Before I start discussing my thoughts on tefillah, I want to quickly say that although I hope to consistently post, since these ideas are actual thoughts I have when davening that help me with my kavannah and not me being mamshich through tefillah as a limud, I will be posting ideas at random, not necessarily with any order. Having said that, I hope one day I can really go through the siddur and learn it like a mentsch. Now on to my first official post.
“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”
This quote, taken from a Life Alert commercial, reflects how many Jews, including myself at times, constantly feel. With so many different mitzvos for us to be cognizant of and so many aveiros available for us to do, it is impossible to actively keep all of Hashem’s mitzvos without stumbling a few times. The problem many of us face, however, is being able to view these aveiros as “stumbling”, instead believing that we’ve “fallen.”
Every day, three times, sometimes four times, a day, we say the same two words during the Shemoneh Esrei, the words someich noflim. Until recently, I had thought that this phrase is translated as “He supports those who had fallen.”
One day during my Shemoneh Esrei, I was considering this translation, and it hit me that it doesn’t really make much sense. If one has already fallen, one does not need to be supported. Rather, one needs to be picked up. The better way to translate it, I realized, is someich, “He supports,” noflim, “those who are (currently) falling.” Satisfied, I continued my davening keeping this new way of thinking in mind.
Later that day as I considered this new translation in my mind, I remembered a gemara I once heard from Rav Moshe Weinberger shlit”a in his shiur titled “Hashems Unbreakable Love for Every Jew.”
There is a machlokes in the gemara in Kiddushin 36a on the pshat of the beginning of the pasuk in Devarim (14:1) “Banim atem l’Hashem Elokeichem,” (you are sons to Hashem, your God). According to Rabbi Yehudah, when the Jews act like sons, they are considered Hashem’s sons. However, when they do not act like sons, they are not Hashem’s sons.
On the other side of this machlokes is Rabbi Meir. He disagrees with Rabbi Yehudah, believing it cannot be that B’nei Yisroel could not be considered the children of God. He explains that no matter what, bein kach ubein kach, we are always Hashem’s children! How does he know? He brings four different pesukim to prove his point. In Yirmiyahu (4:22) they are called “foolish sons.” In Devarim (32:20) they are called “faithless sons.” In Yeshayahu (1:4) they are called “the seed of evildoers, destructive sons.” Finally, in Hoshea (2:1), the pasuk says that “instead of being told (by Hashem) “you are not My nation,” Hashem will call them b’nei Kel-Chai (sons of Living-God).”
The gemara then asks why all of these proofs are necessary. Wouldn’t only one of these pesukim be enough to tell us that the Jews are always Hashem’s children? Why does Rabbi Meir bring all four? The gemara explains: Well, granted that when the Jews are foolish, they are still sons, but when they are faithless? Certainly not! The gemara answer: No! The pasuk calls them sons, even when there is no faithfullness. The gemara then continues: With both of these pesukim, we see that faithless Jews are still called sons, but by destructive children, who do avodah zara, for sure not! The gemara answers: No! The pasuk in Yeshayahu calls them sons.
At this point, one would definitely be inclined to think, ok ok, the pesukim call the Jews “sons” despite all of these shortcomings. But there is no way, it absolutely can not be, that they are at the same level of “son” as the other, Torah-observant Jews. The pasuk calls them banim mashchisim, destructive sons! The gemara comes and says that despite all this, despite all the sins and faults of these Jews, THEY ARE B’NEI KEL-CHAI, because each Jew, NO MATTER WHAT, is the child of Hashem!
Not only this, but we paskin, we rule, like Rabbi Meir in this machlokes! Hashem LOVES every Jew like His child, because that is taka what we are!
People can physically fall down to the ground. We can physically hit bottom. And when we physically fall, we can also be picked up. Yet it’s also possible that there may not be someone there to help. But in our spiritual lives, in our lives striving to keep Hashem’s Torah and mitzvos, THERE IS NO BOTTOM. A parent’s duty to their child is to be there for them under any circumstance and support them. Hashem never lets us hit the bottom because we are His children eternally, and the possibility of someone falling completely away from Judaism would mean they are no longer one of His children, chas v’Shalom.
This is the message of someich noflim, the two words we, and I mamash can’t express how much I myself am included, speed by every single day, three times a day, in our davening without a second thought. Someich noflim means Hashem will never, ever, ever, ever give up on a Jew. NO MATTER WHAT. We paskin like Rabbi Meir, that every Jew in the world, regardless of who he or she is and where they are holding with Torah and mitzvos, is and forever will be the child of Hakadosh Boruch Hu.
I’m wishing everyone a Chag Kasher v’Sameach and that everyone will really be able to internalize this idea tonight at the Seder as our feeling’s shift from avdus l’cheirus, and that we realize that Hashem brought the geulah to the Jews in Mitzrayim because a parent is always there for his children, and that, bim’heira b’yameinu, Hashem will bring our geulah, as we too are His children, so that all of His children can once again be together in Eretz Yisroel.