…ba’shmayim mi’maal v’al ha’aretz mi’tachas, ein od
…in heaven above and on the earth below, there is none other.
The word olam stems from the word ne’elam (hidden). Hashem hides from us, and our job is to find Him – everywhere. Everything that happens in the world only happens through the will of Hashem, though to us that fact is hidden, and it appears as if we and others are the cause of events. When it comes to current events, we are too often caught up in the minutiae of “analysts,” “experts,” and news reporters. We want to know the minute details of how something happened, why it happened, who was the hero, etc. We get so enwrapped that we actually start to believe that it was the brilliance of an individual or might of a country that was the cause of some great success (or failure). Needless to say, their efforts warrant our thanks, praise, and admiration. Certainly we are obligated to thank people for their efforts. They may have made the choice to sacrifice their money, time, and even lives for others. However, we must remember at all times that the results are controlled and directed by Hashem exclusively. Getting too absorbed in the nitty-gritty may reflect a lack of this all-important understanding. When we avoid getting too caught up in how the messengers succeeded and instead focus on thanking and praising Hashem, we will be increasing k’vod Shamayim in the world.
The same is true in our personal daily lives. Whether we learn or teach Torah, work, raise families, or are engaged in any of our other many daily activities, we must remember that all results are up to Hashem. Our role is desire and effort, which certainly includes tefilah. Brilliance, wealth, power, etc. are gifts from Hashem. They are not the cause of any success, and are not to be admired, praised, or marveled at (see Yirmiyahu 9:22-23). Getting too absorbed in someone being an ilui in learning, or a g’vir in wealth, demonstrates a lack of understanding of “ein od.”
HaRav Chaim Volozhin, in his sefer Nefesh HaChaim 3:12, states:
[Free and abridged translation:] And really it is of major importance and is a wondrous s’gulah, to remove and nullify from his psyche all foreign influences, so that they not rule over him and have any influence upon him. When a person establishes in his heart that, “After all, Hashem is the true G-d, and there is none other [ein od] anywhere,” and he attributes no power or will in the world that has ultimate influence on his life other than Hashem, the singular Master of the world, so will Hashem help him to be free of those negative influences so that they will not be able to control his life.
The words “Ein od [milvado]” are especially important to remember when we know that we will have a significant challenge later that day. This can be a dentist appointment to remove a difficult wisdom tooth, a doctor appointment we are nervous about, an important job interview, a crucial meeting with our boss or our best and most difficult client, etc. Repeating “Ein od milvado” before and during (when possible) these events will help remind us that the outcome is exclusively determined by Hashem. It also brings reward for bitachon, which Rabbeinu Yonah (Mishlei 3:6) says is “great beyond the heavens.”
What a powerful lesson to remember as we leave our tefilos and go back out into the world. Wherever we are headed, let us carry these last words with us: ein od.
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