Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The bracha of Modim, Thanks, continues with Tzur chaiyenu, Hashem is the Rock of our lives. The Maggid Tzedek explains the metaphor simply: Hashem protects us like an impenetrable rock. The Eitz Yosef gives it a deeper meaning: just like we carve a statue out of rock, so we are carved out of Hashem. As it says, “Vayipach b’apov nishmas ruach chaim – And Hashem blew into our nostrils the spirit of life.” The Gemara elaborates, “One who blows, blows from himself.” So, literally we are a sliver of Hashem. We are hewn from the essence of Hashem.

We then say, “Magien yisheinu – You are the Shield that saves us.” Rav Chaim Kanievsky, zt”l, zy”a, explains that this refers to Hashem’s protecting us from dangers that lurk in our vicinity. This is reminiscent of the verse, “Choneh malach Hashem saviv l’yirei’av vayichaltzeim – The angel of Hashem camps around those who fear Him and delivers him.” The Gemara in Menachos [43b] elaborates that one who wears tefillin on his head and his hand, has tzitzis on his clothing, and has a mezuzah on his doorway receives this Divine protection. When we add the mitzvah of tzedakah while we pray, open a sefer while we’re decked in our tallis and tefillin, think about the covenant of the milah which is sealed upon our flesh, and reflect upon Hashem’s presence, fulfilling the command of, “Tamim tih’yeh im Hashem Elokecha – You should be constantly with Hashem your G-d,” we strengthen the cloaking protection of Magein yisheinu.


We should add that women also have access to such a security system. While they are doing the mitzvos of tending to their children and preparing for their husbands, they say prayers in rooms with mezuzahs, thinking about Hashem and being tzenuah, modest, and being in a state of readiness to give to the poor, they too are also surrounded by this cloaking mechanism.

We cap off this praise by saying, Attah hu l’dor v’dor, that You are this way unfailingly from generation to generation. This is the way the Iyun Tefillah and Siddur of Rav Shabsi Sofer from Premishlan explain the stanza. However, the great Rav Yehuda bar Yakar, zt”l, zy”a, explains the words l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation, refer to the next declaration of Nodeh L’cha un’sapeir tehilosecha, we thank You and relate Your praises (from generation to generation.)

The venerable Belzer Rebbe, Reb Yissachar Dov, zt”l, zy”a, asks, “Where in the Shemoneh Esrei do we pray for worthy children?” After all, this is one of life’s greatest achievements. As it says in the Haggadah, “Es amaleinu eilu habonim – Our toil is our children.” He explains that we don’t ask for it outright for then the mekatregin, the prosecutors, will try to block our requests. Rather, we sneak it in with this prayer, L’dor v’dor nodeh L’cha un’sapeir tehilosecha, asking Hashem that from generation to generation we should merit to have worthy and pious children that will thank You and relate Your praises. I would like to humbly suggest that we should also have in mind for righteous descendants in the blessing of Boreich aleinu, where we ask Hashem to bless “Es kol minei s’vu’asah l’tovah – All types of yield for the good.” After all, children are the ultimate yield that we bring into the world.

The blessing continues Al chayeinu hamesurim b’Yadechah, for our lives which are controlled by Your Hand. The Olas Tamid explains that we emphasize b’Yadecha, in Your Hand. The continuation of our life is not up to us; it’s solely up to Hashem, as we say daily in the Vayevorech Dovid prayer, “V’Attah michaiyeh es kulom – And You grant life to everyone.” The Avudraham explains this from another angle. You, Hashem, control my destiny and my fate, You map out my life’s trajectory. As Dovid HaMelech says in Tehilim [31:15], “B’Yod’cha eetosai – In Your hands are my times.” And, as Rashi elaborates, “Itim ha’ovrim alai al picha hein u’big’zeirosecha – The experiences and occurrences of life come from You, Hashem, and Your decrees.”

