Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ummm.... no He doesn't.


פּוֹתֵחַ אֶת יָדֶךָ וּמַשְׂבִּיעַ לְכָל חַי רָצוֹן
"You open Your hand, and satisfy the desire of every living thing."

This is considered to be a very important verse. It's so important that it is one of the reasons why the Sages required us to say Ashrei three times a day. It's so important that, according to the Shulchan Aruch, if one forgot to say it with proper concentration, one must recite it again.

When I started yeshivah gedolah, and began to have real kavannah in davvening for the first time in my life, the following question occurred to me. He opens His hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing? Ummm.... no He doesn't! From eels to elephants, there are creatures that die from hunger or thirst.

I asked this question to my Rosh Yeshivah. As I recall, he was somewhat was taken aback by the question. He eventually suggested that the ratzon mentioned in the verse is not the will of every living creature, but rather the will of God.

This appeared to me to be a rather forced interpretation of the verse. Furthermore, it rather limits the praise that the verse is giving. In the context of the lavish praise that this chapter espouses, it seems rather unlikely that here it is saying that God feeds only those that He wants to feed. Besides, a similar question can be asked about other verses with which no such escape clause exists. Does God really support ALL the fallen, and straighten ALL the bent?

I had a similar question about pesukim regarding bitachon, which seem to imply that if you trust in God, He will help you in the way that you desire. My Rosh Yeshivah claimed that this is really true - that if one has sufficient trust in God, He will do whatever you need. But aside from this being an extremely unhealthy approach to teach young men (it forces them to attempt to brainwash themselves), could it really be the meaning of these verses? Could anyone believe that God is really guaranteed to rescue you from all harm, if you have sufficient trust that He will do so?

Only much later, when I was able to appraise things in a more mature way, did the answer become obvious to me. The authors of these psalms lived in a much harsher world than ours, and were well aware that these statements were not actually factually true. But such psalms are expressing religious sentiments, hopes and wishes. They are describing an idealized form of reality, not the factual reality.

The question that I now have is as follows: How is it that there are so many people who have been saying "You open Your hand, and satisfy the desire of every living thing" three times a day with great kavannah, but have apparently never thought about what it actually could possibly mean?

94 comments:

  1. Presumably the answer is that because Hashem loves and cares for each and every one of us, whatever Hashem gives you is by definition what you need. Hashem doesn’t give you less than you need. Even if you were to die under horrible circumstances, that could only happen because Hashem knew that that was what needed to happen, that that was the right thing to happen. So in that regard, the Tehillim is coming to praise Hashem for actually considering the needs of every living thing. He actually deigns to consider the needs of a creature of a tipa srucha – imagine that!

    Personally, that interpretation leaves me with a little cold (for every tragedy that befalls me, I'm supposed to say "Thank you, sir, may I have another?"?). But I suppose if I had the "simple faith" that you've mentioned before, I would be perfectly happy with that interpretation and would be able to shout out that verse with utmost kavana.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Come on! That is NOT the meaning of the passuk! Besides, ratzon is desire, not "need"! Nobody desires to die under horrible circumstances!

    And what do you do with "he supports all the fallen and straightens all the bent"?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have long been bothered by this exact question (about the verse) (well, also about how people say the same thing over and over again without knowing what it means, but that's not what I'm talking about here). Although I have read a number of answers, I still feel like I have no idea what the verse means. So I'm very glad that you devoted a post to it; hopefully someone will write something in the comments that sheds some light for me.
    I must say, unfortunately, that I'm not sure I understand your understanding of it. How does what you say explain anything? How is it a praise to say that someone/thing/being does something that you only wish they would do but don't do. If anything, that's not a praise but rather an insult.
    Not that I think what you're saying is completely wrong - I'm sure the reason why the Sages cared for it so much was so that it would instill hope and trust in H' to us, regardless of its veracity. But I still don't understand why it was written or what it is really supposed to mean.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I wish I could edit my comments -- the interpretation "leaves me a little cold," not "with a little cold."

    Anyways, the Yeshivish retort is that I'm so frum that I desire that which Hashem says I need. If Hashem says I need to die, I'll rejoice at the opportunity to be moser nefesh for Hashem just like Rebbe Akiva did.

    What do I (wearing the Yeshivish costume) do with zokef l'chol hakefufim? Same thing. I am as straight as Hashem wants me to be and that's a-okay with me.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Adam - you're looking at it too scientifically. It's prose, not Moreh Nevuchim.

    ReplyDelete
  6. interesting post. for a similar answer with a great evaluation of the underpinning psycholgical and historical circumstances of the psalmists, see James Kugel's in the valley of the shadow. he notes all the extremes used throughout the psalms (from the depths to the hieghts, from sorrow to joy), with rarely a tempered approach to salvation, and provides a somewhat logical framework to understand the religious experience of the people from those times.
    Not sure whether Kugel is a good person or a heretic (don't know him ), but i sure loved that book and am about to purchase another from him.

    ReplyDelete
  7. From a religious perspective, is not the goal/purpose of all life to fulfill Divine will? Consider statements like "Ein lecha ben chorim elah mi sheosek baTorah" when juxtaposed with "Histakel b'oraita ubara almah." Understaing G-d's plan creates ultimate freedom to fulfill it. Even in the Halachik framework this notion has practical application. Consider Ramabam's justification for kfiyah of a Get. As such the term "ratzon" in the pasuk under discussion can be literally understood to refer to the confluence of Divine will and our transcendent and "most true" desires. Indeed as R. Slifkin posits, the pasuk refers to an idealized state. It refers to a state in which corporeal being rise above their corporeal needs and desires and feast upon the fulfillment of G-d's plan. The requirement for extra kavanah when reciting it stems not from a necessary affirmation of faith. Rather it reflects our loftiest spiritual goals and aspirations.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The pasuk is present tense, not future. I find your explanation to be forced as well. Certainly not obvious.

    Question: How do you understand the bracha of "hazan es hakol" in light of the starving elephants? It is that God is the source of all nourishment, not that God constantly feeds every creature.

    Same with "You open Your hand..." - the praise is that it is You, God, who gives everyone everything, even if it is just for an instant in this world, and even if you are not feeding the elephants at this moment.

    ReplyDelete
  9. An explanation I heard (from Rav Aviner, I believe) is that there is certainly enough food in the world. It is the job of humans to properly distribute the food. To the extent that humans fail to do so properly, it is the fault of humans, not God.

    ReplyDelete
  10. There certainly is not enough food and water in the world for all animals.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The pasuq is meant to be a general description of the reality of the world whereby HASHEM sustains all types of creatures. It was not intended to imply that no creatures suffer or die. So I am told by Rav David Bar-Hayim.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I usually agree with what you have to say, Rabbi Slifkin, but I don't think your conclusion makes sense. You are jumping to an answer just because there's a question, as your Rosh Yeshiva did.

    I've always understood this posuk in two different ways:

    1) He nourishes/satisfies every living being that has will. (This is as opposed to satisfying every will of every living creature. Also, as opposed to people who don't truly will something. It's a corollary to "God leads people on the path they choose to follow, in that there needs to be will/choice on the part of the creature, not just free rides given by G-d.)

