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The tefillah of יהי כבוד introduces the theme of God's Presence in the natural world. In the Tehillim that follow, which form the center of פסוקי דזמרא, we remind ourselves of God's hand as Creator and Artist of all of existence. And yet, nestled into these statements of awe is an esoteric and deeply poignant question.

In יהי כבוד we say, ה' שמך לעולם, ה' זכרך לדר ודר, "'Hashem' is Your name forever, 'Hashem' is Your memorial throughout the generations". In these words we proclaim that the Divine Name 'Hashem' is our everlasting link to our Creator. And yet, as we all know, we do not even dare utter this name aloud! Amidst language of praise in the siddur, Chazal seem to ask God, 'How can we begin to connect with You, when we do not even know how to say Your name?'

In this question we sense our human, finite limitations as we encounter the Infinite. ה' מלך ה' מלך, ה' ימלך לעלם ועד, "Hashem reigns, Hashem has reigned, Hashem will reign for all of eternity". God is timeless, but we are time-bound. So how do we connect with the Eternal One, the One Whose name we cannot even pronounce?

Learning to live out each of our unique answers to this question is in many ways the entire purpose of prayer, and specifically the role of פסוקי דזמרא. We start by taking baby steps. We begin with gratitude and praise in order to prepare ourselves to truly draw close to Hashem, to be vulnerable. We appreciate the external world He created, which then gives us permission to appreciate ourselves, the life and potential God has given us. What are we doing well? What can we do better? And when we remember God's compassion, forgiveness, and His decision to choose us as His people (as we do in this tefillah), we feel better equipped to engage our Creator in our growth and reflection.

The Gemara in Masechet Chullin 60a famously teaches that Hashem's angel said יהי כבוד when the plants began to emerge in accordance with God's will. So too, when we say יהי כבוד, let us imagine ourselves emerging--out of our self-doubt, fears, laziness, or whatever is inhibiting us from encountering God. Let's imagine with each step we take a bud emerging within us, growing towards God's nourishing light. For the more we engage with Hashem in prayer, the more we are able to reveal God's name in this world.

--Rabbanit Alissa

Mon, July 13 2020 21 Tammuz 5780