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Shemoneh Esrei 54

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Shemoneh Esrei 54

וכל החיים יודוך סלה

Everything alive will gratefully acknowledge you, Selah!

HaRav Yehoshua Leib Diskin would periodically visit sick people in the hospital.  One day, he visited an elderly woman who was suffering greatly.  He asked her what brachah he could give her, and she responded with “אריכת ימים–arichas yamim” – to live a long life.  Given her obvious suffering, he asked her if she was certain that this is what she wanted.  She explained to him that all week long she could not daven or make brachos since she could not control her bodily functions.  But once a week, a nurse came around to clean her up, and for a few hours she was able to daven and make brachos.  She then said, “Isn’t it worth living a long life for those few weekly hours?”

Here was a woman who was so happy to be alive despite her pain and suffering.  She looked forward to those few hours a week and was so appreciative to Hashem that she was alive and could still daven and make brachos once a week.

How we look at life is very telling and often affects our disposition and perspective.  This woman chose not to view her life in a way that would cause unnecessary additional suffering, distress, and misery.  She chose instead to see the gift and opportunity of every breath and moment of life.

V’chol ha’chayim yoducha, Selah” – All who are alive will thank and praise Hashem.  Even if we feel we are lacking so much of what we would like to have in life, we should express our gratitude just for being alive.  Every moment that we are alive and able to serve Hashem in some capacity is a great opportunity that vanishes when we are no longer breathing.  [based on the Siach Yitzchak]

It could be that a person with a terminal illness and excruciating pain, chas v’shalom, is not able to daven or perform any mitzvos.  We may naturally wonder what the point is of this person continuing to live.  But if the person is “only” able to maintain his or her emunah in the face of the severe illness and pain, who can fathom what the cosmic implications and reward for emunah are in such a situation?  We certainly don’t know what the cheshbonos of Hashem are.  However, we can assume that if one is still breathing, there is still opportunity and benefit in living.

HaRav Noach Weinberg, in discussing joy and happiness, suggests that we make a list of all the things for which we are thankful to Hashem.  This list will include items that all human beings are thankful for, like air, the light and warmth of the sun, etc.  It will also include items specific to us.  He suggests reviewing this list nightly and contemplating which two items on the list for which we are more appreciative (e.g., ears or eyes).  The purpose is not to decide which are more important to us.  Rather, the idea is to think deeply about how fortunate we are for body parts that work “normally” and other items we generally take for granted.  For those who are really serious about being joyful, he suggests adding one item each night.

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