February 26, 2013

The Talmud in Brachot 4B proclaims, “Anyone who recites the Ashrei, Psalm 145, three times a day is a confirmed future recipient of Olam Habah—eternal reward in the World to Come.” Ashrei is found twice in Shacharit and once in Mincha. It is evident that the Sages intended to link Ashrei with the reciting of Kedusha, because Kedusha always follows Ashrei. The first Ashrei is in Psukei Dezimra, which precedes the Kedusha of Et Sheim and the Kedusha of Shemoneh Esreh, the second is before Uvah Letzion, the final Kedushah of Shacharit, and the third starts the prayer of Mincha which leads into the Amidah and Kedusha. Since Maariv does not contain a Kedushah, we do not recite Ashrei then.

Why should it be that one who recites Ashrei daily receives eternal reward? What is so significant about this prayer that it contains the potential for eternity within it? The uniqueness of this prayer is that it is written as an acrostic, presenting words of praise to Hashem in alphabetical order. This implies that when saying Ashrei, we praise God every possible way that we can with every letter of the alphabet. But is this enough to merit a guaranteed space in Olam Habah? Why?

Rav Schwab zt”l explains that the twenty one verses in the psalm/prayer of Ashrei can be divided into two parts. There are eleven verses written in a direct fashion, second person, e.g., “Fortunate are those that dwell in YOUR house…” He also explains that from the first Ashrei until Potayach et Yadecha is a description of the World to Come. Potayach et Yadecha until the end projects life in the world as we actually live it e.g.Potayach et Yadecha Umasbiah Lechol Chay Ratzon” – God, You open your hand and satisfy all according to their desires.”   Contained in this Tefillah are praises from every letter in the alphabet for every sphere of existence.

Although we do not recite the Ashrei at night, the fact that we say it three times a day is symbolic of the three times a day that we pray. The Sages explain that praying at different times of the day represents different times in our lives. Davening Shacharit when the day begins is praising God when life is radiant and a new day begins again, holding such great promise. Davening Mincha as the sun begins to set represents praising God when daily living may have presented dimensions of uncertainty. Davening Maariv when it is dark outside is symbolic of praising God even if one may face the darkness of difficult challenges.

Perhaps this is why the Talmud states that one who recites Ashrei diligently three times a day merits the World To Come. One who expresses prayers and praises to Hashem throughout every part of life, in good and the best of times, as well as challenging times, merits eternal rewards in Olam Habah.

Take Home Tip: Just as the Ashrei utilizes the entire spectrum of the alphabet to recognize and praise God, so too can we discover and recognize God and His benevolence in all aspects of our lives each and every day. As stated in the Kedusha, “…Hashem tzvokos, meloh kol ha’oretz kevodo…The whole world is filled with His glory.”