Rav Avigdor Miller on the First Brocha of Shmone Esrei

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Q:
The halacha is that if one has kavanah during the first bracha of Shemonah Esrei but is sleeping through the rest of davening he’s yotzei. But if he has kavanah by all the brachos but sleeps through the bracha of Avos then he’s not yotzei. What’s so special about this first bracha?

A:
What’s so important about the first bracha that the success of Shemonah Esrei depends mainly on the first bracha? The first bracha is a recognition of our great models, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yakov. We have to recognize that our lives are based – should be based – on what these great people gave us as models to follow. The Rambam says in his Moreh Nevuchim (Hakdama): Any good thing that ever happened to us, or that will ever happen to us, is only because of the zchus, the merit, of our forefathers. 

Now, we have to appreciate our forefathers. We have to study them. We have to study their lives and try to emulate them. And we have to be grateful to them for what they did for us. For providing themselves as models of powerful dedication to Hakodosh Boruch Hu. And therefore, the very first bracha is, Elokeinu v’Eilokei avoseinu. You, Hashem, are the one who loved our forefathers so dearly. Hashem said, “I love your forefathers more than anything else in the universe.” “Hein la’shem Elokecha ha’shamayim u’shmei ha’shamayim, ha’aretz v’chol asher bah” (Devarim 10-14).  Behold I own the heavens and the space above the heavens. I own everything. But, “Rak b’avosecha cha’shak Hashem, li’ahava osam” (Devarim 10-15). Only in your forefathers did Hashem delight to love them. That’s a tremendous statement. It’s tremendous! Hashem loves our forefathers most intensely. “Va’yivchar bi’zar’am achreihem, bachem, mi’kol ha’amim, ka’yom hazeh” (ibid). And Hashem chose us, to this day, because of the greatness of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yakov.  And therefore we appeal to Hashem, in the merit of out great forefathers, who we intend to follow and who we intend to emulate. Please Hashem, please listen to the prayers that we’re going to say in the following brachos of Shemonah Esrei. 

TAPE # E-255