    2) He nourishes/satisfies every living thing by supplying them with Ratzon/desire/will. (Because if we didn't have any, we'd all be depressed and find no meaning in being alive. WE also wouldn't get anything done.)

    ReplyDelete
  13. He nourishes/satisfies every living being that has will.

    So it's not talking about animals? Of course it is. And what do you do with the other pesukim?

    He nourishes/satisfies every living thing by supplying them with Ratzon/desire/will.

    Don't you see these sorts of things as being absurd kvetches? And, again, they don't even help with all the other pesukim.

    הוא נותן לחם לכל בשר
    ובטובו הגדול תמיד לא חסר לנו

    Please, people, before throwing out ideas that are based on a kvetch of ratzon, think if they actually work with all the pesukim!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I agree with the view that the verse is stating that the world is generally set up in a way to facilitate the needs of all living things.

    The fact that this is not **always** the case certainly contradicts the plain meaning of the verse, but there is room to say that some pesukim in Tanach exaggerate. Startling as this idea may sound, this view has been articulated in the Gemara, in Chullin. See the following: http://www.dafyomi.co.il/chulin/halachah/ch-hl-090.htm

    Of course this calls into question, just who has the requisite "street cred" to make such an assertion in any particular case, but I think it is reasonable to assert in this case, since we are applying this concept to poetic/rapturous verse.

    Incidentally, R' Slifkin, that discussion in Chullin potentially opens up all sorts of exegetical possibilities for interpreting Aggadah, investigating Torah/Science issues, although stating that the Torah "exaggerates" is clearly an idea that can be abused.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This is not the only example of a passuk that we state which is expressing the ideal rather than the "current reality" - the most blaring for me is in the Birkat HaMazon - נער הייתי גם זקנתי ולא ראיתי צדיק נעזב - I was a young man and I have grown old, and I have never seen a righteous person forsaken.

    Can any of us really say that this reflects the reality? There are tzadikkim who are without basic needs, and we have seen it. Yet the Birkat HaMazon seems to be expressing the ideal world whioch we are striving towards.

    So too, the chapterr from Tehillim which is the Ashei can also be seen as exprssing the reality which we should each aspire towards.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I think that this concept can be applied to a number of pesukin through Tanach. The best example that comes to mind is the second paragraph of Shema. There is a long list of everything that will go right if you listen to God's commandments. However, it is clear that bad things still happen to those who don't follow the commandments and vice versa. Though perhaps a simple answer, I think it's easiest to say with regard to these sorts of Pesukim, that they cannot be interpreted literally, but rather, it's expressing a sentiment. The fact that God can do these things and does do these things and we hope He will do it for us if we follow Him properly. In the case of this specific Pasuk, maybe there isn't enough food to satisfy every living creature on Earth, but we're affirming that God is the source of all nourishment and nothing can survive without His assistance. It is an acrostic POEM after all.

    ReplyDelete
  17. "This is not the only example of a passuk that we state which is expressing the ideal rather than the "current reality" - the most blaring for me is in the Birkat HaMazon - נער הייתי גם זקנתי ולא ראיתי צדיק נעזב - I was a young man and I have grown old, and I have never seen a righteous person forsaken."

    I always saw that passage as a pun on the phonetic similarity between "ne'ezav" and "oz." The author suggests that tzadikim are always strong and that the strength comes from G-d.

    ReplyDelete
  18. At the risk of causing more harm than good I'll just say..

    "ummm... yes He does."

    The way you are reading the verse/want to read the verse suggests that Chazal want us to believe that we will live forever if we really want to.

    But what the verse, and all the others like it is saying is really very simple.

    What is the cause of the bent being straightened? What is the source of the fallen rising? What is the source of everything that is alive and the food the sustains them? Hashem, the one and only.

    Also, I highly doubt your statement is true that there is not enough food in the world to feed all living organisms. It may not all be in the correct location for a particular animal for various reasons, but the 75 billion tons of biomass that exists are certainly enough to feed the world over.

    ReplyDelete
  19. A commonly occurring question, that perhaps applies here too: does 'kol' necessarily mean literally 'all'?

    ReplyDelete
  20. I agree that the sentiments expressed by David in Ashrei and elsewhere are idealizations, or a subjective outlook, rather than objective reality. The question is then, why make such a big deal about that particular verse? Perhaps the intention of the sages was to treat it as a request rather than a statement of fact.

    As an aside, a verse recited 3 times a day? Ashrei is not part of the Ma'ariv service. Perhaps some recite it before or after Aleinu, but it is not officially part of the service.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Oh, and regarding your final question...

    Ask the 5+ million Jews who still don't live in Israel.

    ReplyDelete
  22. MY grandfather used to say over entire post every time he bentched the birkat hamazon. He asked" you never saw a rightous person foresaken?" How can we say this.. and he then went on a whole rant about how he refuses to say those words because they are false. I was satisfied with the answer that the passuk is comforting us by stating that ultimatly hashem takes care of all tzadikim. He also opens his hand and satisfies all desires. We may not always see it in this world, but we have faith that Hashem is all good, and these pasukim reaffirm our faith everytime we declare them.

    ReplyDelete
  23. [Hashem has the power to] satisfy every need and desire of any living thing by merely opening his hand [and giving it.]

    Ratzon refers to the needs of the living creatures. The verse refers to the potential, which is obviously not actualized for all living creatures.

    ReplyDelete
  24. "As an aside, a verse recited 3 times a day? Ashrei is not part of the Ma'ariv service. Perhaps some recite it before or after Aleinu, but it is not officially part of the service."

    The gemora specifically says that someone who recites Ashrei 3 times a day is guaranteed a spot in olam habah.

    ReplyDelete
  25. "masbia l'chol chai ratzon" - not that every creature's desire is fulfilled, but that all creatures' fulfillment is supplied by the hand of Hashem.

    Same thing with "hazan et ha'olam kulo betuvo". The entire world is not nourished with Hashem's goodness - rather all goodness/nourishment that is imbibed comes from Hashem.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Perhaps some recite it before or after Aleinu, but it is not officially part of the service.

    The Gemara in Berachos states that whoever says Ashrei 3 times a day will merit olam habah. The reason given in the gemara is that this psalm is in alphabetical order and contains the verse of Poseach.

    It is based on this Gemara that a second Ashrei was inserted into Shacharis.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Some of these interpretations seem to be a fair redress of your concerns, but what about the context?

    If these pesukim are canonized as part of Tanach doesn't that preclude their having a meaning that is a sentimental truism for the author alone?

    Had Dovid said "Hashem, you should provide for all living creatures...", then I would agree that he is a expressing sentiment and hope. If he meant to express a wish he could have easily done so. But in stating it as fact, and having God memorialize that statement, should demand that it hold true for all people in all times.

    Otherwise aren't we opening the door to applying this sort of 'hope'n and pray'n' interpretation to any verse?

    ReplyDelete
  28. "Adam - you're looking at it too scientifically. It's prose, not Moreh Nevuchim. "

    Don't you mean poetry?

    ReplyDelete
  29. Also, He doesn't really have a "hand".

