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Shmuel Israel - Insight into חונן הדעת‎

The Shmona Esrei is divided into three parts: Praise of Hashem, The Requests, and the Thanks to Hashem. The first of the requests is the blessing asking for intelligence. The reason it proceeds all of the other requests is because of its importance. Without intelligence, we can not connect to Hashem. We can not understand the wisdom of His Torah, perfect ourselves, nor fulfill our purpose. Even on a simple level, we can not perform even basic acts, such as tying a shoe. However, in analyzing the bracha, we notice that its tone is much less demanding than the other berachos. For example, the next bracha starts with a direct "Return Us"! While Atah Chonan asks "Generously grant us". Why is this so?


In order to understand, we need to delve deeper into the bracha. The Shibolei Haleket writes, all the brachot were at one point in History said by the angels at moments when God changed from the natural order of things. In History, the bracha of Chonan HaDas was said by the angels when Yosef needed a miraculous knowledge. After being imprisoned for 12 years in an Egyptian jail, Hashem decreed that he was to be brought out of the pit and elevated to second to the honored position of Second to the king. There was one problem however, the Egyptians valued extreme intelligence and required that position to be filled only by one who knew 70 languages. Yosef turned to Hashem for help, and He sent the angel Gavriel to teach him all 70 languages. The angels in heaven, upon witnessing Hashem change nature and providing miraculous knowledge, recited the beracha, "Blessed are you Hashem, generous Granter of knowledge!"


We see then from the angels, that when we recite the bracha of Chonan HaDas, we are asking even to the point of miraculous intelligence. However, this is problematic, because we know that Jews don't demand of Hashem miracles. How then can we ask for miraculous intelligence? The answer is, that because of its importance that without it can't connect to Hashem, we are forced to ask for even miraculous intelligence, but we try to lessen it by humbly requesting it in an indirect manner.


May we all be zoche to great wisdom to strengthen our connection with Hashem and to fulfill our destiny.

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