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prayer ping #37 like a baby ni the womb

Rabbanit Alissa

Rav Simlai explains what life is like for a baby in the womb. He says that in the womb, the baby is taught all of Torah and that a light illuminates so that the baby can see from one end of the world to the other. At birth, the moment when the baby sees the light of the world, an angel comes and hits his/her mouth and the baby forgets everything he/she had learned in the womb. The indentation on our top lip remains as a physical reminder.

השיבנו אבינו לתורתך, "Bring us back, our Father, to Your Torah". In the השיבנו bracha of the Amidah, we ask God to bring us back to that place in the womb, which Rav Simlai described. We long to return to the moment when we were not only safe, but also when we fully knew God's Torah. The moment before life-- with its ups an downs-- hit us across the face (literally and metaphorically). .

This is one of two brachot in the Amidah in which we refer to God as אבינו. For in it we place ourselves in the role of child-- of baby-- asking God to return us to Him and to hold us as He once did. It is poignant, even nostalgic.

In this blessing, we are not merely asking for the opportunity to do teshuvah and atone for sins. With the word השיבנו, "Bring us back," we place the responsibility of return on God, our Parent. We pray that God give us back the relationship of the womb, of the Gan Eden that each of us had when we saw from one end of the earth to the other, without anything being unknown.

And yet, we cannot help but recognize as we say these words that we are adults. We are called to do mitzvot that a baby cannot. והחזירנו בתשובה שלמה לפניך, "Influence us to return in complete repentance before You". God desires teshuvah, and it is our obligation and responsibility to take the first step back to Him by living a life of Torah. God alone cannot answer the prayer of השיבנו. Teshuvah is a two-way street.

Remember a moment when you longed for something you forgot or hoped to find something you lost. That feeling is what the tefillah of השיבנו voices. For in this prayer, we are asking God to remove disconnection and forgetfulness and give us clarity in our responsibility. We are asking Him to give us the best of all worlds: to be adults who live His Torah in the here and now and to feel the security, wisdom, and connection of a baby in the womb.

Mon, July 13 2020 21 Tammuz 5780