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The bracha of Modim continues, “V’al kulom yisborach v’yisromam Shim’cha Malkeinu – And for everything may Your Name our King be blessed and exalted.” Rav Chaim Kanievsky, zt”l, zy”a, explains that the phrase v’al kulom, and for everything, refers to all the praises mentioned in Modim until now. I like to think of the words v’al kulom as a make-up mechanism for those of us who occasionally, and sadly, daydream or get distracted during parts of Shemoneh Esrei. Therefore, we use v’al kulom as a time to catch up and to refer back to different spots in our prayer such as the blessing for health or for intellect, where we thank Hashem for accepting our repentance or where we praise Him for taking the time to listen to our prayers. The v’al kulom is a second chance to yet incorporate these perhaps missed ideas into our prayer.

The Eitz Yosef suggests another interpretation. He says that v’al kulom means above all else, and we are saying that our praise for Hashem’s name towers above any other possible praise. As the verse states, “Vivorchu Sheim Kevodecha u’meromam al kol bracha u’sehila – And we bless Your honored name and it is exalted over any blessing or praise.”


I used to overhear a gentleman during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei. When the chazzan reached the prayer of v’al kulom, he would echo jokingly v’I’ll kill um. After hearing this a few times, I went over to him gently and said to him, “Fifty years from now, do you want your great grandchildren to say, ‘I remember Zaidy used to say v’I’ll kill um?’” My words were effective and he stopped the habit! The flip side of this is that we should realize that telling an einikel, a grandchild, the meaning of a prayer is a lasting legacy we can leave to them for their lifetime. When we invest in our grandchildren, it also promotes our own longevity. The posuk says, “V’hosircha Hashem b’fri vitn’cha – Hashem will give you extra from the fruit of your womb.” And the Chasam Sofer explains that if we are useful in transmitting the lessons of yesteryear to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Hashem will give us extra life to accomplish this.

The bracha continues that we bless Hashem, “Tomid l’olam vo’ed – Perpetually forever.” This is not a rhetorical statement. The Eitz Yosef defined tomid as bli hefsik, without any interruption, nonstop. If you’re wondering how this is possible, after all, we have a lot of other stuff to take care of besides blessing Hashem. I believe we fulfill this by multi-tasking with our mind, as it says, “B’chol drachecha dah’ei’hu – In all your ways acknowledge Him, V’hu yiyasher orchosecha – And He will make your life straight.” The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch starts his fantastic compendium with this directive: “Shivisi Hashem l’negdi tamid – I place Hashem before me at all times.”

We then continue, “V’chol hachaim yoducha selah – And all life thanks You always.” The connecting vav, and, is especially appropriate as we just said that Hashem is beyond any other possible subject worthy of praise. That’s why everyone does it. However, this definitive statement is very puzzling. Wikipedia estimates that in 2003, there were five hundred million declared atheists in the world. Today, that number is certainly more. If so, how can we truthfully say that all those that are alive thank Him? Because of this troubling question, I have seen some translate v’chol hachaim to mean and for all our life we thank You. While this answers the question, it’s a little forced because if this was its meaning, it probably should have said u’l’chol hachaim. Rav Chaim Kanievsky interprets and all life to include lower levels of life such as animals and birds which also say praise, as is revealed in Perek Shira.

I would like to suggest another interpretation. V’chol hachaim refers to all those who are really alive, and not to the apostates and the heretics, for about them the Gemara teaches us “Resha’im afilu b’chaiyeihem kruyim meisim – The wicked, even during their lifetime, are considered dead.” The deeper meaning is that their soul is cut off from the life source of Hashem because of their behavior. Of the righteous it says, “V’atem hadevekim ba’Hashem Elokeichem chaim kul’chem hayom – You who are attached to Hashem your G-d (by living correctly) are all alive today.” Thus, v’chol hachaim yoducha selah means all those who are truly alive will thank You.

I believe this is also the explanation of what we say in the second blessing of bentching. “Yisborach Shim’cha bfi kol chai, tomid l’olam vo’ed – May your Name be blessed in the mouth of all who are living perpetually forever.” Once again, we should be troubled regarding Hashem’s Name being blessed in the mouths of “all those who are living” and once again the answer is as we explained, namely, all those who are truly alive.

Yet another possible explanation of v’chol hachaim is that all that lives testifies to the existence of the Creator. For the complexities and intricacies of any single creature precludes any explanation other than the existence of a Creator who lovingly made them!

We then say, “Vihalelu es Shim’cha b’emes – And we praise Your Name in truth.” The Olas Tomid explains that we are clarifying that we aren’t simply praising Hashem as a quid pro quo; that He in turn should reward us for our praise. Nor, I might add, are we doing it simply because we have to. For it is true that we are expected to praise Hashem, as we say in our Shabbos morning prayers, “Shekein chovas kol hayitzurim l’hodos – For so is the responsibility of all those that are created to give thanks.” Rather, we are doing it sincerely, from a feeling of deep appreciation, for the myriads of wonderful things that Hashem does for us on a regular basis.

We conclude the blessing with, “Baruch Atah Hashem, Hatov Shim’cha u’Lacha na’eh l’hodos – Your Name is Good and to You it is proper and beautiful to give thanks.” The Eitz Yosef explains that we are taught in halachah that we shouldn’t even talk too much about a person’s praise because invariably it will lead to someone saying, ‘But you know what he does when he’s at home alone,’ etc. But of Hashem, it is good to give praise because of Him there is no bad. As we say, “Tov l’Hashem l’kol – Hashem is good to everyone.”

In the merit of our praise and thanks to Hashem, may He bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.


Transcribed and edited by Shelley Zeitlin.


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