Parshas Eikev 5757 - '97
Outline # 48
by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
The Service of the Heart
The mitzvah of prayer is derived from verses in our parsha. Two verses
mention serving Hashem with the heart (10:12 and 11:13). The Rabbis said,
"What is the service of the heart? Prayer..." (See Rashi 11:13.)
The order of the prayer services should be: 1. Praise, 2. Request, 3.
Thanks. (Rambam, beginning of Hilchos Tefilah.)
Service of the Heart -- or Service of the Mouth?
It is interesting that only prayer is called service (See Rashi 11:13),
and not the other duties of the heart -- which, by the way, are also mentioned
in this parsha -- such as the love and fear of Hashem. Also worthy of note:
prayer is the service of the heart, but the Jewish concept of prayer is largely
oral; that is, audible. This is because prayer is known as "calling." How
is the "calling aloud" compatible with the "service of the heart?"
The following is based on the profound words of the Yismach Moshe.
Reminder -- or Supporting the World?
Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim (Guide for the Perplexed), part three, chapter
44 stated that the prayers are for us to remember that Hashem is in charge,
and to strengthen our faith. However, the Tolaas Yaakov objected. Prayer
serves a vital role for mankind...
The service with the heart concerns kavanah -- intention. The Calling
Out with love and fear, is for one's needs; requesting one's needs, however,
is not actually service.
Calling, however, is an essential aspect of the tefilah (prayer). The
calling is directed only to Hashem, the singular, unified G-d.
(Everyone has needs; we must remember that our needs can only be answered
by G-d alone. Our needs are multiple, and we become fragmented with concerns.
Only by directing our "Calling Out" to the One and Only Hashem, can we
effectively direct all of our strengths towards the One. The Calling Out
thus serves to unify the heart of man, as indeed we say in the prayers:
"Unify our hearts to love and fear you..." [Morning Service, Birchos Shema.]
This is what the Rambam meant, that the prayers are for us to remember that
Hashem is in charge, and to strengthen our faith.)
This is not the service, however; the service is with the heart.
"'Service' is only `assistance'; `assistance' is only a help..." (Yismach
Thus, there are two aspects of the tefilah (prayer). 1. The praise and
thanks is the service, which makes it easier for Hashem to help us. 2. The
request for one's needs serves to unify our hearts in faith.
Chodshei Hashanah Part Thirty Three
Av to Elul: Anger Turns to Favor
Moshe was on Mount Sinai forty days and nights; the Jews make the
Golden Calf, and he had to return to the mountain. Before he returned, he
prayed that the Jews be forgiven.
Twice in this parsha, Rashi mentions that the first forty days and the
last forty days were times of favor; the middle period was a time of anger
(Rashi 9:18 and 10:10). The period of anger corresponds exactly to the time
when this parsha is read, shortly before the month of Elul... It is precisely
during the period of anger that our prayers can truly make the difference.
Curse Turns to Blessing
The parsha opens with several blessings. "You shall not have a barren
man or woman..." (7:14) Rashi adds the explanation: " 'Barren' -- unable
to deliver children." What has Rashi added to our understanding of the text?
See Yismach Moshe, who explained in the name of the Maharsha: Since the
Matriarchs had been barren, how can this be considered a curse? To answer
this, Rashi tells us that the barrenness of the matriarchs was altogether
different. Their barrenness was temporary; it was bashert -- sent from heaven
-- because Hashem desires the prayers of the righteous.
The difference between the curse and the blessing can be so slight! The
barren woman believes she is cursed, but may indeed have the great blessing
of the matriarchs...
Similarly, the period of anger can really be the turning point. It was,
of course, during these days that Moshe prayed for the people to be forgiven,
and was taught the thirteen attributes of mercy, which are repeatedly recited
during the slichos of Elul and on the Yom Kippur services....
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
1 Babbin Court
Text Copyright © '97 Rabbi
Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis,