A Plea for Passion
V’sein b’libeinu l’havin u’l’haskil, lishmoa lilmod u’l’lameid…
Instill in our hearts to understand and to elucidate, to listen, to learn, and to teach…
Rav Chaim Friedlander zt”l (Rinas Chaim) and Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l (Tefilas Avigdor) explain that the words “v’sein b’libeinu” apply to all the requests that follow. We ask Hashem to place in our hearts (and in our children’s hearts) the desire to want to internalize and to clarify, to accept, to learn and to teach Torah.
How can we ask Hashem to place in our hearts the desire to want all of these spiritual requests? Isn’t that our job? We know that while results are completely in Hashem’s domain, our role is creating the desire and putting forth effort, even in ruchniyus – spiritual matters. Why are we asking Hashem to do what we are obligated to do?
The answer is that we need to acknowledge that we need Hashem’s help to accomplish anything, even the desire and effort, which is our role and responsibility. We need siyata diShmaya, heavenly assistance, in every step of our lives. Therefore, not only do we ask for success, but we ask here also for Hashem’s assistance in desiring all these steps of serving Him through internalizing, learning, teaching, and living Torah with love.
We will briefly explain the words in this beautiful request, based on the explanations of HaRav Friedlander (Rinas Chaim) and HaRav Miller (Tefilas Avigdor). We preface each of the statements below with, “We ask You, Hashem, to place in our hearts (and in our children’s hearts) the desire:
l’havin – to focus on the depth of Torah and place it deeply into our hearts;
l’haskil – to understand and internalize the Torah so clearly within our hearts that its teachings become like a simple, straightforward matter to us, and thereby guide our every thought, speech, and action;
lishmoa – to accept guidance from our rav, rebbeim, parents, and others;
lilmod – to toil in Torah, learn with hasmadah, and grasp quickly;
l’lameid – to have the ability and the z’chus to teach Torah. One who loves Torah is not satisfied just to learn but wants others to learn as well. His own learning is with the mindset of teaching and living Torah.
Let us remember the Chofetz Chaim’s advice of also davening in this brachah for our children.
Keys to Spiritual Joy
lishmor v’laasos u’l’kayeim
to safeguard, perform, and fulfill…
We will continue to briefly explain the words in this beautiful request, based on the explanations of HaRav Chaim Friedlander (Rinas Chaim) and HaRav Avigdor Miller (Tefilas Avigdor). We preface each of the statements below with, “We ask You, Hashem, to place in our hearts (and in our children’s hearts) the desire and the ability:
lishmor – to guard:
- to guard our Torah learning by constantly reviewing our learning in order not to forget;
- to constantly be on guard against transgressing Torah laws and the path of Torah;
- to establish safeguards to distance ourselves from temptations – situations, places, and people – that present difficult challenges for us. Establishing safeguards requires awareness and thought, anticipating challenges in advance.
v’laasos – and to perform: to learn Torah with intent from the outset in order to practice all that we learn and to integrate the Torah into our very being.
The Ramban wrote to his son in his Igeres HaRamban: “Take care to always study Torah diligently so that you will be able to fulfill its commands. When you rise from study, ponder carefully what you have learned; see what there is in it that you can put into practice.” The Vilna Gaon on Mishlei (23:26) writes: “The purpose and primary involvement of learning Torah is to know the paved and straight path to follow to serve Hashem.”
- to have the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvos and not miss any, due to illness or unavoidable circumstances;
- to have the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvos of Eretz Yisrael and the Beis HaMikdash;
- to perform our mitzvos properly: with awareness, awe, love, simchah, purity of intent, enthusiasm, alacrity, and attention to the details of the mitzvah;
- to merit to encourage and enable others to perform mitzvos.
u’l’kayeim – and to uphold (to give Torah an everlasting permanence):
- by establishing and supporting yeshivos, shuls, and mikvaos;
- by supporting Torah scholars, and by helping personally or financially to bring others closer to Hashem through learning Torah and the performance of mitzvos.
On a Higher Level
…es kol divrei salmud Torasecha b’ahavah. V’ha’eir eineinu b’Sorasecha
…all the words of Your Torah’s teaching with love. Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah…
We now conclude the first set of requests asking Hashem to help us to internalize, clarify, accept, learn, teach, guard, perform, and uphold – ALL of Torah.
The word “talmud” here specifically refers to Torah she’b’al peh, the Torah that was originally transmitted through oral transmission.
The last word is “b’ahavah.” We are asking Hashem to help us to desire and to achieve all of our requests up to this point and to help us serve Him with love and enthusiasm, and to develop a powerful thirst to come closer to Him through learning, teaching, and observing the Torah.
We now begin a second set of requests that superficially appears to be a repetition of our earlier requests. Rav Miller zt”l explains “v’ha’eir...” to mean an elevated level of serving Hashem, called “chasidus.” Chasidus, simply stated, means always seeking a deeper understanding and fulfillment of the r’tzon Hashem. A chasid is always seeking to act in a way that finds favor with His Creator. He is not just looking to fulfill His commandments. Of course, one must first be at the level of fulfilling the commandments before he can begin the level of true chasidus.
I once heard a mashal from HaRav Noach Isaac Oelbaum shlita that described the difference between serving Hashem as a son versus as a servant. If the father or master asks for a pale of water and a mop, the servant will bring a pale of water and a mop. The son will also clean up the spill, because he understands the underlying desire of his father. A chasid serves Hashem in the way of a son, always trying to attain true insight into what His Father wants from him.
We therefore ask that Hashem enlighten us “the way a light shining into a dark room would,” in order that we see and understand in greater depth Hashem’s ratzon, as expressed through Torah. Rav Wolbe zt”l states that in every amud of the Gemara, regardless of the topic being discussed, one can and must extract the r’tzon Hashem.
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