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Prayers For Our Times

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  Of Organizations & EgosPrison and Reform -- A Torah View  

To combat the increasing state of instability in the world, Jews should increase in their prayers to G-d, prayers which express the ideas of Ahavas Yisrael and peace in the world.
The state of instability in the world is serious. "Nation quarrels with nation,"[1] and international tension and friction escalate from day to day. Jews, too, have in some measure been drawn into this situation.[2]

Of particular concern is that recently Jews have not been acting properly among themselves. Instead of love and unity reigning amidst Jewry, the opposite is true.

What can Jews Do About It?

Everything in the world revolves around and is dependent upon Jews and their conduct. A Jew’s service to G-d has tremendous repercussions, and therefore the appropriate response to the increasing trouble in the world is to increase service to G-d. Our Sages note[3] that, "The Holy One, blessed be He, says, ‘Whoever occupies himself with the study of Torah, and with deeds of loving kindness, and prays with the community, I account it to him as if he had redeemed Me and My children from among the nations of the world.’" As long as G-d is in exile among the nations -- they do not recognize His sovereignty -- they do not act consonant to His will. When Jews, through an increase in their service, redeem G-d from exile, the nations will automatically behave properly.

What Form should this Increase in Service Take?

The most appropriate response is to add to our prayers[4] our requests to G-d. Any good word uttered by a Jew has an effect; words of Torah and prayer certainly do, as our Sages note:[5] "The voices of Torah and prayer that ascend above rend the heavens."

In prayer itself, the additions should be associated with

  1. the general idea of prayer;
  2. with the above two areas that need correction: Ahavas Yisrael, and peace and quiet, the antithesis of war and quarrels.
The suggested additions are:

  1. As a preface to the morning prayer, before "Mah Tovu," to say "I hereby take upon myself to fulfill the mitzvah, ‘Love your fellow as yourself.’"

  2. At the conclusion of prayers, after the verses[6] "Al Tirah,"[7] "Utzu Eitzah"[8] and "V’ad Ziknah,"[9] to say the verse, "Indeed, the righteous will extol Your Name; the upright will dwell in Your presence."[10]

How do These Phrases Fulfill the Above Criteria?

(a) Association with idea of prayer in general

Prefacing prayers with a declaration of intent to love one’s fellow induces G-d to fulfill the requests made in prayer. Just as a father is happy when all his children live together in harmony and love, and hastens to fulfill their desires, so G-d complies with our requests in prayers when His children -- all Jews -- live in peace and brotherly love.[11]

Commentators[12] explain the connection between prayer and the verse, "Indeed, the righteous will extol Your Name; the upright will dwell in Your presence," according to a passage in the Talmud. The tractate Berachos states[13] that from this verse we learn that "One who prays should wait an hour after his prayer." The verse first states, "Indeed, the righteous will extol Your Name" -- referring to prayer; then it states, "the upright will dwell in Your presence" -- referring to a period of calm[14] and contemplation after prayer.

(b) Association with Ahavas Yisrael and peace

The utterance of "I hereby take upon myself to fulfill the mitzvah, ‘Love your fellow as yourself"‘ is obviously an expression of love and unity between Jews. In addition, because events in the world depend on Jews’ conduct (as noted above), an increase in love and unity between Jews can effect peace between the nations.[15] Moreover, the exile was caused by hatred between Jews.[16] When the cause is eliminated, the effect automatically follows. By loving all Jews the exile will come to an end.[17]

The word "dwell" in the phrase "the upright will dwell in Your presence," connotes serenity and peace -- as in the verse, "Yaakov dwelt," which Rashi[18] interprets to mean "to dwell in peace."[19] Further, prayers today substitute for the sacrifices in the times of the Beis HaMikdash.[20] An increase in prayer serves as a preparation to the future redemption, when we will once more offer sacrifices "in accordance with the command of Your will."[21] We will then witness the literal fulfillment of the verse "the upright will dwell in Your presence," -- for at the pilgrimage to Yerushalayim, "all your males shall appear before the presence of the L-rd G-d.’"[22]

Aren’t These Additions Unprecedented Innovations?

There is nothing new in the above suggested additions, for eminent authorities through the ages have already included these phrases in the prayers. Let us examine each prayer separately:

"I hereby take upon myself to fulfill the mitzvah, ‘Love your fellow as yourself.

This is found in the writings of the AriZal,[23] the AriZal’s Siddur, in the Magen Avraham,[24] and in the Alter Rebbe’s Siddur (which was made for all Jews equally[25]).

"Indeed, the righteous will extol Your Name; the upright will dwell in Your presence."

This is found in the Rambam,[26] the BaCh,[27] the TaZ,[28] Responsa from the RaShal;[29] in the Siddurim of the AriZal, the Alter Rebbe, and in the Siddur "Seder Avodas Yisrael."

There is therefore nothing "new" in these additions, and no need to worry that one would thereby be changing one’s usual text of prayer. What is being proposed is that Jews should provide the antidote to the unusual world circumstances by following the suggestion of the above cited authorities. Thus it has always been in Jewish history: An increase in darkness and evil was met by increasing in light and goodness -- Torah and mitzvos.

Prayer occupies a unique place in this. The Rambam rules[30] that "It is a positive commandment to pray... to ask for the needs that one requires." New needs demand new, extra prayers.

May it be G-d’s will that this proposal be adopted, and that its very adoption bring good results -- as the Shulchan Aruch rules,[31] that the resolution to undertake a good thing itself brings success in the desired effect. And then, may we very soon merit to appear before G-d’s countenance in the third Beis HaMikdash in the true and complete redemption.

19th and 20th of Kislev, 5744



  1. (Back to text) Bereishis Rabbah 42:4, Midrash Lekach Tov on parshas Lech Lecha 14:1.

  2. (Back to text) Although "nation quarrels with nation" is one of the signs of the impending approach of the redemption (Bereishis Rabbah, loc. cit.), all these signs, including this one, have surely already been fulfilled.

  3. (Back to text) Berachos 8a.

  4. (Back to text) The Rambam rules (Laws of Tefillah 1:2) that "It is a positive commandment to. . . ask for the needs that one requires." See further this essay.

  5. (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 40, first note (p. 54b), quoting from Zohar 111, p. 168b.

  6. (Back to text) These verses, recited after Aleinu, are also associated with the idea of eliminating all evil decrees against Jews. When three young children recited these verses to Mordechai, he rejoices "on the good tidings, that he had been informed that he should not fear the evil scheme [of Haman]" -- see Esther Rabbah 7:17.

  7. (Back to text) Mishlei 3:25

  8. (Back to text) Yeshayahu 8:10

  9. (Back to text) op. cit. 46:4

  10. (Back to text) Tehillim 140:14

  11. (Back to text) Sefer HaSichos 5700, p. 157. See also Letters appended to Tehillim Ohel Yosef Yitzchok, p. 199, and Sefer Ha’Erchim -- Chabad, section Ahavas Yisrael, ch. 11.

  12. (Back to text) Responsa of Maharshal section 64, Matteh Moshe section 217.

  13. (Back to text) 32b; Talmud Yerushalmi Berachos 5:1; See Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein Orach Chayim, 93:1.

  14. (Back to text) Similar to the term "dwell" in the verse (Bereishis 37:1), "Yaakov dwelt," which Rashi interprets to mean "to dwell in peace." See further this essay.

  15. (Back to text) And unity of Jews will certainly ensure that any friction between the gentile nations will not affect Jewry in any way. As the Midrash Tanchuma (beginning of parshas Nitzavim) states: If a man takes a bundle of sticks, can he break them...?

  16. (Back to text) Yoma 9b

  17. (Back to text) See Midrash Tanchuma, loc. cit.: "Israel is not redeemed until they will all be one group."

  18. (Back to text) See above, footnote 14.

  19. (Back to text) Moreover, we ask that "the righteous" will dwell in peace -- and "your people are all righteous" (Yeshayahu 60:21).

  20. (Back to text) See Berachos 26b, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 98:4.

  21. (Back to text) Text of Mussaf prayer of Shabbos and Yom Tov (Siddur Tehillas Hashem, pp. 195, 259.

  22. (Back to text) Mishpatim 23: 17

  23. (Back to text) Beginning of Shaar HaKavanos; Pri Etz Chayim Shaar Olam Ha’asiyah ch. 1.

  24. (Back to text) Orach Chayim 46

  25. (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos vol. 22, p. 115

  26. (Back to text) In his "Order of Prayers for the whole year." As part of his Yad HaChazakah, which is all halachah, the "Order of Prayers" (including this verse) is also halachah.

  27. (Back to text) Orach Chayim 132

  28. (Back to text) Ibid.

  29. (Back to text) Responsa of Maharshal, section 64

  30. (Back to text) See above, footnote 4

  31. (Back to text) Orach Chayim 571:3

  Of Organizations & EgosPrison and Reform -- A Torah View  

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