Photo Credit:

In the fifth bracha of the Shemoneh Esrei, we ask Hashem, “Hashiveinu Avinu l’Sorosecha – Return us, Our Father, to Your Torah.” Since in the previous blessing we asked for knowledge, the first pursuit for which we want to use our knowledge is to study Torah, for Torah is the very purpose of our existence. As Reb Yochanan says in Pirkei Avos, “Ki l’kach notzorta – For This (the Torah) you were created.”

We say “Return us to Your Torah.” The Olas Tamid and Rav Eliyahu Lopian, zt”l, zy”a, both explain this with the Gemara in Niddah which informs us that when we are in our mother’s womb, an angel comes and teaches us the entire Torah. When we are born, that malach strikes us above our lip and the Torah is removed from our conscious thought. However, the potential lies dormant within us, and we ask Hashem to restore it, with our efforts, to our consciousness. The reason why we refer to Hashem here as ‘Our Father’ is because just like a father must teach his son Torah, so too we ask Our Father in Heaven to aid us in recovering our portion of His Torah.


We need specially to ask Hashem to assist us in our Torah efforts for there is nothing that the yeitzer hara, the evil inclination, tries to stop us from accomplishing more than the study of Torah. This is because the Torah is the nemesis of the yeitzer hara. As the Gemara in Kiddushin informs us, “Barasi yeitzer hara, barasi Torah tavlin la – I (Hashem) created the evil inclination, and I created the Torah as an antidote to it.” So, the evil one tries mightily to impede us from Torah success.

Once we succeed on a path of Torah study, the Torah then brings us closer to Hashem as we are taught, “Kudsha brich Hu v’Oraisa chad hu – Hashem and the Torah are one.” It also leads us to follow up our study with concrete actions, as we are taught, “Gadol hatalmud she’hatalmud meivi lidei maisa – Great is learning for learning leads to action.” Therefore, it follows naturally that our next request within this bracha is, “V’karveinu Malkeinu la’avodosecha – And bring us close, Our King, to Your service.” Here, we refer to Hashem as Our King for a subject serves his king. We should have in mind when we say this, that when we do the mitzvos, we have Hashem in mind and not just do them by rote, out of habit and social pressure. The Olas Tamid adds that avodah also refers especially to prayer. As the Gemara says, “Eizhu avodah shehi b’lev? Hevei omer zu tefillah.” What is the service of the heart? We conclude that it is prayer. And we are therefore supplicating to Hashem that our prayer service should be a connecting one with Hashem and not merely lip service.

The final petition of this blessing is, “V’hachazireinu bi’s’shuva shleima l’fonecha – Return us in perfect repentance before You.” I had a very basic question on the order of this blessing. We know that we are taught, “Sur meirah v’asei tov – Turn away from evil and perform good.” The order and sequence of the business of spiritually is to first purge the evil and then embark on the good. So why, in this blessing, do we first ask Hashem to bring us close to do his mitzvos and then to do a full repentance of our sins. Shouldn’t we reverse the order? I’d like to suggest the following explanation. If you notice, we ask Hashem to help us with a perfect repentance.

Why don’t we simply ask Hashem to help us repent? The answer is that we must start the process on our own. We are taught, “Hakol biydei shamayim chutz miyiras shamayim – Everything is in the hands of heaven except for fear of G-d.” We need to start the teshuva process on our own. Therefore, we first ask Hashem to bring us close to Him. When we will feel close to Hashem, we will want to repent our sins. Once we have the first sparks of penitent feelings, then we can ask Hashem to assist us to do a complete teshuva. For as we are taught, “Pis’chu li pesach k’chudo she’machat, v’Ani eftach lachem pesach k’pis’cho shel ulam – Open for Me an opening like the eye of a needle and I’ll open for you an opening like the door of the palace.”

The great Yaros Devash, zt”l, zy”a, adds that we shouldn’t pray solely for our own repentance but we fervently should have in mind at this juncture for all those who have strayed from the path to get Divine assistance to return to the fold. Although this was written hundreds of years ago, this is of contemporary urgency in our time with so many wonderful children off the derech and so many casualties from the silent holocaust of the melting pot of our American culture.

We finish off the blessing, “Baruch Attah Hashem, haRotzeh bis’shuva – Blessed are You Hashem, Who wants our repentance.” Once again, we refrain from saying “HaOseh teshuva,” that Hashem does the teshuva, because only we can do our own teshuva. Instead, we thank Hashem for wanting our teshuva and not turning away in disgust from our attempts at repentance.

In the merit of our trying to always be better, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.


Transcribed and edited by Shelley Zeitlin.


Previous articleMy Affection for an Imperfect Country
Next articlePick Up New Habits With 30-Day Challenges!
Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss is now stepping-up his speaking engagement and scholar-in-residence weekends. To book him for a speaking circuit or evening in your community, please call Rabbi Daniel Green at 908.783.7321. To receive a weekly cassette tape or CD directly from Rabbi Weiss, please write to Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, P.O. Box 658 Lakewood, New Jersey 08701 or contact him at [email protected]. Attend Rabbi Weiss’s weekly shiur at Rabbi Rotberg’s Shul in Toms River, Wednesday nights at 9:15 or join via zoom by going to and entering meeting code 7189163100, or more simply by going to Rabbi Weiss’s Daf Yomi shiurim can be heard LIVE at 2 Valley Stream, Lakewood, New Jersey Sunday thru Thursday at 8 pm and motzoi Shabbos at 9:15 pm, or by joining on the zoom using the same method as the Chumash shiur. It is also accessible on Kol Haloshon at (718) 906-6400, and on To Sponsor a Shiur, contact Rav Weiss by texting or calling 718.916.3100 or by email [email protected]. Shelley Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.