    It's fanciful prose, not literal. Like all of Psalms. And Torah.

    It's no more meaningful than kids saying "I love my Daddy. He buys me everything I need."

    ReplyDelete
  30. "An explanation I heard (from Rav Aviner, I believe) is that there is certainly enough food in the world. It is the job of humans to properly distribute the food. To the extent that humans fail to do so properly, it is the fault of humans, not God. "

    I applaud the effort, but this seems to blame the poorest parts of the world for their own plight. What is the great zechus of the West? Furthermore, people don't choose the circumstances to which they were born, the climate, and so forth.

    I think of the phrase "There but for the grace of God go I," which actually means "From God's grace goes he."

    ReplyDelete
  31. I too struggle with this verse and I know if I am davening with kavana because I will have paused to think about it.

    Firstly, I think it makes sense to assume we are referring to humans. A few options to reconcile the issue:

    1. This is a continuation of the previous sentence, therefore we are only talking B'Ito, to which we defer to Hashem's wisdom.

    2. The philosophical issues involved with divine providence were much different in an era of prophesy, especially for someone like King David that had one on call. With the possibility of direct communication to understand the will of Hashem on any issue, it would have been possible for the faithful making an effort to act in a way to guarantee subsistence.

    3. I like to translate 'Ratzon' as a thirst for personal meaning, and therefore the whole sentence as, "You open up your hand and satisfy the spiritual desire of all". In this case "open up you hand" is describing revelation/Torah and Hashem's willingness to engage in a relationship with man and mankind. Note that a concordance search does not really justify this reading of Ratzon (I looked hard) but I like it anyway.

    To Nachum Boehm's point. There probably is enough food in the world to sustain all humans and it is largely a distribution/logistics problem, even for isolated famines. For example, things like lack of land titling making simple irrigation projects impossible in places like Ethiopia.

    ReplyDelete
  32. MY grandfather used to say over entire post every time he bentched the birkat hamazon. He asked" you never saw a rightous person foresaken?" How can we say this..

    How do we know who is truly righteous?

    ReplyDelete
  33. I applaud the effort, but this seems to blame the poorest parts of the world for their own plight. What is the great zechus of the West? Furthermore, people don't choose the circumstances to which they were born, the climate, and so forth.

    Not sure I understand your problem with the explanation. How does this explanation of this verse blame the famished people for their own plight? Au contraire, it blames the problems of the famished on those who have an abundance of food.

    It seems unjust to you that there is undeserved suffering in this world (and lots of it)? That's simply a fact of life, irrespective of any explanation of a verse is psalms.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Yץ Aharon:
    Ashrei is indeed said three times a day: twice during shacharit, and once during mincha....

    ReplyDelete
  35. What's wrong with R' Hirsch's approach? See what he says on 145:14, that these verses continue the general theme of the chapter (i.e., the goal of becoming more aware of God's greatness). Thus, anyone (or any creature, for that matter) who is raised up or fed can know that it was God Who stands behind it.
    Of course there are those who starve or remain bent over, but our chapter is concerned with tools for achieving greater awareness of what God does do, not what He doesn't (that's a matter for other sources).

    ReplyDelete
  36. This won't help if you are looking for simple peshat, I don't think, but the Chasam Sofer somewhere says that the end of the passuk means that he gives each living thing a sense of desire.

    ReplyDelete
  37. How do we know who is truly righteous?

    The author of the pasuk apparently could tell.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I too have been bothered for many years by the meaning of "Open Your Hand ...". The following is the most satisfying (at least to me) interpretation I have found.

    "Ratzon" does not mean our superficial desires. It means our deepest, deepest desire if we only knew all the facts surrounding the issue. For instance, if someone were given an option - to lose a loved one or to lose $5,000, our deepest desire would undoubtedly be to give up the $5,000. Yet if we lost the $5,000 without knowing what the alternative was, we would not believe that the monetary loss is a "desire'. But in truth it is.

    So the meaning of the passuk is, that Hashem is granting us our real, true desire. And if we only knew the options available, we too would agree that it truly is our "desire".

    I believe I heard this interpretation in the name of the Steipler Gaon.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Rabbi Slifkin: "The authors of these psalms ... were well aware that these statements were not actually factually true. [But such psalms]... are describing an idealized form of reality, not the factual reality... How is it that there are so many people who have been saying [the psalm]... three times a day with great kavannah, but have apparently never thought about what it actually could possibly mean?"


    Apparently, they're reciting it with an idealized form of kavannah, not with factual and real kavannah. In that case, might not their kavannah be meaningful in an idealized world but nonsensical in our factual and real world?

    ReplyDelete
  40. Sorry about my questioning saying "pote'ach et yadecha" 3 times daily. I simply forgot about that 2nd Ashrei in shacharit.

    ReplyDelete
  41. This pasuk means to me that all of our sustenance is dependent on HKBH, whatever I do get/achieve comes from Him, in the final analysis, not b'kochi v'otzem yadi.

    I do think it a bit presumptuous on your part, R. Natan, to assume that the rest of us have been robotically saying this pasuk like simpletons.
    Many of us do wrestle and interpret to the best of our abilities.

    ReplyDelete
  42. To me it is obvious that the Posuk you ask about in your post means that God set in the order of creation every species needs to be met. The ancients saw all creatures eating and they knew creatures can die of hunger and thirst but it means the species are provided for. It is probably obvious to many people the meaning of this posuk at least intuitively until challenged.

    ReplyDelete
  43. >There certainly is not enough food and water in the world for all animals.<

    One thing's for sure: None of the billions upon billions of fish thathave existed ever died of thirst! :)

    Seriously: The problem I have with the type of question Reb Natan and others ask is that even if the world was perfect, if we heard of one person -- or even one animal -- meeting an untimely end or not having enough to eat, we'd be left with the same question.

    re limited resources: here's something I read once. If each person was given 2 square feet of their own (admittedly not much, but just for arguement's sake), the entire world population would fit within the city limits of Fort Lauderdale.

    ReplyDelete
  44. "The question that I now have is as follows: How is it that there are so many people who have been saying "You open Your hand, and satisfy the desire of every living thing" three times a day with great kavannah, but have apparently never thought about what it actually could possibly mean?"

    This is the nature of prayer in every religion. The meaning of the words is secondary -- it's the kavannah that's important.

    There are lots of Chassidic stories about that, and you probably know more of them than I do.

    In extreme cases (like the Tibetan prayer wheels), the worshipper doesn't even _know_ the words.

    If I remember right, the halacha is that one can pray in any language, but Hebrew is best because . . .

    . . . Hebrew prayers are effective
    . . . even if the worshipper
    . . . doesn't know what the words
    . . . mean.

    Charles

    ReplyDelete
  45. As others have already observed, it seems likely that the Hebrew "kol" should not necessarily be interpreted in an absolute sense. Kol can also mean "many" or "a majority." This is clear from Shmos 9:6, "And He killed all ('kol') of the Egyptians' livestock". The Ibn Ezra there observes that kol cannot mean all, because the livestock are threatened again in makas barad; it must therefore mean most of the livestock.

