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1 Adar 5766 - March 1, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Meaningful Prayer

by Dovid Leitner

Part 9

Va'ani Eshtachaveh Ve'echro'oh, Evrechoh Lifnei Hashem Osi

The next of these introductory pesukim reads, Va'ani eshtachaveh ve'echro'oh, evrechoh lifnei Hashem Osi — I shall prostrate myself and bow; I shall kneel before Hashem my Maker. This precise wording does not actually exist in Tanach, but is adapted from a very similar posuk in Tehillim (95:6) that uses the plural form, and reads, Bo'u nishtachaveh venichro'oh nivrecho lifnei Hashem Oseinu — Let us prostrate ourselves and bow, let us kneel before Hashem our Maker.

There is one other occasion when the actual words of a posuk are changed and adapted for use in tefilloh. The Shulchan Oruch (Orach Chaim 116) notes that the wording of Refo'einu Hashem veneirophei in Shemoneh Esrei is in the plural form whilst the posuk itself (Yirmiyohu 17:14) is in the singular form. The Tur explains that one is permitted to make such changes in pesukim, when required for the sake of our tefillos.

We use this posuk of Bo'u nishtachaveh venichro'oh nivrecho lifnei Hashem Oseinu on Friday night to welcome Shabbos in Lechu neranenoh. Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer (Chapter 11) traces the origin of this posuk to Odom Horishon. It relates how, during the first week of Creation, Hashem formed each individual creature, culminating with the creation of Odom on that Friday. When the entire animal kingdom saw the special angelic features of Odom as the handiwork of Hashem standing upright before them, they all came to prostrate themselves before him, as they mistakenly thought that he was their creator.

On realizing this error, Odom corrected them and told them to join him, and together they should go Bo'u nishtachaveh venichro'oh nivrecho lifnei Hashem Oseinu — Let us (together) prostrate ourselves and bow, let us kneel before Hashem our Maker, as we are all part of His Creation.

The gemora (Chagigah 16a) states that humans are comparable to angels in three points, whilst they resemble animals with another three of their characteristics. One similarity to an angel is that they both stand vertically with their heads pointing upwards, whilst all other creatures walk horizontally. Odom was the first of the creatures of creation that stood upright, thereby displaying angelic features and causing the animal kingdom to treat him as their creator.

Any form of bending down before a superior power displays our submission to this higher authority. The further down one bends, the greater the degree of submission that one displays.

On closer inspection we will notice that this posuk mentions three different postures that are adopted during tefilloh. Sometimes we are nishtachaveh — we prostrate ourselves down on our hands and knees. At other times we simply venichro'oh — merely bow our heads. At other times we nivrechoh, we kneel down before Him.

These three postures appear in this posuk in an unusual order. I would have expected that the nishtachaveh would be followed by nivrechoh, kneeling down, and then by nichro'oh, bowing our heads, as this would display an orderly series.

When we awake in the morning, we still feel a great degree of gratitude and dependence on Hashem for having returned our neshomoh to us after a night's sleep. Consequently, during the morning Shacharis tefilloh we can display a total submission to Him and prostrate ourselves fully, as represented in the term nishtachaveh.

By the time Mincha time arrives, we are preoccupied with our business deals. One tends to feel a little proud of one's own achievements and after enjoying success during these few hours of business, our submission to Him is subdued. At our Mincha prayers we can only achieve a tentative submission, and venichro'oh — we merely bow our heads to Him.

By the time we have finished our full day's work and arrive home tired and exhausted, we begin to realize how much we are dependent on Hashem to revive us with a good night's sleep. At Ma'ariv time, our submission to Hashem increases again, as displayed by the nivrechoh; we now kneel down before Him. This posuk therefore confirms our total submission to Hashem at all times of the day and in any predicament that we may find ourselves in, whilst their order corresponds to that of our three daily tefillos.

This same posuk of Va'ani eshtachaveh ve'echro'oh, evrechoh lifnei Hashem Osi is used as the climax and final one of Perek Shiroh and it is sung by a breed of dogs. In the animal kingdom, dogs always epitomize loyalty. They are termed "man's best friend" displaying exemplary gratitude to their master who gives him everything they require. This same posuk is chosen to display our loyalty to Hashem and a sense of gratitude for everything that He provides us with. An amazing story appeared in a weekly American paper entitled "Faithful Dog Leads Blind Man 70 Floors down WTC Just before Tower Collapses." This will serve to illustrate the degree of loyalty that a dog displays for his master:

Mr. R. was unfortunate enough to find himself on the 71st floor of the World Trade center north tower when the hijacked airplane struck the building 25 floors above him, on that fateful 11th of September. Mr. R. was a blind computer technician with his guide dog lying under his desk at the time. "I stood up and could hear how pieces of glass were falling. I could feel the smoke filling up my lungs and the heat was just unbearable. Not having any sight, I knew I wouldn't be able to run down the stairs and through all the obstacles like other people could do. I was resigned to dying and decided to free my guide dog and, at least, give him a chance of escape.

"I unclipped his lead, ruffled his head and ordered him to go. At that point the dog was swept away by the rush of people fleeing down the stairs, and I found myself on my own for several minutes.

"But then the unexpected occurred, in the form of a familiar, fuzzy nudge to my knee. The guide dog returned to my side a few minutes later and guided me down 70 flights out into the street. It was really amazing. It took over one hour for us to descend those stairs together. Not long after we had reached the ground, the tower collapsed."

We enter shul in the morning and declare Va'ani eshtachaveh ve'echro'oh, evrechoh lifnei Hashem Osi, reiterating this faithful song sung by the kingdom of dogs.

Whatever transpires to us during the day, we will remain faithful to our Master. Only after confirming our allegiance to Him, are we invited to enter His Palace, as His loyal subject.

To be continued

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