Tefillah Tip: Baruch Sheamar VIII

January 2, 2014

The Tefilla continues “ובשירי דוד עבדך נהללך ה’ אלוקנו בשבחות ובזמרות- and with the psalms of David Your servant we shall laud You with praises and songs.” We are proclaiming to G-d that we will utilize the unmatched liturgical masterpieces of King David, The Psalms to approach Him and pronounce His intrinsic greatness.

I would like to explore the implication of the phrase “laud You with praises and songs”. At first glance, praise and song seem to accomplish the same goal i.e. proclaiming the wonders and greatness of Hashem and the world He has created for us.

Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l explains a distinct difference between praise and song. He writes that shvachot (praise) means “expressions of contemplation of G-d’s wisdom, power and kindliness” and zmirot (songs) means “melodies which stir the mind and emotions and also express our love”.  Rav Miller concludes: “shvachot represent the activity of the intellect and zmirot represent the activity of the emotions”.

This lesson is also inherently demonstrated through the Mitzvah of Tefillin, which adult men wear during morning prayers on weekdays. The prescribed bodily locations of the Tefillin placement are on the arm, next to the heart-our emotional headquarters, and on the head, the seat of  intellect. This implies that we need to approach Hashem in prayer with both thought as well as heartfelt feelings.

Take Home Tip: This understanding of the two words, shvachot and zmirot can unlock the doors to achieving better Tefilla. One must call upon both his/her intellect as well as emotions when serving the Creator. We need to utilize our minds to better understand the meanings of the prayers, and our hearts and voices to properly present the verbal offerings to heaven

May we all utilize prayer to the best of our abilities invoking shvachot and zmirot- from the intellect as well as the heart. May Hashem hear all of our tefillot, answer them with only blessings and goodness soonin our days.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Epstein, Congregation Sons of Israel Cherry Hill NJ

Orthodox Union Department of Community Engagement

Rabbi Judah Isaacs, Director

Hannah Farkas, Program Manager

Adina Schwarzbaum, Administrative Assistant