    Because kol does not necessarily mean all, it can be used idiomatically as a way of stating a general principle that does not necessarily hold true in every specific instance. This can be observed in Rabbinic usage of the word. For example, the gemara in Brachos 4b (already mentioned on this thread) states, "anyone (kol mi) who says ashrei three times a day is guaranteed a place in the world to come." Kol in this context cannot mean every single person, as it is obviously possible that an evil person could recite ashrei three times a day. The gemara is simply making a broad statement about the importance of reciting ashrei; it is not making a scientific claim which is true in every single case.

    Here too, kol is being used idiomatically to introduce a general rule. The psukim mean G-d created a world that is generally capable of producing enough food for all creatures. Generally speaking, G-d supports the fallen and straightens the crooked. These are not scientific rules but broad principles.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I have almost never had a problem with your "tone." But I do this time. Writing "Umm... no He doesn't" is a bit too glib for my taste.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Humm....don't know. It's a genuine question, however the devastation is predicated upon our presuming we know whose 'ratzon', let alone what 'ratzon' is. We all learn that because of what happened in the Garden that having children will be demanding for Chava. Gevaldt, but why are children burdened with this?!

    Also, in terms of paying attention to things Divine, has anyone ever considered that we all say 'Shema Yisrael' three times a day, yet how many are the people who give any thought to doing so?

    Doing what?...hearing, of course. 'Shema' means 'hear'; it doesn't mean 'know'!?

    About which a simple example is sufficient. Read, and preferably aloud, a personal letter. How you will know or understand it is dependent upon 'how you hear' it, and that is entirely between you and another. It's your intimacy with who wrote the letter that will determine if and how you 'hear' what's being said. Like coming home and finding a note signed, 'Love'. Ahhh, by who wrote it you'll tell me what you hear.

    Daniel Eliezer

    ReplyDelete
  48. This reminds me of something i heard regarding the verse "Achas Shoalti...Shivti B'veis Hashem kol yemei chaya." R. Aron Lichtenstein explained that dovid hamelech knew full well he was spending his next day with the duties of being a king, yet it was a sentiment.

    ReplyDelete
  49. On a literal level, the pasuk means that all the living creatures in the world exist because when they have had needs, Hashem has had compassion on them and arranged for these needs to be satisfied. Understanding ratzon as a poetic way of saying needs makes the most sense on a literal level. When you have a need, you wish for it to be fulfilled. Many of the versus of that psalm are about how Hashem has compassion over all his creations, and this verse is simply the most general and all-inclusive. (I know that some rishonim said Hashem does not exercise individual providence over animals, but this pasuk, R'Akiva's Nachum Gamzu story, and Rashi's statement about Hashem deciding which fish the kingfisher will catch and when, provide support for this sort of individual providence (which many people believe in today, including myself)).

    Same with straightening those who are bent, etc. When healing or other good things happen, it is because Hashem has had mercy on the individuals involved. When these good things don't happen, well that's more complicated (there are many potential explanations, from "there is no suffering without transgression" to chance)!

    About the idea that trusting in Hashem will give your every desire, I don't think all the passages from Tehillim on that subject put together really say that. What they seem to say is that Hashem will protect you, Hashem's lovingkindness will surround you, etc.

    Do people really interpret this as some magical thing in which if you trust hard enough you can achieve any wish? Maybe, but I have read many books from Breslov chassidut, which all stress emuna and bitachon to an extreme degree, but none of these make such magical guarantees! As far as I can tell, the general belief in Breslov is that everything that happens is for the good no matter what, but if you believe in this all-encompassing divine providence strongly (ie, trust in Hashem), and spend much time in personal prayer, then a higher level of divine providence will occur. That is not to say that everything will work out exactly as you want, but that better things will happen that if you didn't have that high level of trust (and anyway, you will react better to whatever happens because you assume it is for the good). Reb Noson of Breslov, for example, writes that if one trusts in Hashem one should ideally be able to have a sufficient income without working very much (or at all). (That doesn't stop Rav Shalom Arush, in his book Gan Shalom, from insisting that men follow their ketubah and support their families!)

    According to Breslov thought, Hashem created the world because he wanted to reveal his mercy. Thus it makes sense that we would both concentrate on a verse that emphasizes Hashem's present kindnesses, while at the same time focus our spiritual efforts on inducing Hashem to become even more compassionate through trusting in Him and praying to him at length for our and the world's needs.

    Interestingly, Rambam's view that divine providence only works for those who are intellectually connected to Hashem is analogous to the often-expressed idea in Tehillim that divine providence depends on trusting in Hashem. I'm not aware if Rambam himself wrote anything much about bitachon, but his son Avraham ben Rambam has some wonderful quotes about it in his book (as I've quoted previously in the comments on this blog), and is clearly in the everything-is-bashert camp. However, if I remember correctly, his chapter on bitachon in Guide to Serving God also says that trusting in Hashem for everything, such as everyday needs, is not recommended and perhaps only for people on a very high level. Perhaps the "brainwashed" people you're referring to should read that chapter!

    ReplyDelete
  50. As for the animals, do we really know what their true ratzon is. What of the Lemming?

    For that matter, do we know what "ratzon" itself truly is, in the first place.
    Some say it is to want, i.e. desire.
    If this is the case, so why dose not everyone have a millon dollars.
    In addition, we do not find anywhere in the entire prayers the phrase "I want......or, I desire......

    Or is it that we (most of us) do not know how to correctly utilize our ratzon. E.g. want faintly and desire denial.

    Of one thing we can be certain of, once we discover true ratzon, our limits will reach beyond the skies.
    o

    ReplyDelete
  51. who says animals don't have will?

    As for the other pesukim, I see them as symbolic/metaphorical.

    As an aside, according to your theory here, why did Chazal decide to make this pasuk more emphasized than "he raises all the falled" or any other pasuk?

    ReplyDelete
  52. Remarks by Rabbi Shimon Schwab Zatza”l presented to a conference of accountants sponsored by Agudath Israel, and appeared in the Jewish Observer, April 1989.

    “…Exactly fifty-seven years ago, at my Sheva Berachos, an elderly man who was a grandson of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Zatza”l recounted an incident from his youth. As he was taking his grandfather for a walk, his grandfather asked him the meaning of the phrase “Masbia L’chol Chai Ratzon”. It should read “Masbia Ratzon L’chol Chai- He satiates the desire of all living creatures”, or “Masbia Chol Chai B’ratzon- He willingly satiates all living creatures”. Rav Hirsch then explained that the word “Ratzon” here was related to the expression “Yehi Ratzon”, that the matter be Ratzui Lecha, pleasing to You. It is in this spirit that Ratzon is to be understood in our prayers for sustenance. In fact, this phrase from Ashrei contains the quintessence of Parnasa- why some obtain it and others do not: G-d grants Ratzon- favor- to those whom He chooses to grace with it. This applies to the beggar at the door, the professor lecturing in college, the merchant selling his product and the professional selling his services; if the individual is not liked and does not find Cein and Rtzon in the eyes of others, he will remain poor. Many a famous painter whose works of art sell for millions of dollars today, starved to death because during his lifetime his paintings simply did not find Ratzon. The public did not respond to them.
    Parnasa, then, represents direct intervention of G-d, granting the individual Ratzon. It is a response that cannot be forced, or gained through manipulation. And if I am liked or appreciated, it is “Miyadcha HaMele’ah, HaPesucha, HaRechova- from Your full, open, broad hand”. It comes directly from G-d.”

