Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Divide and Conquer

THESIS: I maintain that all and only those bakashos that bespeak perennial requests, in the sense explained in the preceding post, are complemented by a ki-clause. Those berachos, on the other hand, that express what I have called fleeting bakashos – they are consistently devoid of such complementation. Let me begin by saying why this should be so.

For what are we entitled (or empowered) to ask? Put simply, the answer is: for the fulfillment of our needs. Therefore, a bakasha that singularly addresses one of our needs is a bakasha we are entitled to make. A fleeting bakasha is such a bakasha. It asks that G-d grant the request for a specific thing. Once the request has been granted, the thing is no longer needed; so the request falls away. It ceases to be invoked.

With a perennial request the situation is different. After the request has been answered, it remains in full effect. And this, in two senses. In the first place, we continue to plead it (without letup). The instance that has, thank G-d, been ameliorated is but one of countless others like it that await Heavenly intercession for the good. We repeat the bakasha again and again, each time prompted by as-yet unmitigated instances of the malady in question. And second, when we make a request like this, we do not do it with merely the one instance with which we are immediately confronted in mind. We generalize the request and formulate it so that it subsumes untold unspecified instances within its compass. We, in effect, ask that G-d fill the need wherever it happens to exist: now, then, here, there. We ask that He persistently relieve us of this (generic type of) distress, whenever/wherever it may (not) be found to occur.

What this means is that, in pleading a perennial bakasha, we extend our sights beyond the limitations of the here-and-now. We transcend the concerns of our current situation and of a particular need. We seek to generalize and universalize, as it were; and we ask the A-lmighty for overall, all-inclusive protection and amelioration. This being so, our entitlement to issue the request is brought into question. After all, we are not strictly confining it to a perceived need. We are venturing out, and seeking protection from suffering or danger that we are unaware of and that may not as yet have arisen. On the principle that we are entitled to daven only for the fulfillment of a need – a real one – there would be a lot to be said for the idea that we are not entitled to make a perennial request. Except for one consideration...

We may ask that G-d give us something that His very attributes indicate that He will give us. We may appeal to an attribute and ask that He favor us with a kindness that arises from it. We may put our request by saying that He should act in accord with that certain attribute. When we do this, the fact that the request is perennial, and that it reaches beyond the present exigency and subsumes non-encountered instances under its aegis, is irrelevant. It is irrelevant because (kiveyachol) G-d's attribute is unbounded. This invocation of a Divine attribute is what the ki-clause represents.

When we ask for something particular whose need is immediately felt, we do not need to rationalize the request. It is something for which we are granted the power to pray. We can utter the prayer straight out. Thus the absence of a ki-clause in a fleeting bakasha. However, when we ask for perennial salvation, we can do so only by appeal to an attribute. We must rationalize our request and say: grant us this, because it is in accord with Your essence (Your mida or attribute) to grant precisely this sort of favor. Offering this kind of rationalization is, I want to suggest, the distinct mission of the ki-clause.

Having come to an understanding of what the ki-clause does and why it is needed, it devolves on us to probe the extent to which our theory is borne out by the data. We already know which of the bakashos feature a ki-clause and which of them do not. At this point we will want to examine them severally, for their conformance – or otherwise – to the principle here enunciated. Let’s hope to do that, bs”d, in the ensuing post.

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