As I continue to take you with me on my journey of prayer discovery, let me share with you a sage idea from the Chachmei Chabad. In Krias Shema we say, “Va’avad’tem meheira,” (If we follow idolatry) we will perish quickly (from the land).” In Chabad, they interpret this homiletically, that we should destroy the rush in our spirituality and prayers. The more we learn about the meaning or our prayers, the more we will be able to pray devoutly and with concentration.
The second blessing of Shemoneh Esrei is devoted to thanking Hashem for Techias HaMeisim, the resurrection of the dead. The selection of this subject at the very beginning of our Shemoneh Esrei is perplexing. Imagine if your twelve-year-old son would come over to you and thank you profusely for making him a wedding. You would look at him puzzled. “Why are you thanking me for your wedding? First, I have to buy you tefillin, make you a Bar Mitzvah, put you through high school and pay for your dating. Then we could get to your wedding.” Here too, let’s first thank Hashem for our intellect, health, livelihood, peace, etc. After all, thankfully, we’re not dead yet. All the way at the end of the Shemoneh Esrei, we can thank Hashem for the eventual resurrection.
I believe the explanation for the front-seat positioning of Techias HaMeisim, the resurrection, is that it is the single greatest asset that a person has. Everything else is only temporal-for 120 years. But, the privilege of Techias HaMeisim is our passport to eternal life, to a world in which one moment of pleasure is greater that all the conceivable pleasures of this world. This is why we thank Hashem for this privilege first.
We are also very careful to thrice daily affirm our belief in the resurrection. This is because there is a risk that one can lose this privilege. In the last chapter of Masechtas Sanhedrin, the Mishna teaches us those who lose their portion in the Afterlife. One such person is hakofeir b’techias hameisim, one who denies the resurrection. As the Gemora explains, it is a simple manifestation of midah k’neged midah, the Divine retribution of measure for measure. If you don’t believe in it, you won’t get it. This is why four-fifths of Klal Yisroel died during the plague of darkness. Since they didn’t believe in Moshe Rabbeinu’s prophecy of pakod yifkod, that Hashem will remember them and take them out of Egypt, they didn’t merit to leave. (This is also why Dason and Avirum did exit Egypt. Although they might have been wicked, they did believe in the prophesy of pakod yifkod [Tosefos HaRosh]). Therefore, we make sure to affirm devoutly in every Shemoneh Esrei that we believe, “V’ne’eman Atah la’hachai’os meisim,” that You are trustworthy and faithful to (surely) resurrect the dead. This firmly cements us in the camp of the believers.
The second blessing starts, “Atah gibor l’olam l’Hashem, You are mighty forever Hashem, M’chayeih meisim Atah, You resurrect the dead, rav l’hoshia, You have many powers (Abundantly able, cf. Artscroll Siddur) to save.” Here we are contrasting Hashem’s type of might to the human notion of might. In our world, a mighty warrior is one who conquers and defeats. But Hashem’s might is characterized as One who resurrects and saves. The Yalkut Katan interprets rav l’hosia as He who has a plethora of ways to save, and is meant to convey that a human can only do one thing at a time, be in one place at a time, and exist in one period of time. Hashem can do many things, be in many places, and exist in many eras at the same time. Therefore, He has abundant abilities to rescue people, in myriad sorts of ways.
In the merit of continuing to grow in prayer, may Hashem grant our prayers and bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Transcribed and edited by Shelley Zeitlin.