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12 posts from May 2011

Seeing Royalty

When we see a monarch of the nations - a king other than the King of Israel - we make the following blessing: Baruch Ata Ado-nai Elo-henu Melech ha'olam, shenatan mi'kvodo l'basar v'dam. Translated, "Blessed are You, the L-ord our G-d, who bestows His honor on flesh and blood.

The Gemara teaches that we should look at royalty in order to prepare us for the day when we'll greet the King of Israel, upon whom we'll be making a separate blessing, Baruch Ata Ado-nai Elo-henu Melech ha'olam, shechalak mikvodo l'yere'av. Translated, "Blessed are You, the L-ord our G-d, who grants His honor to those who fear Him."

Our good friend Eitan Ashman from Efrat is an emergency paramedic. He has stories to make the most chilling and thrilling books and movies look boring. Here's what he writes about seeing royalty:

I hope this email finds the Rav well.

I wanted to share another Magen David Adom story. Yesterday I was sent to Beit Hanassi to take the "princess" of Thailand to the emergency room after she had been in a car crash earlier in the day. Since she is a VIP it was a call for the ICU ambulance even though she had no apparent injuries. While there I was reminded of the Gemara in Berachot (I don't remember where or the  exact text of the Gemara) which tells us we should go after and see how the world treats their king so that we will know how to act in front of our jewish king latid lavo bezrat Hashem. I never really understood the Gemara until yesterday. The respect and awe that her staff showed her was really remarkable. They bow down on all fours whenever she is moving. Everyone from her most senior staff to the drivers of the cars. Their dress is immaculate, no body dares to talk when they are in her presence not even quick emails or bbms. I can tell the Rav that I seriously started to consider my behavior in front of the king of kings Hashem. Am I careful enough when I daven on my dress, how I sit in shul, talking, etc, etc. Hashem was sending a message in yesterday's call that I have a lot to do in my avodat Hashem. Bezrat Hashem I will remember yesterday and try to apply it to my behavior.

Thanks so much, Eitan. May we merit to see the King of Israel, our holy Moshiach speedily and in our days, amen!

A cloud here and there

So many people crave comfort-zone lifestyles. Yet, you can't be a champion unless you break out of the comfort zone. In spirituality as well as in athletics, pain makes gain.

The difficulties in each of our lives are all from Hashem's lovingkindness, to help as grow and realize our potential. Without the challenges that force us to develop and mobilize our capabilities to the hilt, we'd all probably wallow in the muck and mire of mediocrity. Hashem wants us to be our best, so He sends a cloud here and there to block the sunlight and clear skies.

Sunsets would be boring without a few clouds. The clouds make the suns rays look spectacular.

The periodic difficulties in our lives only make Hashem's salvations look more spectacular. When you think about it, rising to a major challenge really does make life more beautiful.

Praying for Redemption - a daily obligation?

A few people asked to what degree Judaism requires us to pray for Moshiach and redemption. My answer is that at least 50% of our prayers are requests for the future redemption, Moshiach, etc. "That's impossible!", people called out from around the auditorium. I then tossed the audience a question, and asked that they shout back quick answers: "Of our daily Shmona Esrei (Hebrew for 18) prayer, which is actually a compendium of 19 blessings, how many are requests for the Geula, or future redemption?" Voices resounded like gunshots: "Four!" "One!" "Three!" "Two!" Four was the highest bidder. I then opened up a prayer book, and explained the blessings one by one, with the proper interpretation and intent of each one. Here are the results in capsulized table form - they're quite an eye-opener:



Principal intent




Magen Avraham

Guardian of Abraham, who shall bring the "Goel" (Moshiach) to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob's offspring





Mechaye Mesim

Hashem the King who shall revive the dead





Kel Hakadosh

Blessing our holy G-d





Chonen HaDaas

Request for wisdom





Harotze B'Tshuva

Help us return to You Hashem and to Your Torah





Hamarbeh Lisloach

Forgive us for our sins





Goel Yisroel

Redeem us quickly!





Rofeh Cholei Amo Yisroel

Heal the sick





Mevorech Hashanim

Bless this year's crops, the land, and give us rain





Mekabetz nidchei amo Yisroel

Gather the exiles from the 4 corners of the earth





Ohev tzedakka u'mishpat

Send us our judges (the Sanhedrin) as of old, and may we have true justice





Shover oivim umachnia zaydim

Destroy the forces of evil soon and in our time





Mishon umivtach latzaddikim

Reward those who trust in You, Hashem





Boneh Yerushalayim





) and dwell among us, Hashem






Matzmiach Keren Yeshua

Request for Moshiach (scion of David) and salvation





Shomea tefilla

Hear and accept our prayers





Machzir Shchinaso leTzion

Return Your Divine Presence to







Noeh Lehodos

May all of mankind thank and praise Your magnificent name





Mevorech es amo b'shalom

Bless your people of


with peace










As you can see, an amazing 10 out of 19 blessings are requests for the future redemption, while only 9 out of 19, less than half, are requests for the present. By the way, the local Rosh Yeshiva at the institution where I lecture also lists blessing #19 in the Geula category.

As things turn out, more than half of our daily prayers are requests for the Geula. On sabbath and holidays, some prayers - such as the Mussaf - are nearly exclusive requests for salvation, Moshiach, and the rebuilding of the Temple. So, those who thought that only 1, 2, or 3 blessings speak about the Geula haven't understood much of what their lips have been mumbling.

We can only pray from the heart after we fully understand and realize what we're saying. That's why one of the first questions that the Heavely Court asks a person (see Talmud, tractate Shabbos 31a), "Did you eagerly await the Redemption?" Those who pray with intent will be able to answer, "Yes!", and to assume their rightful place in the sublime and indescribably blissful World to Come.