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September 15, 2010 / howgood1

V’hu Rachum

On weekdays the Ma’ariv service opens with Psalms 78:38 and 20:10.

וְהוּא רַחוּם יְכַפֵּר עָוֹן וְֽלֹא יַשְׁחִית וְהִרְבָּה לְהָשִׁיב אַפּוֹ וְלֹֽא־יָעִיר כָּל־חֲמָתֽוֹ

Psalm 78:38 – But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them; often he turned away his anger, and did not stir up all his wrath.

יְהֹוָה הוֹשִׁיעָה הַמֶּלֶךְ יַֽעֲנֵנוּ בְיֽוֹם־קָרְאֵֽנוּ

Psalm 20:10 – Save, Lord; the king will answer us on the day when we call.

Reasons given for reciting the first of these verses have to do primarily with the idea that although we have perhaps committed sinful acts during the day, G-d will forgive us and not cause us to expire during the night because of them.  The verse itself refers to the fact that G-d chose not to destroy the children of Israel during their wanderings in the desert despite the fact that they lacked faith and rebelled.  It is also said that since the verse had 13 words, we are reminded of G-d’s 13 attributes of mercy.

Nighttime is often a frightening time as darkness descends and many of the world’s wonders which are easily observed during the day are obscured.  Anxiety increases regarding the following day’s schedule and for some the ability to get a good night’s sleep.  We trust that G-d will allow us the ability to experience the wonders of our world again and pray that we will not again take them for granted.

The second verse is the final verse of Psalm 20.  It is a reaffirmation that we believe that G-d will hear our prayers in times of distress as the dangers of nightfall approach. The verse also serves as an introduction to recite the Barchu (when a minyan is present), the communal call to prayer.


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