple food.”
The parallel is clear. In the weekday Amidah, we ask Hashem to provide us what we need to survive and to protect us from harm. We therefore take care to juxtapose the Amidah to the berachah praising Hashem as our Redeemer, for what we are asking for are things that the final redemption depends on. This idea is reflected in the juxtaposition of the two verses in Tehillim: Since Hashem is our Redeemer, and He plans ultimately to grant us a complete redemption, He must save us from all distress. But the added comforts we ask for in the Shabbos Amidah are not things that the final redemption depends on, and therefore on Shabbos there is not the same intrinsic connection between the things we ask for and Hashem’s role as our Redeemer.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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