| Parshah |

How to Bow

In Modim, we bow in thanksgiving for all the good Hashem continuously does for us


“ ‘And now I have brought the first of the fruit of the land that You, Hashem gave me.’ Then you should place them before Hashem… and you should bow down before Hashem, your G-d.” (Devarim 26:10)


The Midrash Tanchuma says that Moshe prophetically saw that the Beis Hamikdash would be destroyed, and so we’d no longer be able to perform the mitzvah of bringing bikkurim there. As a partial substitute for this mitzvah, Moshe decreed that Bnei Yisrael should instead pray three times daily.
What’s the connection between bikkurim and prayer? (Rabbi Oizer Alport Parsha Potpourri)

Right after lichtbentshen, I knocked on Sheva’s door. I knew she was hosting Shabbbos sheva brachos for her daughter, but I still thought she’d appreciate a quick mazel tov. Besides, I came bearing gifts, I thought, adjusting the platter of cake I hadn’t had time to drop off before Shabbos.

The door was flung open by Sheva’s grandson. Sure enough, the house was packed. The new kallah was in the living room regaling her sisters with sheitel woes, so I went into the kitchen in search of Sheva.

In his sefer Minchas Asher, Rav Asher Weiss notes that in Shemoneh Esreh, there are two blessings in which we’re required to bow: the first blessing of Magen Avraham and the penultimate blessing, Modim. These two times of prostration represent two types of bowing. In the first blessing, we bow in submission to Hashem. In Modim, we bow in thanksgiving for all the good Hashem continuously does for us.

“Mazel Tov!” I gave Sheva a warm hug and handed her the cake platter. As she hugged me back, I detected a touch of tension, certainly par for the course considering the crowd. “Anything I can help with?”

“Everything’s fine. Wonderful. Great.” Then grabbing my hand, she pulled me into the mudroom off the kitchen. “Sorry, just need to get this out of my system and you came at just the right moment. Everything’s okay, but I just had a pretty wild moment.”

For a second, I thought she’d burst into tears, and I squeezed her hand. “What happened?”

When the farmer bows while bringing bikkurim, his bowing contains within it aspects of both submission and thanksgiving to Hashem. When Moshe foresaw the Churban, he realized that we’d no longer be able to bow by bikkurim to express our submission and gratitude to Hashem. Therefore, Moshe established that Bnei Yisrael daven three times a day.  Shemoneh Esrei offers us the opportunity to bow in humble submission to Hashem, and then to bow showing our constant gratitude to Him.

“So, things were hectic today, but under control and I was getting ready to bentsh licht. But Rikki wasn’t here yet.” She pushed at a stray sheitel hair. “You know Rikki, she’s a typical oldest, always responsible, this was so not like her. And she wasn’t answering her phone! It was getting closer to candle lighting, and you know how these things go, my thoughts started jumping to the most horrible scenarios about what could be making her late.

“Finally, I couldn’t put off lichtbentshen anymore, but I had a sick feeling in my stomach. Even when the kallah went to bentsh licht, I couldn’t enjoy and shep nachas from watching her. I was picturing a horrible accident and how this Shabbos sheva brachos was about to be transformed into tragedy.”

“You always did have a great imagination, Sheva.”

“I picked up a match and I just wanted to cry. Instead of davening for the new couple, I was just begging Hashem to help me be strong to face whatever had happened to Rikki. I started the brachah, my voice shaking so badly.

“Then, halfway into my brachah, Rikki burst into the house with her family. The end of that brachah was filled with such hakaras hatov — here was my entire family, all safe! Then I did start crying because I was so grateful to Hashem for all He gave me. It was such a crazy mix of emotions in such a short span of time… I’m totally drained.”

“Sounds pretty intense. Around the world of emotions in 80 seconds.”

“Well, to quote Jules Verne, what did I bring back from this long and weary journey?” Sheva smiled wryly.

I heard the commotion of the men returning home from shul, so I leaned over to hug her goodbye.

“I’d say mission accomplished. Take a bow.”


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 757)

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