Elokei olam, b’rachamecha ha’rabim racheim aleinu, Adon uzeinu, tzur misgabeinu, magein yish’einu, misgav ba’adeinu
Eternal G-d, with Your abundant compassion be compassionate to us – O Master of our strength, our rock-like stronghold, O Shield of our salvation, be a stronghold for us.
Our segment begins with our requesting compassion from Hashem. We ask this in the morning since the time of sunrise is a manifestation of the midas ha’rachamim. With the great compassion You have shown by allowing us to wake up healthy, with each of the many parts of our mind and body working well, we ask You, Hashem, for compassion to continue having mercy on us for our entire lifetimes.
There are four two-word phrases that follow our request for rachamim. Each represents a different stage of life.
The first, “Adon uzeinu (Master of our strength),” represents infancy and a young child. Infants and young children lack immunities and are therefore vulnerable to illnesses. Hashem, the Master of strength, gives these young children the resistance to overcome all that could destroy their small and vulnerable bodies.
Perhaps we can add that, just as Hashem alone is the Master of strength for a young helpless child, so too is He the Master of strength for all of us. We may think that we can survive on our own in adulthood, but the truth is that every breath comes only from Hashem’s lovingkindness. Every dollar of income, as well, comes only from Hashem.
The second phrase, “tzur misgabeinu (our rock-like stronghold),” represents childhood and adolescence. The third phrase, “magein yish’einu (shield of our salvation),” refers to our adult life until older age. Hashem is our shield, protecting and saving us daily from a world filled with many dangers that could interfere with our health, livelihood, and family. We hear many amazing stories of hashgachah pratis. We must realize that they are but a minuscule drop in the ocean. All of us have our own daily stories of how Hashem directed us and saved us from various dangers and harm. Most of the time, we are unaware and never become aware. Sometimes we see, years later, how an event, years prior, led us to grow in ways that we could never have grown without the experience we went through, and saved us from going down a harmful path in life.
There was a story recently where someone realized later that the major heart attack he had, a couple of months prior, actually saved his life. He became infected with COVID-19 just a couple of months after lifesaving heart surgery and, because of that surgery, his heart was strong enough to survive. Without the heart attack, he would not have had the surgery; and since his heart was very weak before the surgery, unbeknownst to him, his chances of survival would have been slim. This is one story where we caught a glimpse. There are thousands and thousands of “stories” for all of us of which we are not aware. This is one of the meanings in Modim when we thank Hashem for “nisecha she’b’chol yom imanu.” Nisecha are those hidden miracles that we call hashgachah pratis.
The fourth and last stage of life is when we are elderly. “Misgav ba’adeinu (a stronghold for us)” – Hashem is our stronghold, our security. It is interesting to note that we both begin and end the lifecycle more openly totally dependent on Hashem. During the middle stages of life, we often think or feel that we are in control or at least somewhat in control. However, as the Gemara relates: “Hakol biy’dei Shamayim chutz mi’yir’as Shamayim (All is in the hands of Heaven other than the fear of Heaven.” In reality, we only control the degree that we feel the presence of Hashem in our daily lives, our desire to serve Him and subjugate our will to His, and our efforts and the choices we make as a result. Health, wealth, intellectual ability, actual results of any of our efforts, and everything else are all in the Hands of Hashem during our most vibrant years, just as they are at birth and near the end of life.
This segment is based on HaRav Shimon Schwab (Rav Schwab on Prayer, ArtScroll), mostly based on the peirush Avnei Eliyahu, which consists mostly of explanations in the name of the Vilna Gaon and his son Rav Avraham.
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You can direct any questions or comments to Eliezer Szrolovits at 917-551-0150.