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    In the fifth bracha of the
    Shemone Esrei, we ask
    Hashem, “Hashiveinu
    Avinu l’Sorosecha –
    Return us, Our Father, to
    Your Torah.” Since in the
    previous blessing we asked
    for knowledge, the first
    pursuit for which we want
    to use our knowledge is to
    study Torah, for Torah is the
    very purpose of our existence. As Reb Yochanan
    says in Pirkei Avos, “Ki l’kach notzorta – For
    This (the Torah) you were created.”
    We say “Return us to Your Torah.” The Olas
    Tomid and Rav Eliyahu Lopian, zt”l, zy”a, both
    explain this with the Gemora in Niddah which
    informs us that when we are in our mother’s
    womb, an angel comes and teaches us the entire
    Torah. When we are born, that malach strikes
    us above our lip and the Torah is removed from
    our conscious thought. However, the potential
    lies dormant within us, and we ask Hashem to
    restore it, with our efforts, to our consciousness.
    The reason why we refer to Hashem here as ‘Our
    Father’ is because just like a father must teach his
    son Torah, so too we ask Our Father in Heaven
    to aid us in recovering our portion of His Torah.
    We need specially to ask Hashem to assist us
    in our Torah efforts for there is nothing that the
    yeitzer hara, the evil inclination, tries to stop
    us from accomplishing more than the study of
    Torah. This is because the Torah is the nemesis

    of the yeitzer hara. As the Gemora in Kiddushin
    informs us, “Barasi yeitzer hara, barasi Torah
    tavlin la – I (Hashem) created the evil inclination,
    and I created the Torah as an antidote to it.” So,
    the evil one tries mightily to impede us from
    Torah success.
    Once we succeed on a path of Torah study, the
    Torah then brings us closer to Hashem as we are
    taught, “Kudsha brich Hu v’Oraisa chad hu –
    Hashem and the Torah are one.” It also leads
    us to follow-up our study with concrete actions,
    as we are taught, “Gadol hatalmud she’hatalmud
    meivi lidei maisa – Great is learning for learning
    leads to action.” Therefore, it follows naturally
    that our next request within this bracha is,
    “V’karveinu Malkeinu la’avodosecha – And
    bring us close, Our King, to Your service.” Here,
    we refer to Hashem as Our King for a subject
    serves his king. We should have in mind when
    we say this, that when we do the mitzvos, we
    have Hashem in mind and not just do them by
    rote, out of habit and social pressure. The Olas
    Tomid adds that avodah also refers especially
    to prayer. As the Gemora says, “Eizhu avodah
    shehi b’lev? hevi omer zu tefilah.” What is
    the service of the heart? We conclude that it
    is prayer. And we are therefore supplicating
    to Hashem that our prayer service should be a
    connecting one with Hashem and not merely lip
    The final petition of this blessing is,
    “V’hachazireinu bi’s’shuvah shleima l’fonecha
    – Return us in perfect repentance before You.”

    I had a very basic question on the order of this
    blessing. We know that we are taught, “Sur
    meirah v’asei tov – Turn away from evil and
    perform good.” The order and sequence of the
    business of spiritually is to first purge the evil
    and then embark on the good. So why, in this
    blessing, do we first ask Hashem to bring us close
    to do his mitzvos and then to do a full repentance
    of our sins. Shouldn’t we reverse the order? I’d
    like to suggest the following explanation. If you
    notice, we ask Hashem to help us with a perfect
    Why don’t we simply ask Hashem to help us
    repent? The answer is that we must start the
    process on our own. We are taught, “Hakol
    biydei shamayim chutz miyiras shamayim –
    Everything is in the hands of heaven except
    for fear of G-d.” We need to start the tshuvah
    process on our own. Therefore, we first ask
    Hashem to bring us close to Him. When we will
    feel close to Hashem, we will want to repent our
    sins. Once we have the first sparks of penitent
    feelings, then we can ask Hashem to assist us to
    do a complete tshuvah. For as we are taught,
    “Pis’chu li pesach k’chudo she’machat, v’Ani
    eftach lachem pesach k’pis’cho shel ulam –
    Open for Me an opening like the eye of a needle
    and I’ll open for you an opening like the door of
    the palace.”
    The great Yaros Devash, zt”l, zy”a, adds that
    we shouldn’t pray solely for our own repentance
    but we fervently should have in mind at this
    juncture for all those who have strayed from the

    path to get Divine assistance to return to the fold.
    Although this was written hundreds of years ago,
    this is of contemporary urgency in our time with
    so many wonderful children off the derech and
    so many casualties from the silent holocaust of
    the melting pot of our American culture.
    We finish off the blessing, “Baruch Attah
    Hashem, haRotzeh bis’shuvah – Blessed are
    You Hashem, Who wants our repentance.”
    Once again, we refrain from saying “HaOseh
    tshuvah,” that Hashem does the tshuvah, because
    only we can do our own tshuvah. Instead, we
    thank Hashem for wanting our tshuvah and not
    turning away in disgust from our attempts at
    In the merit of our trying to always be better,
    may Hashem bless us with long life, good health,
    and everything wonderful.