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    We next ask Hashem,
    “R’tzei Hashem Elokeinu
    b’amcha Yisroel
    uvis’filasam – Favor
    Hashem our G-d, Your
    nation Yisroel and their
    tefilos.” We first ask
    Hashem to favor us. For
    if, G-d forbid, He doesn’t favor us, then He
    despises our tefilos. As the posuk states,
    “Zevach resha’im to’eivah – The offering of
    the wicked is an abomination.” It also says,
    “Botzei’a beirach ni’eitz Hashem – If the thief
    makes a blessing, Hashem gets angry.” It is for
    this reason that the Hagaddah Vayaged Moshe
    says that the custom was to do teshuvah before
    starting the Seder shel Pesach, for otherwise,
    “Ul’rasha amar Elokim, mah loch lo sapeir
    chudkai – And to the wicked G-d says, Why
    do I need you to relate my statutes?”
    Similarly, there is a custom to do teshuvah
    before making Kiddush on Friday night for
    since Kiddush is eidus, testimony about the
    Creation of the world, and we don’t want to
    be wicked because then we are disqualified
    from giving testimony. As it says, “Al tasheis
    rasha eid – Do not have a wicked person as a
    witness.” Here too, since we inserted vidui,
    a confession, in previous bracha of Shomei’a
    tefila, we ask Hashem to view us favorably
    and thus accept our tefilos.

    We also preface amcha Yisroel because the
    Gemora in Masechtas Berachos [8a] teaches,
    “V’ani s’filasi L’cha, Hashem, eis ratzon –
    But as for me, my davener to You, Hashem,
    should be at a time of favor.” The Gemora
    proceeds to ask, “When is a time of favor?”
    “Bsha-ah shehatzibor mispallelin,” when the
    community is davening together. The Gemora
    further assures us, “She’ein HaKadosh Baruch
    Hu mo’eis bis’filoson shel rabim – Hashem
    never detests the tefilos of the many.” Thus,
    we say that Hashem should accept our tefilos
    in the midst of the community.
    As we are asking Hashem to favor our tefilos,
    we must know that after we do a mitzvah it
    is a special time of favor to ask Hashem for
    something. This is why it is an ancient custom
    for women to ask for things after they do their
    special mitzvah of lighting candles on Friday
    nights. It is also why we make a mishebeirach,
    giving blessings, to our relatives and friends
    after we do the great mitzvah of making a
    public bracha on the Torah.
    Rav Zilberstein, shlit”a, writes that if one is
    walking in the street and averts his gaze from
    immodesty, he has just done the challenging
    mitzvah of, “V’lo sasuru acharei l’vavechem
    v’acharei eineichem,” not to follow one’s
    hearts and one’s eyes, and it creates a great
    time of favor to ask Hashem for something. It
    is for this reason that there is a custom to give

    tzedakah charity, before davening.
    As it says, “V’ani b’tzedek echezeh
    Ponecha – And I with charity will
    behold Your face (when we daven).”
    The Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Rav
    Segal, zt”l, zy”a, would try to do an
    actual act of personal kindness and he
    would bring a coffee to his wife before
    tefilos. Upon her passing, he would
    bring negel vasser to the bedside of
    his daughter before leaving to shul.
    I would like to suggest that this
    is the seventeenth blessing of the
    Shemone Esrei. Seventeen is
    the numerical value of tov, good.
    Perhaps this is because, “Ein tov ela torah –
    The only real good is Torah,” and the Gemora
    states in Berachos (ibid) that since nowadays
    Hashem’s Shechinah resides primarily by the
    four ells of halachah, Abaya would only daven
    in the place that he studied. Thus, we invoke
    the merit of Torah to generate acceptance
    of our tefilos and it is in this vein that the
    great Chassidic masters used to say that the
    best preparation for davener is to learn a daf
    Gemora beforehand.
    We then say, “V’hasheiv es ha’avodah lidvir
    beisecha v’ishei Yisroel – Return the service
    to the Holy of Holies in Your House and
    the fire offerings of Yisroel.” We are taught
    that today our tefilos are a substitute for the
    offerings, as the Gemora states, “Tefilos
    k’neged karbonos tiknam – Our tefilos are
    instead of offerings.” We ask Hashem that
    we want the real thing, not just the substitute
    – so restore to us the most Holy of services
    that the Kohein Gadol does on Yom Kippur in
    the Holy of Holies, for the word d’vir refers
    to the Kodesh HaKadoshim, as it is from
    there Hashem spoke to Moshe Rabbeinu. As
    the verse testifies, “Vedibarti it’cha mei’al
    hakaporos, mibein shnei k’ruvim – And I
    spoke with you (Moshe) from above the
    Ark cover from in between the two keruvim
    (which was in the Holy of Holies). Thus, the
    word d’vir, which has the root dibeir, talk,
    is so-called because Hashem spoke, dibeir ,
    from there to Moshe. We then say, “V’ishei
    Yisroel,” and he should also return to us the
    fire offerings, the sacrifices that were offered
    on the outside altar.
    The tefilah continues, “V’ishei Yisroel
    us’filosom b’ahava sikabeil b’ratzon.”
    There is a question where to put the comma
    in this segment of the davener. Do the words
    ishei Yisroel go back to the previous request
    of returning the service in the Holy of Holies
    and the actual fire offerings, and then the
    next sentence starts with us’filosom(as
    we explained above)? The Tur brings this
    explanation and the Gra says that this is
    the way we should daven, and so too it is
    explained like this by the Seder HaYom. Yet
    the Tur brings another explanation and so is
    the view of the Elya Rabbah, that there should
    be a comma after lidvir beisecha, and now we
    ask v’ishei Yisreol, our contemporary tefilos

    which are the substitute for the fire offerings,
    us’filosom, and our personal supplications,
    should be accepted with love and with favor.
    We conclude in this vein. “U’sehi l’ratzon
    tomid avodas Yisroel amecha” and it should
    be favorable to You perpetually the service of
    your nation Yisroel. We plead that
    the tefilos should be favourable even without
    the Beis HaMikdash and the Divine service.
    Perhaps we add the word Yisroel because
    we remind Hashem that He created us for
    the purpose of davener. As it says, “Am zu
    yatzarti li, t’hilasi yisapeiru – This nation I
    created for Me, to relate my tefilos.”
    We cap off the blessing of R’tzei with the
    request, “V’sechezenah eineinu b’shuvecha
    l’Zion b’rachamim – May our eyes behold
    Your return to Tzion with mercy.” The
    Yaros Devash explains that even though
    we already asked for this in the blessings of
    Vli’Yerushalim Iecha and Es tzemach, in those
    brachos we asked that it should be so in the
    merit of our Avos, our Patriarchs. Here, in this
    bracha we beseech that Hashem should do it in
    our own merit, for it is only then that our eyes
    will merit to see it personally. It is for this
    reason the Lot and his family were not able to
    see the downfall of S’dom, because they were
    only saved in the merit of Avraham. We ask
    Hashem that we merit earning it with our own
    zechusim, and thus live to see, speedily in our
    days, the final redemption.