    ReplyDelete
  53. About this 'sages requiring ashrei 3 times' thing - I know everyone thinks that's true and does that, but I think I remember hearing Rav Bar Hayim (unless it was someone else) claim in a shiur he was giving that actually the original source there was requiring (requiring? or encouraging?) it only 1 time per day, not 3. Maybe one of Rabbi Bar Hayim's students posting here can confirm this if I'm remembering correctly? Or if anyone has some input on this subject...

    ReplyDelete
  54. What really is "proper concentration"? We say "know before whom you stand". Does it mean investing in a whim about what God means to one at the moment? Or does it mean not investing in any whims because they are just projections of ourselves?

    In one case, where we invent some thing or aesthetic of God to pray to...the text is guiding us to create, in our minds, a God who fulfills the verse. In this sense, the verses are like a guided visualization. And we imagine our fellow prayer makers to be imagining something in a generally similar realm.

    In the other case, where we accept our place and do not invest in our imagination's fancy...even when guided...our concentration is on the wording...which is rather euphoric in this section of Tehillim...as in "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow....which nobody can deny".

    And while mentioning "denial": It is important for most of us to deny the evil situations that God creates so that we can be euphoric about allowing an escape from that same evil situation. I know it seems silly to some. But it makes living as a human being a lot more fun...or at worst, more tolerable.

    Gary Goldwater

    ReplyDelete
  55. I think people have a bigger problem with, and more has been written about, "lo raiti tzadik neezav."

    I have in mind that "ratzon" means both "want" and "need." And kol z'man I'm alive, Hashem is, indeed, providing for me. But mostly, I have in mind that it's a tefilla.

    ReplyDelete
  56. My brother told me your Rosh Yeshiva's interpretation in the name of another rav, too. But I told him I didn't think it was pshat.

    ReplyDelete
  57. I empathize with the question greatly and must comment that taking these passukim literally is a huge mistake and sets them up to fail from the start.

    Tehilim are beautiful poems and that have tremendous effect on Jewish life. However they are poems of the heart in large part that reflect hopes and dreams of man vs. how God actually runs the world and our lives. It is a terrible assumtion to believe otherwise in many Rabbi opinions.

    What we are really asking when with this passuk is, "why do bad things happen to good people".

    We can not be led to believe by any religious leaders the reason Hashem does not grant our desires is because we are not on the level to ask properly. That may help in some psychological way for simple minded people, but people here and all over have realized that answer does not work.

    So I suggest the real mistake is the way some choose to relate to Tehillim.

    Shalom,

    Rabbi Simon

    ReplyDelete
  58. "The authors of these psalms lived in a much harsher world than ours, and were well aware that these statements were not actually factually true."

    Harsher? Maybe. It depends on whether these psalmists lived through a holocaust, inquisition, or crusades.

    ReplyDelete
  59. > Could anyone believe that God is really guaranteed to rescue you from all harm, if you have sufficient trust that He will do so?

    Absolutely. And the corollary, that if Hashem doesn’t rescue you, it’s because you didn’t have enough bitachon. It’s one of the many pieces that allow for the continued belief in God’s omni-benevolence in a world full of tragedies: anything good that happens is an expression of Hashem’s beneficence, while anything bad is our fault.

    > How is it that there are so many people who have been saying "You open Your hand, and satisfy the desire of every living thing" three times a day with great kavannah, but have apparently never thought about what it actually could possibly mean?

    Because most people simply never think about the implications of their religious beliefs. Similar to how people can insist that little girls be dressed to a certain standard of tznius without realizing that they are implying they are attracted to non-tznius children.

    Or perhaps we should give people more credit, and they realize, as you did, that it’s poetry and not meant to describe the real world literally.


    Isaac said...
    > As for the animals, do we really know what their true ratzon is. What of the Lemming?

    Lemmings do not commit suicide, The popular idea that they do comes from an early Disney wildlife documentary, in which the filmmakers herded lemmings off of a cliff so that they could film this “unusual behavior.”

    ReplyDelete
  60. Yehudah said...
    I have almost never had a problem with your "tone." But I do this time. Writing "Umm... no He doesn't" is a bit too glib for my taste.


    Try it again, but instead of hearing it in the sarcastic voice of a GenY/Z'er, hear it in the deadpan voice of John Cleese.

    ReplyDelete
  61. "Kol can also mean "many" or "a majority." This is clear from Shmos 9:6, "And He killed all ('kol') of the Egyptians' livestock". The Ibn Ezra there observes that kol cannot mean all, because the livestock are threatened again in makas barad; it must therefore mean most of the livestock.

    Because kol does not necessarily mean all, it can be used idiomatically as a way of stating a general principle that does not necessarily hold true in every specific instance."

    I appreciate your rigor on this Bob. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Think of the following saying from Kiddushim 82b. R. Simeon b.
    Eleazar said: In my whole lifetime I have not seen a deer engaged in gathering fruits, a lion carrying
    burdens, or a fox as a shopkeeper, yet they are sustained without trouble, though they were created
    only to serve me, whereas I was created to serve my Maker. Now, if these, who were created only toserve me are sustained without trouble, how much more so should I be sustained without trouble, I
    who was created to serve my Maker! But it is because I have acted evilly and destroyed my
    livelihood, as it is said, your iniquities have turned away these things.
    The problem is that those animal by not making use of the division of labor are limited by the food supply and die out when their numbers grow too large.

    ReplyDelete
  63. "Harsher? Maybe. It depends on whether these psalmists lived through a holocaust, inquisition, or crusades."

    Nothing could have been worse than the enslavement of the people and destruction of the Temples and self rule.

    ReplyDelete
  64. G*3 said...
    "Lemmings do not commit suicide, The popular idea that they do comes from an early Disney wildlife documentary, in which the filmmakers herded lemmings off of a cliff so that they could film this “unusual behavior.”

    Thank you for making us aware of this detail, but this notion of suicidal lemmings, comes from their unusual behavior which results in the death of many lemmings.

    See also www.answers.com, Do any animals other then humans commit suicide?

    In addition, there are other animals not mentioned in this article, that by their natural behavior result in their death as well.

    The point that I which to convey is. If God satisfies the desire of every living thing. Then is it the desire of these animals to die unnaturally?
    I.e. "As for the animals, do we really know what their true ratzon is?"
    o

    ReplyDelete
  65. > I appreciate your rigor on this Bob. Thanks.

    Me too. kol hakavod!
    ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  66. About this 'sages requiring ashrei 3 times' thing ... the original source there was requiring (requiring? or encouraging?) it only 1 time per day, not 3.

    IIRC, the Rif's girsa is twice a day, not thrice.

    ReplyDelete
  67. About this 'sages requiring ashrei 3 times' thing ... the original source there was requiring (requiring? or encouraging?) it only 1 time per day, not 3.

    IIRC, the Rif's girsa is twice a day, not thrice.

