Friday, September 18, 2020

Ub'chein avo el haMelech

 There is a constant refrain of ub'chein... ובכן in the tefilos of Yamin Noraim:  Ub'chein tein kavod..., ub'chein tein pachdecha..., ub'chein tzadikim..., etc.  In the back of the Sifsei Chaim on Sefer Devarim (p293-294) there is a letter from R" Yonah Martzbach (R"Y of Kol Torah) to his then future son-in-law R' Chaim Friedlander where he writes that this refrain is meant to remind us of the pasuk in Megillas Esther (4:16) וּבְכֵ֞ן אָב֤וֹא אֶל־הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ Ub'chein avo el haMelech...  At that moment Esther knew that her fate, that the fate of perhaps the entire Jewish people, hung in the balance -- would the King greet her favorably, would she find the right words to say on her own behalf, nafshei b'she'eilsai, and  on behalf of the klal, v'ami b'bakashasi?  On Rosh Hashana everything hangs in the balance.  We approach Hashem like Esther approached Achashveirosh, beseeching him on our own behalf, the prat, and for Klal Yisrael as a whole, the klal.

"V'GAM es Noach b'ahavah zacharta."  He goes on in that letter to explain that the word "v'gam" is a ribuy -- even though dorshin l'gnai, that Noach did not do enough, that he was a flawed tzadik, Hashem still remembered him l'zechus since he stood above the corruption around him.  We all fall far short of perfection, but we can be zocheh hopefully through v'gam.

The navi tells (Melachim ch 4) us "va'yehi HA'yom," on that day, and Chazal tell us that HA'yom, THE day, is Rosh haShana, Elisha the prophet came to the Shunamis woman and offered to give her a blessing for whatever she needed.  A bracha from a tzadik on Rosh HaShana certainly can't hurt!  But the Isha Shunamis replied to Elisha,  בְּת֥וֹךְ עַמִּ֖י אָנֹכִ֥י יֹשָֽׁבֶת׃, I am among the people, I prefer to not be singled out for your special attention.  

What did the Isha Shunamis mean?  How do you turn down the bracha from a tzadik?

The usual pshat is that if you are singled out, then Hashem looks at your merits or lack thereof as you stand as an individual.  That's not such an easy test to pass.  But there is another aspect to din that looks at how you fit into the klal, at your standing as a member of the community, "b'toch ami."  Even if you don't past muster on the individual level, sometimes you will be judged positively anyway because you are part of a community that is worthy of being judged positively.  The Isha Shunamis thought she stood a better chance in din being looked at as just another member of her community than she would had the navi would have singled her out.

The Tiferes Shlomo (page 40a d"h l'havin) says a slightly different answer.  Rosh HaShana is called Yom Ha'Zikaron not (only) because Hashem "remembers" kavyachol each one of us, but rather it's called Yom haZikaron because we remember and think about each other.  That's the key to being judged favorably.  "Ki dorshecha l'olam lo yikasheilu" -- if you approach tefilah as "ki dorshecha l'olam," your requests are for the world, for the klal, not focused on your own selfish needs, then "lo yikasheilu," you will not be rejected.  "VaYizkor Elokim es Noach v'es ha'chaya v'es ha'beheima asher ito ba'teivah" -- Hashem remembered Noach because the lions and tigers and bears were "ito ba'teivah," their needs were on his lips, in his words of prayer -- he davened on their behalf, not just for himself.  This is what the Isha haShunamis was telling Elisha.  The bracha of a tzadik and navi is great, but the brachos of all Klal Yisrael together is even more powerful.  "B'toch ami anochi yosheves" -- on Rosh haShana my needs are surely already being mentioned in the tefilos of all Klal Yisrael which we are saying behalf of one another.

Kesiva v'chasima tovah


  1. Interesting - it's a puzzle that we are told to mention a choleh davka besoch she'ar cholei yisrael, because that will invoke rachamim more readily. So why mention the choleh at all? Just be mispallel for all of Klal Yisrael? Elah mai, you really care more about that particular choleh. So it's kind of a subterfuge - like hamispallel al chaveiro only because he wants to be ne'eneh techila.
    Kesiva ve'chasima tova to you and your family. May you have a wonderful year full of simcha and good health and menuchas hanefesh.

  2. "At that moment Esther knew that her fate, that the fate of perhaps the entire Jewish people, hung in the balance......."

    I had heard years ago from Rav Chaim Wallin (z`l) of Baltimore that the point was Esther's subsequent words "Asheir Lo Q`Das" where she was stating that she was entering against the law and without permission...
    We as well attempt to approach the Almighty on these days in our Tefilla with the recognition that we are also coming to the King Shelo Q`Das and attempting to speak on our behalf although it is without permission ....

    Think I saw that today in one Artscroll version citing the Abudraham.