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When A Pause Makes All The Difference

Cohen-Rabbi-J-Simcha

Question: Does it matter where one pauses when one recites the daily prayers?

Answer: Yes. In the Modeh Ani prayer, we say “shechezarta bi nishmati – that you returned my soul to me” followed by the words “b’chemla rabba emunatecha.” It makes a difference whether one pauses before or after the word “rabba.” If a person pauses after, the word “emunatecha” stands alone and means “your faithfulness.” If one pauses before – as the ArtScroll siddur would have us do – then we are stating, “Great is your faithfulness.” This seems to make more sense and accords with the Tzluta D’Avraham in the name of the Yad Efraim.

Another example: In Kaddish and Shemoneh Esrei, we say, “Oseh shalom bimromav Hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu v’al kol yisrael v’imru amen.” It makes a difference whether one pauses before or after the word “aleinu.” ArtScroll would have us pause after. This perhaps makes sense from a literary point of view. The first phrase of the verse is “He who makes peace in His heights” and the second is “should makes peace among us.” The two are parallel. They both state where peace should be made: up high or among us.

I, however, have always paused before the word aleinu and recited it together with the words that follow it: “v’al kol yisrael.” My logic is based on the general rule that blessings should always integrate personal concerns with those of klal yisrael.

Both the Siddur HaGra and Sefer Tzluta D’Avraham maintain that the word “aleinu” concludes the second phrase, “Hu ya’aseh shalom.” The Sefer Tallai Orot (vol. IV) cites the Chatam Sofer who explains the phrase as follows: There were two distinct creations of shalom. The first was the forging together of fire and water when the world was created. The second was the forging together of both the materialistic qualities of earth and the spiritual aspects of the neshamah when man was created. The former shalom has remained intact. The latter has not; there is a constant battle between the yetzer tov and yetzer hara. Thus, in “Hu ya’aseh shalom” we are asking Hashem to grant us shalom within ourselves. Once this takes place, there will be shalom for all of Israel.

About the Author: Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of eight sefarim on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer the Right Way” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and select Judaica stores.


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