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Fortunate! Fortunate! Forunate!

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JewishTreats.org

Central among the morning prayers known as Pesukei D’zimra, Songs of Praise, is Psalm 145, which is more often referred to simply as Ashrei. Actually, Ashrei is included in the service both during Pesukei D’zimra, and after the Shemonah Esrei, and again at the beginning of Mincha (the afternoon service).

The word Ashrei is usually translated as “Fortunate!” or “Happy!” This psalm of praise declares how fortunate one is to have a relationship with God. The message of Ashrei is so positive and uplifting that “Rabbi Eleazar ben Abina says: Whoever recites “Praise of David” [Psalm 145]  three times daily, is sure to inherit the world to come” (Talmud Brachot 4b). What is so special about Psalm number 145?  After all, the Book of Psalms contains 150 beautiful poems and songs? Ashrei isn’t the longest, or the shortest, or the most grammatically complex – in fact, it doesn’t stand out at all to the average eye. So what is it about this psalm that makes it a key to earning entry into the world to come?

The sages discuss several possibilities, such as the fact that it is an alphabetical acrostic. The psalm, contains all the letters of the entire Hebrew Aleph-Bet (except for the letter “nun”) in correct order at the beginning of each sentence.  This represents that God’s praise is sung in all of Creation, which Jews have the opportunity to elevate.  The line starting with the letter nun, however, is omitted because nun is the first letter of the word nephilah, fallen.

It is also suggested that Ashrei’s importance is due to the inclusion of the verse: “Poteach et yadech, umasbiya l’chol chay ratzon…You open Your hand and provide satisfaction for all life willingly.” This line transforms the praises of the rest of the Psalms into a declaration of God’s ability to sustain the world.

Copyright © 2013 NJOP. All rights reserved.

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