Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | September 15, 2014

A Thought on Tefila – Days of Return



Three times a day, we say in the Shemona Esrai (Amida) – Hashiva shofteinu k’varishona, return our judges as at first, v’yoatzeinu k’vatchila, and our advisers as they were at the beginning.

While simply put this means that we long for true leadership and guidance, there is a striking message that is quite appropriate for the days of Elul when we seek to prepare ourselves for the judgment of Rosh HaShana.

If one goes back to the very beginning, when Moshe appointed judges, there were judges for every thousand, every hundred, every fifty, and every ten people.  All tolled, that makes approximately 78,600 judges, or 13 judges for every hundred people.

I know people say Jews are litigious, but that’s insane!  Could we really have been suing each other so much that we needed a judge for every eight people or so?  The insight I’m about to share will blow your mind…

Of course we were not suing each other so much.  However, we were each deathly afraid of somehow cheating or mistreating others!  We went to the judges not to demand payment, but for guidance on how to go about our daily lives so we would NOT impinge on others.  We asked how to behave so we fulfilled our obligations to both G-d and Man.  Such guidance needs a close, personal relationship with a Rabbi on speed-dial.

Which brings us to our prayer.  We ask HaShem not just to give us leaders who can guide us, but to open our hearts and help us go back to when we were more concerned with hurting than being hurt and cheating another than being cheated.  That’s when we were not only better people, but HAPPIER people.

Instead of thinking about ourselves, always noting what we don’t have (a sure recipe for unhappiness), we pray in Shemona Esrai and acknowledge that we want to be outwardly-focused and thinking of others.  If we went back to that, we could then be almost positive that we’d be inscribed in the book of Life for a sweet new year.

Think about that next time you pray.  It will change your tefilos.




  1. I will contemplate-How can I think of others more…? It sounds so simple, but it takes time to train ourselves to think that way. Thank you for sharing. IY”H it will change my Tefillos.

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