Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 12 July 2014 / 14 Tammuz 5774

The Shemoneh Esrei The Third Blessing (2)

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

“And Holy ones will praise You each day, forever.”

The commentators explain that the “holy ones” referred to in this blessing are both to the nation of Israel and the angels. Although the angels and the Jewish People are both called holy, the nature of their holiness is quite different.

The angels are defined as holy because they are completely removed and exalted above anything physical. They dwell in the upper heavenly realms where the revelation of the Divine will is so intense it is impossible for the angels to do anything other than the will of G-d. Thus, to glimpse at the glory and perfection of the angels leaves us awestruck.

In contrast, man is a creature of this physical and course world, where G-d’s presence is concealed. This concealment provides man with the freedom to choose whether to do G-d’s will or not. Although man was endowed with a Divine soul, for most people the body is the dominant force. Thus it is quite difficult for a person to overpower his physical drives utilizing this world for the sake of fulfilling G-d’s will.

Attaining Holiness

Our connection to G-d and His holiness is actualized through our connection to His Torah. For the Torah is the expression of G-d's Divine will and wisdom. Thus, only through Torah learning and observance can a Jew truly sanctify his life and attach himself to G-d. Through the fulfillment of the mitzvot man nullifies his human animalistic drives and desires, thereby uniting with G-d in absolute unity. Through Torah man transcends to a higher and more spiritual level of existence, attaining a level of holiness that surpasses even that of the angels.

Man’s existence in this world, albeit more sophisticated, can on some level be compared to that of an animal. Ultimately, both are creatures that eat, sleep and procreate. When, however, man connects all his actions to G-d, he is able to sanctify even his mundane activities, infusing them with Divine purpose. This is why we are called a “unique” nation in the land. On the one hand we are “in the land,” yet we remain separate and exalted above the world, utilizing it as a vehicle through which to connect to G-d and attain holiness. This is the very reason that we were given the Torah instead of the angels.

Yaakov Avinu personified Torah and the attribute of truth, attaining the highest level of holiness of the Forefathers. Unlike Avraham who fathered Yishmael, and Yitzchak who fathered Esav, Yaakov fathered the twelve tribes of Israel, who were all righteous and holy. Accordingly, it is fitting for this blessing which recalls the sanctity of the Jewish people to correspond to Yaakov Avinu.


Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.


L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!

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