Throughout the year, and especially during this time of year as we approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we say many different types of tefillot in repentance. This list includes the daily tachnun, slichot, and the entire davening of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Much of the text deals with the teshuva process, i.e. admitting that we have sinned, feeling sorry for it and making an effort not to try to continue in our ways, and begging the All Merciful God to forgive us and have mercy on us.

However, inevitably these tefillot also contain sections dealing with our oppressors, how they make our lives terrible, and asking God to destroy them. One short example from tachnun is: .עָשְׁשָׁה מִכַּעַס עֵינִי עָתְקָה בְּכָל צוֹרְרָי. סוּרוּ מִמֶּנִּי כָּל פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן כִּי שָׁמַע יְהֹוָה קוֹל בִּכְיִי - My eye is dimmed from anger, it has aged because of my adversaries. Turn away from me, all you workers of iniquity, for the lord has hearkened to the voice of my weeping. (Excerpted from here) This seems to deviate from the teshuvot tefillot where we identify a sin, try to repent and ask for forgiveness. Furthermore, though we would always prefer not to be punished, there is a realization in Judaism that punishment is not for nothing. It's objective is to goad us into the right path. So, however much we hate it, is it not instrumental in helping us clean us of our sins? Why do we ask for it be removed so desperately, without any caveat, like: Please remove these punishments God, if it would be in our best interest.

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    You seem to be conflating requesting alleviation of punishment with mentioning oppressors. Which do you mean to ask about?
    – msh210
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 3:52
  • You suggest we should ask, “Please remove these punishments God, if it would be in our best interest.” Which sort of implies that without this request from us, Hashem might remove the punishments even if it were not in our best interest. But that cannot be true as we know that Hashem is good and does only good as it says in Brochos 60b וכן תנא משמיה דר' עקיבא לעולם יהא אדם רגיל לומר כל דעביד רחמנא לטב עביד Tanna taught in the name of Rabbi Akiva, a person should accustom himself to say, “everything that the All-Merciful does, He does for the best”. See also the story of Rabbi Akiva there. Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 11:27
  • Just because it's a punishment, doesn't mean the oppressors are blameless. See Bereishit 15:14 and many more sources.
    – Ypnypn
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 13:45

1 Answer 1


Good question. The quick answer is that the Jews have a good reason to be paranoid. The more serious and deeper answer is related to the tochacha we just read last Shabat in Parashat Ki Tavo.

All of the terrible things that happen to Am Yisrael by oppressors - things in the tochacha that came true during Churban Habayit and during the Shoah - are the direct result of 2 things:

  1. Not doing the mitzvot like Hashem commands us in the Torah
  2. Not doing them be'simcha.

So - the oppressors are the agents of the tochacha and we mention them in Kinot and Tachanum to brutally remind ourselves that the problem is within us - search within ourselves, do the mitzvot ve'simcha and maybe next year there will be a bit less suffering.


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