Welcome to “Share a Prayer” a quick look at a prayer that is found in our daily, Shabbat or Holy day Prayer Service. Often during the course of the service we encounter some real gems that we don’t have time to reflect upon; this will give us an opportunity to select one prayer and take a closer look.
In the past we have looked at the preliminary prayers that introduce the morning service. We have also talked about the meditation which concludes the individual recitation of the Amidah. Yehi Ratzon is the nexus between these two prayers. In both cases, the way we act, speak and how we relate to others and how others relate to us seems to have a profound impact.
This stirring supplication was actually designed to serve as an alternative meditation to conclude the silent Amidah by the great second century sage, RabbiYehudaHaNasi (Judah the prince) the redactor of the primary collection of rabbinic law and lore know as the Mishna and key player in the development of our system of Jewish law. While the original prayer, as detailed in the Talmud (Berachot16b), was written in the plural form as is most of our sacred liturgy, our sages transformed Rabbi Yehdah’s beautiful prayer into a singular supplication when they included it in this early section of the Siddur.
Yehi Ratzon is a petition that asks that we may be saved from sources of evil and malice throughout the day. Beginning with the wish that we do not ourselves act with arrogance, the prayer continues with the hope that we be spared from, among others, mean spirited neighbors, false accusations and decrees, “ruthless opponents” the powers of destruction and, most interestingly, from a “Chaver Rah” – from an evil friend.
Rabbi B.S. Jacobson in his comprehensive work on liturgy entitled The Weekday Siddur grapples with the concept of an evil friend. He quotes a secondary source which describes such an individual as:
“a person who harbors wicked thoughts …even though in his outward habits he may be pleasing and although he may be good to others – he detests robbery and violence, for instance, and acts virtuously – nevertheless since he harbors evil thoughts in his heart , one must keep away.”
Rabbi Jacobson cites the Tur, a medieval law code which indicates that, as is also mentioned in our Siddur Sim Shalom it is customary to add our own personal petitions and supplications at this point of the service. One has to wonder at the reason for including Rabbi Yehuda’s Yehi Razton and such personal prayers as we may add on our own at this point at the very beginning of the morning service. Perhaps it is to teach us that the precursor to exploring and deepening our relationship with God is to examine our relationships with our fellow human beings who, after all, are created in Gods image. Are we sources of evil? Are we affected by sources of malice such as the chaver rah? How do we act towards others? How we expect others to relate to us? That is to say, in order to make it through the day, we must avoid negativity so that we may see ourselves as sincere partners with God in the process of Tikun Olam – of repairing the world and making it a better place for God’s creations.
I hope you enjoy this brief look at our prayers. If you have a suggestion or question or request, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hazzan Michael Krausman