    ReplyDelete
  68. "Umm, no He doesn't".

    This is an unseemly tone for a Torah Jew to take.

    ReplyDelete
  69. An explanation I heard (from Rav Aviner, I believe) is that there is certainly enough food in the world. It is the job of humans to properly distribute the food. To the extent that humans fail to do so properly, it is the fault of humans, not God.

    One reason why this is nonsense is that it is only in the past 50 years or so that human-kind had the technical ability to distribute food to everyone. So does Aviner hold that the pasuk wasn't true 1000, 200, 100 years ago?

    ReplyDelete
  70. Response to student v:

    Prof. Sperber, in מנהגי ישראל vol. 1 pg 139, points to articles which discuss this. Basically, the original text said nothing about the number of times to recite ashrei. The words ג׳ פעמים was a later addition.

    ReplyDelete
  71. >Nothing could have been worse than the enslavement of the people and destruction of the Temples and self rule.<

    First of all, the Holocaust was worse than anything else and I can't imagine anyone proving otherwise.

    second, Dovid HaMelech lived long before the churbans and certainly before the start of any exiles.

    ReplyDelete
  72. R’ Slifkin wrote, "...such psalms are expressing religious sentiments, hopes and wishes. They are describing an idealized form of reality, not the factual reality."

    I hesitate to jump into a discussion about "idealized form of reality" or "factual reality" – especially since I haven’t yet read all the comments here – but WHY ALL THE PERPLEXITY ABOUT THIS SIMPLE VERSE?

    Has anyone here perhaps thought of looking at how the verse is explained in Chaza"l and in the classical commentators? For starters, see Rashi and Ibn Ezra right on the Posuk, and the three citations brought in Toldos Aharon: Brochos 4b, Taanis 2b and Taanis 8b. They understood the verse as a reference to Hashem providing parnosa, sustenance.

    There is nothing in here saying that Hashem AT ALL TIMES provides to EACH AND EVERY creature WHATEVER it desires. There never was such a Hava Mina (assumption).

    Of course the verse is meant as a PRAISE of Hashem, that He has the Ability and Power to provide sustenance to every living thing, and He has done so magnificently in the past, as well as a PRAYER for His continued sustenance to us and to all creatures for our future needs and desires.

    Obviously when one recites this verse three times daily in one’s prayers one should have in mind the Kavaana that one is offering thanks and praise to Hashem for His kind provisions in the past and a prayer to Him beseeching that His kindnesses continue to sustain us with all our needs now and in the future.

    Hope everyone will say Amen, and that Hashem will accept and grant all of our prayers.

    ReplyDelete
  73. I'm surprised no one cited any of the classic meforshim on Tehillim; most of the ones in the standard Mikra'os Gedolos address this question.

    And it seems pretty clear from the reaction to this post that the author is not and was not correct in his assumption that many others have never thought of this question. A correction is in order.

    ReplyDelete
  74. Who ever said "U'masbia l'chol chai ratzon" specifically means 'to every being at all times and in all places'?

    Reading it that way would preclude the possibility of any shortage of anything, ever. That is obvoiusly NOT what David Hamelech meant to say. This world needs shortages of the vital elements of survival.

    Many of the explanations in the posts are brought by one meforash or another, but these are not the simple pshat.

    The simple meaning is, that unless there is a SPECIFIC neccessity for a given being at a given time to experience a lack of x, G-d provides that being with it to its satiation.

    Providing someone with something he thinks he wants, while in reality it is the absolute worst thing for him, cannot be called providing him with his "Ratzon" in truth. He simply does not want it. He only thinks he does.

    My guess is, this is what your Rosh Yeshiva was trying to tell you. Still, even according to your understanding of what he said, its far more logical than the explanation you gave, which is basically saying that David was no more than a talented Bais Yaakov dance/song/playwriter.

    ReplyDelete
  75. The Rambam in the Moreh (3:17) brings in the pasuk to explain why Hasgacha applies to the animal world only in general terms (i.e. to species) rather than to individual members of the group. Here is the following excerpt which, I believe contains the answer to your question:

    Our opinion is not contradicted by Scriptural passages like the following: “He giveth to the beast his food” (Ps.cxlvii. 9):” The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God” (ibid. CiV. 2 1); “Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing” (ibid. cxlv. 16): or by the saying of our Sages: “He sitteth and feedeth all, from the horns of the unicorns even unto the eggs of insects.” There are many similar sayings extant in the writings of our Sages, but they imply nothing that is contrary to my view. All these passages refer to Providence in relation to species, and not to Providence in relation to individual animals.

    The acts of God are as it were enumerated; how He provides for every species the necessary food and the means of subsistence. This is clear and plain. Aristotle likewise holds that this kind of Providence is necessary, and is in actual existence. Alexander also notices this fact in the name of Aristotle, viz., that every species has its nourishment prepared for its individual members; otherwise the species would undoubtedly have perished. It does not require much consideration to understand this.

    ReplyDelete
  76. "First of all, the Holocaust was worse than anything else and I can't imagine anyone proving otherwise.

    second, Dovid HaMelech lived long before the churbans and certainly before the start of any exiles."

    Read Eicha some time. As far as I am aware, nobody ate their own children during the holocaust.

    In the holocaust, we lost over 1/3rd of our people in a terrible way.

    Before the time of Chazal, we lost over 2/3rds of our people in a terrible way, our land, and our direct connection to Hashem via the beit Hamikdash as well as the prophets... And this happened TWICE!

    Also, Read Telhilim 137. Also known as "Al Naharot Bavel"

    ReplyDelete
  77. Student V is correct. Rav David Bar-Hayim indeed has long stated that the original manuscript of the Talmud refers to saying it once a day. Rav Akiva Eiger cites this and in fact many, many Rishonim mention this fact.

    The prevailing faulty view is based on an incorrect manuscript.

    Unfortunately, I know of no other rabbis besides Rav Bar-Hayim who point this out, thus making unnecessary "making up" for Ashreis missed so long as one said it at least once during the day.

    ReplyDelete
  78. Eliyahu said... Rav Akiva Eiger cites this.

    BTW Rav Akiva Eiger is up front and center on the page in Berachos in his גליון הש"ס

    ReplyDelete
  79. Jacob said... The Rambam in the Moreh...

    So according to this the correct translation is

    "You open Your hand, and satisfy the desire of every living species."

    ReplyDelete
  80. On 'kol' not meaning absolutely everything see Bava Basra 3b, "[Herod] killed all the rabbis" to which Tos' says, "not precisely all...." [לאו דוקא כולהו]

    See also He'emek Davar Shmos 19:8 [at the end] "the majority answered but it was as if they all answered"; [this is what is meant by "ויענו כל העם יחדיו"]

    ReplyDelete
  81. I didn't read through every last comment, so I apologize if someone already said this. I just want to comment concerning whether or not the passuk must be understood as referring to all life. Why can't "chai" here be understood in the same manner as it is used when Chava is called the mother of all that lives?

    Mendel

    ReplyDelete
  82. Why can't "chai" here be understood in the same manner as it is used when Chava is called the mother of all that lives? If so, it could just refer to human beings.

