Hashem Sfatai Tiftakh, Ufi Yagid Tehilatekha
If you recite Shemona Esreh as often as you should—three times a day, plus musaf every Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, and holidays—you will recite this phrase more often that you might care to think about. Even I who has not (yet) reached these lofty heights has said it so often that this phrase has pretty much ceased to register, even on my best davening days. In fact, it seems completely redundant; we ask God to open our mouths so that we may pray, after we’ve spent a good deal of time on psukei d’zimra, yishtabach, and birchot kriat shema. Of all the struggles we may be having at that moment, the inability to speak or pray is not one of them.
And yet, this phrase is one of the most powerful that we utter. Often enough, one of the hardest things to do is simply to open our mouths and communicate what is important to us to those we love. The context of this phrase, Psalm 51, shows this clearly. Attributed to David, this psalm was written in response to his confrontation with the prophet Nathan, who condemns David for his relationship with Bathsheba. David bemoans the severity of his sin, beseeching God to forgive him. At this moment of anger and shame, David recognizes the difficulty he has communicating. Yet rather than retreat into his disgrace, he recognizes that he needs God, and asks God to help him communicate so that they can reestablish their relationship. When we recite the same plea as David, we both recognize how difficult the Amidah can be in its demands on us to communicate in a very personal way, yet also recognizing the importance of connecting at the moment that is most difficult for us.
Yesterday during the orientation inaugurating the yearlong learning program at Yeshivat Hadar, one of the recurring issues was communication. Whether it was the hope that we would learn the language of the Torah, or wondering how our past, present, and future selves could interact with each other as we grow throughout the year, the issue of how we can communicate with ourselves and others is one that is very much on the mind of fellows and faculty. It is my hope that this blog can serve as one of the tools through which we can connect with each other, and will open the doors of communication and relationship between Yeshivat Hadar and the world beyond the yeshiva.