Post-Shabbos Prayers: Praise, Protection and… Procrastination
#845: Post-Shabbos Prayers: Praise, Protection and… Procrastination
What is the purpose of the additional tefillos (prayers) in Maariv (the evening prayer) of Motzoei Shabbos?
We begin with the standard weekday opening: V'hu rachum yechaper… (And He is merciful and forgives). Poskim remark that this passuk (Torah verse) should be recited slowly to express how we cherish Shabbos—and not, chas v’shalom (Heaven forfend) view it as an unwanted burden—and we wish to delay its departure. With this patient reading we also extend Shabbos further, adding time meichol al hakodesh (from the everyday to the sacred).
(During the Amidah, Atah chonantanu—You have favored us—is inserted into the fourth blessing, which serves as a form of Havdalah—separation—between Shabbos and the workweek.)
At the outset of a week in which no holidays occur the verse Vihi noam Hashem… (May the pleasantness of Hashem [Psalm 90:17]) is read after the Amidah, entreating Hashem to crown our endeavors of the forthcoming week with success. This tefillah, as well, should be said unhurriedly and with concentration.
Next, we read Yoshev b’seiser Elyon… (He who dwells in secret on High… [Psalm 91]), known as the shir shel p’gaim (the song for encounters), which calls forth Hashem’s special protection against dangerous run-ins with mazikin (harmful spirits). This becomes necessary only upon the culmination of Shabbos, as the holy day guards us from such threats.
Following the shir is the special prayer of V’atah kadosh (And You are holy), known in the Talmud as Seder Kedushah (the Order of Holiness). This tefillah serves a dual purpose: It is written in sefarim—and most notably in the Zohar Hakadosh (the holy Zohar)—that at the onset of Shabbos the souls of the wicked are removed from gehinom (purgatory) to enjoy a day of ‘rest’. These souls do not return until the conclusion of the post-Shabbos Maariv. Therefore, we extend the tefillah by adding the lengthy V’atah kadosh. Indeed, an allusion to this concept is found in the opening verse of V’atah kadosh: yosheiv tehillos Yisroel ([You] restrain [the return of the souls to gehinom until the conclusion of] the praises of Israel).
This supplication also contains great exaltation and praise of Hashem, and is considered very dear to Him. The Talmud states that the world continues to exist on the merit of this tefillah alone! As a fresh week begins and the cycle of life begins anew, it is apropos to read this exceptional prayer and fortify the world’s existence.