Ki Setzei – Builders of the World


This week’s Haftorah is the combined haftorahs of the Torah portions of Re’eh and Ki Setzei from Yeshayahu perek 54 and 55:1-5.  We combine the Haftorahs in this manner when Rosh Chodesh Elul falls out on the Shabbos of Re’eh, as it did this year, two weeks ago. Within the haftorah is a pasuk which is quoted at the conclusion of many tractates of the Talmud including Brachos, Yevamos, Nazir, and Krisos: “And all your children will be students of Hashem, and your children will have peace” (Yeshayahu 54:13).

At the end of Ein Kelokeinu, which we say towards the end of the shachris davening and Bameh Madlikin which we say between kabbalas Shabbos and maariv we recite a paragraph which is the conclusion of Gemara Brachos: “Rabbi Elazar said on behalf of Rabbi Chanina: Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as it is said: ‘And all your children will be students of Hashem and your children will have peace’ (Yeshayahu 54:13) – do not read [בניך] ‘your children,’ but [בוניך] ‘your builders.’ There is abundant peace for the lovers of Torah, and there is no stumbling block for them’ (Tehillim 119:165). ‘May there be peace within your wall, serenity within your palaces. For the sake of my brethren and comrades I shall speak of peace in your midst. For the sake of the House of Hashem, our G-D, I will request your good’ (Tehillim 122:7-9). ‘Hashem will give might to His nation, Hashem will bless His nation with peace’ (Tehillim 29:11).”

The Maharsha explains why the gemara Brachos concludes in this fashion: “This paragraph was added for it would seem because this entire tractate, the prayers and blessings that are mentioned in it are rabbinic decrees, and the reason for them is to increase peace in the world which is done [through a relationship] between the Jews and their Father In Heaven. The reason why it says ‘do not read [בניך] ‘your children,’ but [בוניך] ‘your builders’ is because these prayers and blessings are what keep the world in existence in place of the sacrificial service. All the rest of the pesukim show this intent, and therefore with peace you shall place upon it more peace, Amen Selah!” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

The rabbis of the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah, soon after the destruction of the second Beis HaMikdash, enacted, for the most part, the blessings and prayers we have today in our siddurim. Each word and sentence was selected and crafted to effectively connect to Hashem in the most optimal manner possible.  For this reason the gemara in Brachos aptly concludes with these pesukim, that describe the peace that the rabbis imbued onto the world through prayer and blessings. This enhances the relationship between Hashem and His children, thereby keeping the world in existence; as if they are the builders of the world.

It is interesting to note that the Rabbis are called “builders” in the gemara: “and all ‘your builders’ will be students of Hashem, and ‘your builders’ will have peace.” But in actuality, according to the Maharsha, the Rabbis who created the prayers and blessings were the architects, and we, who say the prayers and blessings on a daily basis, are in fact the builders of the world. We keep the world running through our daily prayers and blessings. Why then are the rabbis called the builders?

It would seem that being the architects and creating the design to ensure the world is “created” optimally deserves credit as if they themselves built and sustain the world, even to this day.

If one were to think about the ramifications of this Maharsha, this means that we have a great responsibility to strive, to pray, and to says blessings with all our heart, with the greatest intentions possible, for it is a logical observation that the more one’s prayers or blessings are effective, the quality of the world’s existence is improved, commensurate to how much we show we care about our relationship with Hashem.

This is a lot to think about as Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur draw closer.