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Special Signs: Understanding the Symbolism in Pesukei D'zimra

Symbolic Gestures

Throughout Jewish history there have been many incidents where an action gave power to words. One of the most dramatic examples involved the prophet Elisha and King Yoash when the Jewish people were at war with Aram. Elisha told King Yoash to shoot an arrow, and then said, “This is the arrow of G-d’s deliverance, and the deliverance from Aram; you shall fight Aram at Afeq until you destroy them.”

Afterwards, Elisha told King Yoash to take his arrows and smash them down on the ground, symbolizing the destruction of Aram, the enemies of the Jewish people. King Yoash took his arrows and hit them on the ground three times. At the conclusion of the story, Elisha revealed to the king that had he done this five or six times he would have completely annihilated Aram (Melachim II 13: 15-19).

From this incident, we see the power of symbolic gestures. Halachic authorities apply this idea to Ashrei, and suggest that while reciting the verse “Pose’ach es yadecha” one should turn up one’s palms (Ben Ish Chai, Vayigash 12; Makor Chaim 51,7). Opening one’s hands shows that one is ready to receive the abundant flow of blessing from Above, and helps us relate to the special power of this verse.

Some men have a custom to touch their tefillin while reciting this verse. Touching one’s tefillin while reciting “Pose’ach es yadecha” shows the connection between performing mitzvos and the fulfillment of one’s material needs. This small gesture reflects the ultimate purpose of Hashem’s sustenance of His creations: that we may do His will (Taamei Haminhagim p. 549).

Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and



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