Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  Page title
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

The Fourth Blessing: Give Us the Wisdom to Know How to Ask

“You graciously endow man with wisdom and teach insight to a frail mortal. Endow us graciously from Yourself with wisdom, insight and discernment. Blessed are You, Hashem, gracious Giver of wisdom.”

A person may view prayer as an opportunity to freely beg Hashem for whatever his heart desires. Yet from the Talmudic story, we learn that the act of opening our mouth in prayer requires Heavenly assistance to ensure that the appropriate words will emerge. Even when the great Sage stood in front of a king who was willing to grant any request, Hashem did not give him the wisdom to know what to ask and he did not make the most of that opportunity.

Atah chonen, the fourth blessing of Shemoneh Esrei, was composed with the above concept in mind. Prayer gives us the chance to ask Hashem for what we want, and we can easily squander this opportunity by asking for the wrong thing. Before starting to ask for our personal needs, we must first beg Hashem to give us enough understanding to know what we should ask for (Shulchan Aruch 115,1).

Since our Sages set down the precise wording for each request of the Shemoneh Esrei long ago, we may wonder why we are concerned whether we will ask for the right things. The answer is that even with the firm guidance of the words printed in the siddur, we still need assistance from Above. If we don’t recognize that these blessings are exactly what we need, we will not put our heart into our prayers and we will not add personal requests in places where it is permitted.

Another insight comes from the words of our Sages, who tell us: “It is forbidden to have mercy on someone who does not have understanding” (Brachos 33a). Helping someone who will squander or abuse our assistance is a waste of resources. Therefore, before turning to Hashem for our other requests, we ask Him for the understanding that will help us to use His gifts properly and thus be worthy of receiving more (Birkei Yosef 115).

Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and



View Complete List

Remaining Whole
Shlomo Katz - 5761

Born to Lose
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5767

Shlomo Katz - 5768

> Achieving Balance
Shlomo Katz - 5767

The Hasmoneans Take a Stand: A History of Chanukah, Part II
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5774

Bonding Time
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5760


Chanukah: Lights, Camera, Action!
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5768

Yearning for Redemption
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5773

Why Eight Days?
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Of Fire and Money
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5757

A New Perspective
Shlomo Katz - 5768

The Passions Of Youth
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759

Looking for a Chavrusah?

'Mehadrin' - An Understanding of the Concept
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

Everyday Miracles
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5764

Perspective on Possessions
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5759

I Have Everything
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5756

Project Genesis Home

Torah Portion

Jewish Law



Learn the Basics




Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base


About Us

Contact Us

Free Book on Geulah! Home Copyright Information