    ReplyDelete
  83. reject said...
    Jacob said... The Rambam in the Moreh...

    So according to this the correct translation is

    "You open Your hand, and satisfy the desire of every living species."


    Reject:

    I just copied from the Freidlander translation of the Moreh, but that's not really the point. The point is that the Rambam clearly answers R' Slifkin's question - that the pasuk refers to Divine Providence as it relates to species in general and not to individual creatures; that God "provides for every species the necessary food and the means of subsistence. This is clear and plain."; and that "every species has its nourishment prepared for its individual members; otherwise the species would undoubtedly have perished. It does not require much consideration to understand this."

    ReplyDelete
  84. The rain it raineth every day
    Upon the Just and Unjust fella
    But more upon the Just because
    The Unjust hath the Just's umbrella


    Most living things are lucky to survive to adulthood and have a good enough food supply to mate once and replace themselves. Considering that most breed wholesale it means all but a few get shafted.

    Reminds me of those old debates trying to prove the Benevolence of the Creator in every single living thing. It took some heroic rationalizing to explain how the Ichneumonidae qualified. They're a family of parasitic wasps which lay their eggs in caterpillars. The eggs hatch and slowly devour the host, not killing it until the last possible moment. Some paralyze their prey. Others let it continue to forage with wasp larvae crawling in and out.

    Nice work for the wasps.

    Bad luck for the caterpillar.

    ReplyDelete
  85. I would have thought your original question was based on that Pasuk not using the word Ratzon! If the Pasuk has said this, without the word Ratzon, you would indeed have a good question. Now that the word Ratzon is part of it, it behoves you to consider a non literal meaning. Some meanings have been listed by your readers.

    It could also mean that it is indeed his "will" to sufficiently ensure that all (either individually or each category of being) is nourished. Understanding then why that isn't the case is a separate issue, which is discussed in other places and contexts.

    ReplyDelete
  86. After stating my understanding of the verse in my previous comment, which I still think holds fine, I’d like to share some comments from the Alshich’s commentary on Tehillim מזמור קמ"ה which more directly addresses R’ Slifkin’s question. Starting from the previous verse the Alshich writes:

    פסוק ט"ו: עיני כל וכו' הוקשה לו על אומרו סומך ה' וכו' כי הלא נגד עינינו כמה נופלים עניים מרודים ומחזרים על הפתחים לאכול לחם ולא לשבעה לז"א עיני כל אליך ישברו וכו' לומר אם האדם כל עיני תקותו לא יתלה כי אם על אכלו אפשר לא יסמכנו בוראו אך כאשר עיני כל אליך ישברו שלא יהיו עיניהם כ"א אליך יתברך להיות דבקים בך ולא על אכלם אז כאשר הם עושים את שלהם אתה עושה את שלך כי אתה נותן להם את אכלם בעתו, ע"ד מאמרנו על הפסוק צמאה לך נפשי וכו' כי אצ"ל הנפש כי אם גם בשרי כמה לך להיות דבק בך עם היותו בארץ ציה בלי מים שמניח צמאון המים וצמא לידבק בו יתברך, והוא מאמרנו פה כאשר עיני כל אליך ישברו ולא ללחם אז ואתה עושה את שלך ונותן להם את אכלם בעתו. פסוק ט"ז: ועל אשר ישברו להיות אליך לידבק בך תשבעהו ברבוי כי אתה פותח את ידך ומשביע לכל חי הוא הצדיק הנקרא חי רצון שרצה לידבק בך ובזה יצדק אומרו משביע שאם הוא על טוב העה"ז אפילו בעלי הון לא ישבעו.

    In my opinion the Alshich’s peirush is more in the manner of drush, while the plain pshat remains as I stated, based on Rashi, Ibn Ezra and the Shas.

    ReplyDelete
  87. R' Slifkin--
    Then can't your idea be applied to all these cases? What about, in the Rambam's ikkarim, his idea of reward and punishment? You could say (and maybe you do say) that this could just be the Rambam in his times trying to make faith appealing, etc. But can't that also be applied to Another of Rambam's ikkarim, Mashiach/Olam Habah? these concepts have no flawless basis in the Torah, so why not just say they are ideas conceived as a result of the harsh times, etc?
    --Ben Atwood

    ReplyDelete
  88. "Ummmm... yes He does"

    Rav Avraham Chaim Feuer, in his commentary to Tehillim (Mesorah Publications), quotes Maharam Alvilada who writes the following: "The open hand of Hashem supplies sustenance without cease. If certain creations remain in want, their sad state suggests that they aren't fit recipients of Divine blessing. Apparently, they are unworthy of being a receptacle for the Divine gifts."

    Hard to argue with that.

    Furthermore, the Zohar in Parshas Pinchas explains that the Pasuk before this one - "V'atah Nosein Lahem es Achlam B'ito" - refers to "Mezonei D'Asirei", the sustenance of the rich, who get all their needs filled, while this passuk - "U'Masbia L'chol Chai Ratzon" - refers to "Mezonei D'Miskenei", the sustenance of the poor, who Hashem satisfies not with bread or money, but with "ratzon", i.e. the divinely-instilled desire, hope and courage to live on and be satisfied and even happy with their lot.

    The Olas Tamid (written by Rav Shmuel Hominer ZT"L) adds that since some of us are rich and get what we want and some of us are poor and don't, we recite the next passuk "Tzaddik Hashem B'Chol Derachav ..." to acknowledge that Hashem knows what is best for each of us - to either have "Achlam B'Ito" or just have "Ratzon".

    Now the fact that some people are not "merutzeh" from their destitute situation doesn't prove that they can't be if they so choose.

    ReplyDelete
  89. Regarding the understanding of this verse as a reference to Hashem providing sustenance, it is important to note that there is another place where we say this verse "Posa’ach es yodecho," "Open up Your Hand…" -- as the proof text at the end of the first paragraph of Bentching.

    From the context, "hazon es ho'olom kulo b'tuvo... nisain lechem lchol bosor... zon u'mfarnas lakil... umachin mozon l'chol briyosov...," it is clear that the verse means to say that sustenance, i.e., one’s daily bread, comes from Hashem.

    In addition, Chazal teach, Brochos 4b, that the verse "Posa’ach es yodech" is equivalent to the verse "Nosain lechem l’chol bosor," "Who gives food to all flesh." Thus it doesn’t imply anything fancy, the fulfillment of one’s wildest desires, but merely one’s basic needs.

    Similarly, in Taanis 2b, Chazal say that the verse "Posa’ach es yodecho" teaches that the "mafta'ach shel parnoso," "key to sustenance" is in Hashem’s hand alone.

    In Taanis 8b, when discussing what to do in a situation where there was both a famine and a pestilence, Shmuel bar Nachmani said… "Let us pray for [removal of] the famine because when the All-Merciful gives plenty He gives it for the living, as it says, 'Posa’ach es Yodecho u’msbia lchol chai rotzon.'"

    So we see that when people faced famine and other calamities, yet no one saw it as a contradiction to this verse or to Hashem's conduct, chas v'sholom. They did though hope that Hashem would alleviate their suffering by concentrating in their prayers on the proper meaning of the verse.