V’al nishmoseinu hapekudos Lach – And our souls which are deposited by You.” The Rokei’ach explains this refers to our nightly entrusting our weary souls to Hashem, as we say in our Maariv, “B’Yadecha afkid ruchi – In Your Hand I deposit my spirit,” and how Hashem returns it to us then next morning fully refreshed.

V’al nisecha she’bechol yom imanu – And for Your miracles which are every day with us.” Rav Yakov Emden explains that we emphasize Your miracles for there are many miracles that Hashem does for us about which we are totally unaware. As the Gemara says in Masechtas Niddah [31a], Oseh nifla’os gedolos l’Vado – Hashem makes great wonders to Himself.” Only He is aware of them, as the Gemara specifies, “Afilu baal neis eino maker b’niso – Even the recipient of the miracle is unaware of it.” The Seder HaYom says this is especially true in our bitter galus, exile, where we are surrounded by Jew-hating enemies who are, in the words of the Seder HaYom, “Like wolves, bears and lions who seek our very lives.” In the beginning of parshas Ki Sisa, the Rabbeinu Bachya says that we are recipients of undisclosed miracles from Hashem every day.

We then say, “V’al nifla’osecha v’tovosecha she’bechol eis – for Your wonders and goodness at all times.” The Eitz Yosef explains the difference between nissim and nifla’os. Miracles are those events that are outside the realm of tevah, that which is natural. Nifla’os, on the other hand, are the wonders of natural phenomena such as the intricacies of our equilibrium controlled by the inner ear, the marvels of the human brain, our wondrous heart, and so much more. They are no less miraculous but since they are bechol eis, at all times, we don’t view them as miracles. With this, my Rebbe, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, zy”a, answers the famous question of the Beis Yosef: Why are there eight days of Chanukah if we had enough oil to light the first day? Rav Moshe answers that on the first day we celebrate the miracle that oil gives off light. This is also miraculous, except that we’re used to it.

Interestingly, on the word v’tovosecha, in Your goodness, I did not find any commentator giving a specific intent to have in mind while saying this. I’d like to suggest that we are thanking Hashem for his goodness to us specific to our makeup and our unique personality. Thus, a person who enjoys music thanks Hashem for concerts, exciting weddings and musical virtuosity. A person who has athletic abilities will thank Hashem for sporting opportunities and its camaraderie. Yet others of a more analytical bent will applaud Hashem for the occasional recreation of chess or reading opportunities. Still others thank Hashem for gastronomic delights or travel opportunities.

The next stanza is, “Erev, vavoker, v’tzahara’im – In the evening, and morning, and afternoon.” Both the Siach Yitzchak and the Iyun Tefillah explain that this phrase returns to the previous statement, “Nodeh L’cha un’sapeir tehilosecha – We thank You and relate Your praises,” and we are declaring that we do this three times daily, by Shacharis, Mincha and Maariv. (Since women say this as well, it is supportive of Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s opinion that it is preferable for women [when able] to pray three times a day also.)

Modim concludes with the praise, “HaTov ki lo chalu rachamecha, v’Hameracheim ki lo samu chasodecha, mei’olam kivinu Lach – The Good One whose mercy never ends and the Merciful One whose kindness never stops, we always put our hope in You.” The Siddur HaMeforesh notes that in this stanza we use three descriptions: tov, racheim, and chesed. He cites in the name of meforshim, undisclosed commentators, that tov, goodness, refers to Hashem’s goodness for those who deserve it. Racheim, mercifulness, refers to Hashem’s mercy for those who are somewhat lacking and need a supplement of His compassion. Chesed, kindness, refers to those who are devoid of merit and need to completely rely upon Hashem’s total benevolence and kindness. We therefore cap off our Modim with, “Mei’olam kivinu Lach – We can always hope to you,” no matter how dismal our situation is. As we say in Ashrei, “Tov Hashem lakol, v’rachamav al kol maasov – Hashem is good to all and has mercy on all His creations.”

In the merit of our multiple and heartfelt praises to Hashem, may he bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.


Transcribed and edited by Shelley Zeitlin.


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