Saturday, December 07, 2019

“When praying the morning prayer, Baruch She’Amar, one should recite the words slowly, carefully, with intense feeling and joy, as if one were counting money.”

—Rabbi Yaakov of Emden

Speed davening. We read the words so quickly that we hardly have time to seriously think about, let alone focus on what we are saying. We hardly have time to realize how grateful we must be to God, who constantly overwhelms us with His blessings and kindnesses.

Baruch She’Amar: “Blessed is He who spoke, and the world came into being, Blessed is His name… Blessed is He who decrees and fulfills… Blessed is He who sustains creation… Blessed is He who is compassionate to His creatures… Blessed is He who lives forever and exists for eternity… Blessed is He who redeems and saves…Unique One! Life of the universe, the King, who is praised and glorified...”

We bless Hashem with our words. Should we not bless Him as well with our kavanah?

How often do we hear some men proudly declare “how wonderful” that the Shabbos morning prayers were finished in under 90 minutes, or the weekday prayers in 25 minutes, or Pesukei D’zimra in under eight minutes? Why is that a good thing? Why do we hurry through our prayers?

Maybe we should not use the words “prayers” or “davening.” Maybe what we are really doing is speaking with God, so let’s call it that. We are communicating with the Creator of the universe, the King of Kings, Who is infinite and all-powerful.

Baruch She’Amar is the opening prayer to the morning segment of prayers known as Pesukei D’zimra. It proclaims God’s supervision and guidance of countless activities in the universe, in nature and human events.

Pesukei D’zimra means “Verses of Song.” Song? Singing? What singing? “Give thanks to God, sing to Him, make music to Him,” “Praise the Lord with song, with dancing…” “Give thanks to God with a harp, sing to Him with a ten-stringed lyre, play trumpet blasts.” Does anyone sing or dance during Pesukei D’zimra? Where is the joy and emotion in our davening?

Little children learn to read Hebrew. Later they begin to learn how to read the prayers. Children are too young to understand what they are saying. It takes years to maturely comprehend the words and the concepts of what it means to speak to God and to praise Him. But, alas, some people never learn this.

The last words of Yishtabach, the concluding prayer of Pesukei D’zimra, are “habocher b’shirei zimra,” You desire to choose the praises of song from man. As much as God desired the sacrifices in the Beit Hamikdash, He loved the songs of the Levi’im who served there. Without the Beit Hamikdash, now He desires our singing. Should we not give Him what he desires with fervency and sincerity?

By Martin Polack

Martin Polack is a business analyst who dabbles in adult Jewish education.