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In the blessing of Peace, we ask, “Sim shalom, tova uverachah – Grant us peace, goodness and blessing,” Rav Chaim Kanievsky, zt”l, zy”a, explains we clarify that we only ask for peace which has the qualities of goodness and blessing. This excludes peace for the wicked and the evil, of whom the Gemara tells us, “Shalom shel reshai’im, the peace of the wicked, rah l’hem v’rah l’brios, is bad for them and bad for people.” It is bad for them as when they are unencumbered, they have more time to sin. It is bad for humanity when they are free of distraction, as they have more time to plan their mischief and plot their schemes.

In Nusach Sefard, the blessing begins, “Sim shalom, tova uverachah, chayim,” including the request for life. Why, we might ask, don’t they say, “Sim chayim shalom,” putting life at the forefront? After all, shouldn’t the request for life come first? It seems to be that we ask Hashem to grant us life when it’s prefaced with peace, goodness and blessing for what is life without peace? We already cited the Rashi in Bechukosai, “Im ein shalom, ein klum – If there is no peace, there is nothing.” Also, tova refers to having a mate, as it says, “Motza isha motza tov – When you find a woman, you find goodness,” for true chayim is only in the plural, meaning when you are a couple.


Now, you will ask, why doesn’t Nusach Ashkenaz ask for life? The answer is certainly because of the principle of the great Rav Yissachar Dov mi’Belz, zt”l, zy”a, that we already mentioned earlier. He explains that we don’t ask outright for wholesome children because the request is so vital that the Satan will be certain to try to block the request from reaching Hashem. We can give the same answer as to why we Ashkenazim don’t ask outright for the all-important request of life. (We will discuss later where the Ashkenazim slip in this request.)

Then, we petition for “Chein va’chesed – Charm and kindness.” The Avudraham explains this is all one petition for it says in Ezra [9:9], “Vayait aleinu chesed – You extend over us kindness,” and Rashi explains this to mean that we should be accepted by all those who see us. Thus, the fusion of the phrase chein va’chesed means, “Please, Hashem, grant us the kindness of being charming in everyone’s eyes.” This is the wonderful trait of being m’urav im habrios, being able to commingle with humanity. This is the basis of peace and it is a sign that Hashem is pleased with us. As it says in Pirkei Avos, “Kol she’ruach habrios nochah heimenu, ruach HaMakom nochah heimenu – Whoever people are at ease with, it’s a sign that Hashem is at ease with the person.”

The Zohar in Parshas Noach reveals that the word chein is the same letters as the word Noach. This is to teach us that the best way to find favor in the eyes of people is to be an easygoing (noach) person.

In Ashkenaz, we start the blessing with six requests, shalom, tova, uverachah, chein v’chesed v’rachamim. The Eitz Yosef says that these six parallel the six blessings of Birchas Kohanim, namely yivorechacha, v’yishmarecha, ya’eir, vi’chuneka, yisa and shalom which comes right before the saying of Sim shalom.

We then say, “Aleinu v’al kol Yisrael – Upon us and upon all of Yisrael.” When we are davening in shul, it is easily understood that Aleinu refers to our fellow minyaneers. It underscores how important it is to daven in a quality shul where your neighbors are also praying for your welfare. The Dover Shalom asks, what about when you are davening alone in the house? Who does Aleinu refer to then? He answers simply that, by definition, the request of shalom means with others, whether your spouse, your family, your coworkers, and so forth. This is what Aleinu refers to, and we ask this not only for ourselves but for all of Klal Yisrael.

I would like to suggest another possible answer. Aleinu refers to the Melachim that surround us. (As the verse testifies, “Choneh Malach Hashem saviv l’yirei’av vaychaltzeim – The angel of Hashem surrounds those that fear him and strengthens them.”) We’re asking for their welfare. This is similar to the way the Dvar Aharon, zt”l, zy”a, Hy”d, explains what we say in bentching: “Bamarom yilamdu Aleihem v’Aleinu – On High, You should judge (favorably), Them and us.” And there, he explains them refers to the Angels that surround us. We will discuss later that when we end the Shemoneh Esrei with the words, “V’imru Amein – And they shall say Amein,” we are also talking to these Angels.

In the merit of our petitions for our peace and welfare, may Hashem grant us long life, good health, and everything wonderful.


Transcribed and edited by Shelley Zeitlin.

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