Elokai (Avraham Fried)

February 2, 2021

Over the last few days, we have all been deeply shaken by the passing of multiple Torah giants and baalei tzedakah. Sometimes we forget how impermanent this life is; how temporary our physical existence. The sad news that we received throughout the day allowed us to put the gift of life into perspective just a little bit more. In a span of a few short hours we were reminded over and over that life is so fleeting and, therefore, how precious every living moment really is.

How fortunate we are, then, that we are given the unique opportunity to acknowledge Hashem’s kindness each morning, and to express our gratitude to Him for returning our neshamos to our bodies – for giving us another day of life. Immediately upon awakening, we declare that we are fully aware of our dependence on Him. Modeh ani lifanecha – I recognize that I cannot exist without You, and I thank You for mercifully returning my soul to my physical body.

But not only do we admit to our utter dependence on Hashem first thing every morning, we also establish our neshomah’s true value and the value of this Heavenly gift that we call life.
אֱלֹקַי נְשָׁמָה שֶׁנָּתַתָּ בִּי
טְהוֹרָה הִיא
אַתָּה בְרָאתָהּ
אַתָּה יְצַרְתָּהּ
אַתָּה נְפַחְתָּהּ בִּי
וְאַתָּה מְשַׁמְּרָהּ בְּקִרְבִּי
וְאַתָּה עָתִיד לִטְּלָהּ מִמֶּנִּי
וּלְהַחֲזִירָהּ בִּי לֶעָתִיד לָבוֹא
My God, the soul You placed within me is pure. You created it, You fashioned it, You breathed it into me and You preserve it within me. And eventually, You will take it from me, and restore it to me in the Time to Come.

As much as we are led to believe that we will live forever, a Jew begins his day with a proclamation of his awareness of just the opposite. We understand that the neshomah comes from the most sublime of sources and that it is sent down into this world for the sole purpose of achieving spiritual greatness. And when that level has been attained, it will return to its Heavenly origin to reunite once again with its Divine source, the Shechinah itself.

It shouldn’t take the loss of a loved one or a prominent figure to shake us back into this Godly reality, but sometimes we are given just that to remind us that we are only here for a limited amount of time and need to be making every day count. This intensely personal prayer is meant to stir us from our stagnant state of rest, and give us a sense of the infinite potential that we are granted each morning of our lives – ad me’ah v’esrim shanah.

Arguably one of Moshe Laufer’s most well-known compositions – and there are a lot to choose from in that conversation – is the song you are about to hear. Elokai conveys a powerful message within its solemn tone, and aptly delivers the profound notions found within its timeless words. Whether you prefer Leibale Haschel’s pure original, Yehuda!’s elegant rendition, or Dudu Fisher’s heartfelt performance, the end result is always the same. And although I mentioned various versions of this tune, each one worthy of the spotlight in its own right, the one that I am most fond of is by none other than the great Avraham Fried from his 2011 album called Keep Climbing. The words are simple yet potent, the melody so moving and pure, and for a song such as this, well – there’s nobody who does it quite like Fried.

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