    Actually the Ashrei-Tehilah L’Dovid Psalm itself also contains plenty of citations of Hashem’s Gevurah, which is generally the withholding of kindness, including of course the withholding of sustenance. There is no contradiction.

    As Shlomo Hamelech said, "To everything there is a season, and a time to evry purpose under the heavens: A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck up... A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time for peace." Let's have the wisdom too to have proper, rationalistic, concentration in all our prayers.

    On another note, this verse, "Open Your Hand," contains the only such anthropomorphism in the entire Ashrei-Tehila L’Dovid Psalm. That may be another key contributing factor in why proper concentration while reciting the verse is so crucial. (Pay attention or you'll get a smack! Say it nicely and get a candy ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  90. Skimming through the Alshich’s commentary on Psalm 145, part of which I quoted above, it is interesting that on a previous verse in that same Psalm, which expresses similar G-dly benevolence, the Alshich does NOT bring up any questions about the suffering we see in the world, as he did on the “Posa’ach es yodecho” verse. On the contrary, on verse 9, “Tov Hashem lakol,” “G-d is good to all,” he writes that G-d is kind even to the wicked:

    טוב ה' לכל ורחמיו על כל מעשיו. לא לצדיקים בלבד כי אם טוב ה' לכל שהוא אפי' לרשעים שלהם הוא אורך אפים כו', ואם יאמר איש והלא עונותיהם ימנעו הטוב לז"א ורחמיו על כל מעשיו שהוא כמ"ש ז"ל אדם בזכות בהמה תושיע כו' וכעובדא דאלכסנדרוס.

    Though not really relevant to the present topic, it is interesting to note that the Alshich here reminds us of the importance of keeping in mind the benefits we receive from providing kindness to animals.

    Also interesting for animal lovers is the Alshich’s continuation in verse 10, “Yoducho Hashem kol ma’asecho,” “All Your works, Hashem, give thanks to You,” in which he sees an allusion to Perek Shira:

    יודוך ה' כל מעשיך וחסידיך יברכוכה. ואל תתמה ותאמר ולא בהמות, מהבל ימעטו, לז"א אל תתמה כי הלא גם מהם קילוס יוצא להקב"ה כמפורש בפרק שירה, וזהו יודוך ה' כל מעשיך שהוא אפי' בעלי חיים – וגם עתה הם דור בלתי צדיקים הלא יתעתדו לצאת מהם חסידים שיברכוך וזהו וחסדך וכו

    ReplyDelete
  91. Above “A. Tendler” mentioned a pshat from Rav Hirsch as quoted by Rav Schwab. This can be found more at length in Artscroll’s English book, Rav Schwab On Prayer, starting on the bottom of page 175. More relevant to the topic is that both Rav Hirsch and Rav Schwab interpret the verse as pertaining to the idea of Parnosa.

    In particular though, Rav Schwab also asks and then answers R’ Slifkin’s question, and even goes into the differences between an “ideal world” (which he says is discussed in the first part of the Psalm) and in contrast to that, the “world in which we live” (which he says is discussed in the second part of the Psalm). See page 177:

    However, whatever the explanation of “rotzon” is, this pasuk begs the obvious question: What is the meaning of “l’chol chai,” every living thing? All life does not benefit from this miracle of finding favor and consequently having parnassah. A large portion of the world’s population suffers from hunger and starvation. They have not been granted their parnassah. Indeed, the Torah itself makes references to hunger… There is even the gruesome reference to extreme hunger… The same question applies to the words of Birchas HaMazon…

    The underlying meaning of this berachah can be found in the text of nusach Sefard, which reads: "ko'omur posa'ach es yodecho u'masbia k'chol chai rotzon boruch ato Hashem hazon es hakol. While this in not our minhag, it nevertheless reflects the underlying sense of the berachah, which is that the emphasis is on the word "chai." If HaKadosh Baruch Hu wants any creature – man or mouse – to live, He will give him the ability to do so. So this pasuk means, “He will satiate with His benevolence “l’chol chai,” all those whom He wants to live”… The meaning is that all those who do have sustenance and food have HaKadosh Baruch Hu to thank for it. If He wants a person to live, He gives him the means to survive.

    As previously explained, this pasuk does not refer to the ideal world, which is envisioned in the first part of Ashrei, and which will become a reality when G-d sees fit. It refers to the world in which we live, where we experience the hand of HaKadosh Baruch Hu as sometimes being “open,” and at other times “closed.” And when He opens His hand, it is for the purpose of “masbia l’chol chai,” to satiate those whom He wants to live. If a person has food, it is because HaKadosh Baruch Hu wants him to live. He has experienced the miracle of parnassah.


    --- Anyone interested in this interpretation can see and study it there…

    ReplyDelete
  92. I’d like to point out that in addition to the Peshat, the Sod method of exegesis also understands this verse as pertaining specifically to Parnasah. There are ‘Holy Names’ that are formed of the first and last letters of the words in this verse, and they are all indentified with Parnosah. This is not the place to elaborate, but see the Zohar, Kisvei HoArizal and commentaries and you’ll find it at length.

    On another side note, it strange that in some Seforim the verse is spelled פותח את ידיך with the word “Yodecho” having an extra letter Yud. This actually changes the meaning of the verse from “Open Your Hand,” in the singular, to "Open Your Hands,” in the plural. The pronunciation of the two words is exactly the same, “Yodecho,” but when spelled with the extra Yud the word becomes plural. The word is spelled with an extra Yud in like this in Sidur HoArizal and in Sidur HaGra.

    This may be because Al Pi Sod פ'ותח א'ת י'דיך בגי' הוי"ה אדנ"י, and this spelling is an allusion to our prayer that Hashem will “Open Your [letter] Yuds,” i.e., the two letter Yuds in these Names, one at the beginning of YHVH and the other at the end of Adnai. The “opening” of the Yud is necessary because the Yud is just compacted into a simple point and it has to be expanded to produce abundant Devine flow to “masbia l’chol chai rotzon.”

    V’tzoruch e’yun.

    ReplyDelete
  93. Now I realize that I overreacted by insisting on the interpretation of “rotzon” as merely “parnosa” – that’s the basic minimum, that Hashem grants us what we really need. But let me correct my previous comments by pointing out that the Pshat offered by Metzudos Dovid, אתה פותח את ידך ומשביע לכל חי לפי רצונו ותאותו, that Hashem satisfies our wishes and desires is also right on target. Indeed, sometimes we get ‘lucky’ and our extra desires, and even more than we could have ever imagined, are kindly given to us. Sometimes our cups indeed do run over! Toda and Tehilah LaShem!

    ReplyDelete
  94. The kashya is greater, because Reb Aryeh Levin lost a baby to hunger, as described in the book Tzaddik Yesod Olam. I always wondered how he benched. Tamid lo chasar lanu val yechsar lanu.

    Furthermore, animals enjoy eating, but presumably not being eaten. However, in many cases, one animal is eating and is savea, while the other is being eaten alive.

    Finally, what about the bracha Rofeh kol basar umafli laasos? Are there no sick people or handicapped?

    ReplyDelete

Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.