By Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski
In this week’s Sedra the Torah instructs us as to the Vidui HaMaáser – the testimony recited upon finishing a tithing cycle. After we attest to the fact that we acted in accordance to the maáser laws, we then are directed to request the following bracha from Hashem: “Look down (Hashem) from Your Holy Abode, from the Heavens, and bless Your nation – the Nation of Israel, and the Land that You gave to us – as promised to our forefathers – a land flowing with milk and honey”. Even when the poetic form of the supplication is taken into account, it still appears as though there are excessive words in these psukim. Just as we ask Hashem to bless His nation – the Nation of Israel – we could have merely asked for Hashem to bless us. Just as we ask Hashem to bless the Land He gave us… we could have merely asked Hashem to bless the Land (even had the Torah felt it nescesary to stipulate Eretz-Yisroel it could have said so more briefly).
For the most part, the Torah formulates Its instructions in a general way, leaving it for us to figure out the specific implementing laws based on these broad instructions. Hence, the Torah needs only to be as specific as necessary for us to understand its meaning. Here, however, the Torah is prescribing the exact words we are to use upon the completion of a tithing cycle. Therefore the Torah must stipulate precisely what we are to utter. The question remains: why must we ask Hashem for bracha in such a lengthy way?
Very often in life when we wish to request something from others, we will do so by expressing our regard for them, thus making them feel appreciated for their kind acts towards us. What we are doing in a way is manipulating them: we are in essence saying that they will benefit by helping us. This will in turn make them far more likely to shower us with more and more good.
Were we the ones fashioning this request from Hashem it would be no wonder if we were to emphasize “His Nation – the Nation of Israel”, or “the Land that He gave us as promised to our forefathers – a land flowing with milk and honey”. We certainly would use such catch phrases in order to emphasize our appreciation for what Hashem has given us. At the same time these verses would be used to emphasize that as Hashem has given us the land and has chosen us to be His people – it must therefore follow that it is His will to bestow us only good upon that land. Were we to compose a prayer beseeching to be showered with blessings, we would most likely use this very style.
This Nusach, however, was given to us from Hashem; Hashem is in effect actually dictating the exact formula necessary to influence Him favorably toward us.
This idea of Hashem prescribing how to manipulate Him should come as no surprise as this is really something we are quite familiar with. We are about to start reciting Selichos. The Selichos are based around the repetitious chorus of the Thirteen Middos – Attributes of Hashem. These Thirteen Middos are Hashem’s prescription to arouse His Divine Mercy in order for Him to pardon us for our sins. The approaching of Rosh Hashana, when we are to sound the Shofar, provides yet another illustration of Hashem prescribing to us how to take advantage of His Divine as Mercy: as it is stated, “praiseworthy is the nation who knows to use the Shofar blast”. Chazal explain to us that the Shofar blasts are also in large part to evoke Divine Mercy.
We are so unbelievably fortunate to live as Jews with the ability to almost be able to control Divine Mercy. This is so because Hashem is truly Rachaman and Hashem has boundless love and compassion for us. However, we must take advantage of this manipulative power, and we must also appreciate it so as to allow it to have its utmost affect.
A very warm Good Shabbos, Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski