Rosh Hashanah Prayers: Avot II
Continued from an unedited transcript of a shiur: Now there is another key element to Avos, which is there are four words that are the theme of Avos, and those four words are, Hakel, Hagadol, Hagibor v’Hanorah – the Power Who is Great,
Mighty and Who is Awesome. The reason I know that these are the four keys words is that the Gemara in Megillah says that there’s a problem in davening, which is that number one, there’s a pasuk that says, Lecha – You Hashem do you need our tefillah, silence is the ultimate praise, because the more we sit down and to make a list of all of Hashem’s praises, the more we’re limiting Hashem because by giving an extensive list we’re saying this list is comprehensive, but Hashem is Infinite, so the more comprehensive we attempt to be, the more we’re actually limiting Hashem and our awareness of Hashsem. So therefore, how, the Gemara says how can we ever praise Hashem?
And the answer the Gemara gives is we may use, obviously the same words that Moshe Rabbeinu used, and he used the words, Hakel, Hagadol, Hagibor v’Hanorah – the Power Who is Gadol – Great, Gibor – Mighty, and Norah – Awesome.
If you have a piece of paper in front of you, make four columns one with Hakel, one with Gadol, one with Gibor and one with Norah. You can take your entire Shemoneh Esrei and divide it up into these four columns, because everything is based on these 4 words. But I will do one beracha with you just to give you a taste.
Hakel – the Power, corresponds to the first word which is Baruch. Baruch means to expand, Hashem’s power is not a limited power or defined in any way. Hashem’s greatest power is that Hashem is constantly expanding, which is what a beracha is. When we make a beracha, we are expanding Hashem’s presence in the world, that’s Baruch.
Now, if I were speaking to my father, I would not speak to my father in second person. I wouldn’t say how are you Pa, or would you like a cup of water, I would say, how is Pa, would Pa like a drink of water, because he is not one to whom one would speak in second person, especially if he’s your Rebbi, you’re not allowed to speak to such a person, to someone like that in second person. And yet, when we speak to Hashem, the word we use all the time is Ata – You. And the Gemara says that that is an expression of G-d’s humility, or actually the way the Gemara says it is, kol makom – every place, she’ato moitzeh Gedulato – where you find Hashem’s Gedula – His bigness, or His greatness. Sham – it will be in that place, ata moitzeh anavato – you will find Hashem’s humility. So when we refer to Hashem as Ata, that’s reflecting Hashem’s humility because this is how we can interact with Hashem on a second person basis and that is always a reflection of Hashem’s Gedulah. So therefore the word Ata goes under the column Hagadol – The Big. Obviously the name with yud, kei, vav, kei, Hashem’s name does not fit into any column because that name reflects on G-d’s being infinite.
Elokeinu, Elokeinu refers to specific divine providence, which is the level of awareness I have of Hashem’s involvement in my life will determine how directly Hashem will be involved in my life. Now, it’s one thing if you’re dealing with only one person, but what if we are as Hashem dealing with billions of people, how can you respond to the level of awareness of each person and then based on that level of awareness, respond to every action, word and thought of that human being? To be able to do that is a reflection of Awesome power, of incredible power, and that is Hagibor. That’s why the word Elokeinu goes into that third column Hagibor. Elokei Avoteinu – Lord of our ancestors, that refers to general providence, because while it is precious that Hashem will respond to each one of us in a specific way, with hashgacha pratis – individual providence, but the world is generally moving in one direction, towards the ultimate unification of every detail of the world back to its source, which is Hashem. And how Hashem can make all the different individual providences work out so that they fit into a theme of general providence, hashgacha klalis or Elokei Avoiseinu, it’s awesome, it’s beyond anything we can imagine and therefore the phrase Elokei Avoiseinu, goes into the column of Hanorah – Awesome. Elokei, which column would the word Elokei go into to? What’s its root – Kel – correct, therefore the word Elokei goes into the first column Kel. Avraham is which attribute of G-d? Chesed. What is the synonym for chesed? Always Gedulah. Lecha Hashem Hagedulah v’Hagevura v’Hatiferes, that’s the beginning of the list of the 7 sefirot but instead of saying chesed it says Gedulah, because Gedulah is something Gadol, something which is big, which grows. Chesed is always something which grows. Hashem does something for us in order to allow us to grow, so Avraham is chesed, that’s Gadol.
Yitzchak is the attribute of Gevurah. Lecha Hashem Hagedulah v’Hagevura. So therefore Yitzchak goes under the column Hagibor.
Ya’akov is the attribute of Tiferet, which is called balance, that everything balances out. That’s Hanorah. In the same way we’ve described general providence as Hashem balancing all the individual providences for every single creation over the course of history, so too that’s Tiferet and that is an expression of G-d’s Awesomeness – Hanorah.
Hakel, Hagadol, Hagibor v’Hanora, I don’t have to tell you, correct, because that’s the key phrase. What’s the next phrase? Kel Elyon, right – the Supreme G-d. What’s the key word? Kel. So which column would that go under? Kel, alright.
Next phrase: Gomel chasadim tovim – Hashem treats us as a mother weaning her child, gomel, to wean a child, chasadim tovim, with chesed that is tov, meaning that gives us an independence. Which column does that go under? The same one as the middah, the attribute of chesed of Avraham, the same one as Gedulah, which is the synonym for chesed. Konei Hakol, so it can be translated in many, many ways. But the way that according to this approach we translate konei hakol, is that G-d is metaken. Konei in Hebrew is the same word as metaken – to fix. How does G-d fix everything? Through individual providence. Which column is individual providence?
Which is the same as?
Hagibor, exactly. Zocher chasdei avos – G-d gives continued existence to the acts of chesed of our ancestors – meaning history is not looked at as broken moments in time or rather history is looked at as a whole, where everything fits together so that the acts of chesed of our Avot, our ancestors, Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya’akov, of Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, they all fit together in a whole. Meaning, this is the general providence, for this is Norah – the Awesomeness of G-d – always reflected in how G-d can fit the trillions or infinite number of particulars into the general view of history at any one point. So that fits in to the pattern of general providence.