Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tefillah: Birum Olam: Prayer stands at the Pinnacle of the World Volume I Issue 4

Tefillah: Birum Olam: Prayer stands at the Pinnacle of the World

Volume I Issue 4

In this series we will be exploring the meaning of prayer, and more specifically, of how to pray. In this issue we will examine the seeming contradiction between the ideas that the function of prayer is to beseech HaShem for our physical needs, whereas Rabbeinu Bachye writes that one should not be contemplating materialism while praying.

Tefillah Thoughts

The answer to this apparent paradox can be found in the words of the Leshem Shivo Viachlama (Shaarei Haleshem, Chelek 1 Siman 2 Perek 2: Toarim). The Leshem writes that the Gemara (Brachos 63a) states that anyone who makes the Name of Heaven a partner in his troubles, they double his livelihood for him. The reason for this is because every good and every salvation that one receives is from the revelation of HaShem’s light from above. When one is lacking good down below, it is because the light from above is not able to descend below. Thus, one must make the Name of Heaven be a partner in his troubles, and one must pray for the sake of HaShem’s Name. When one is aware that he is not receiving from HaShem’s Light, he will then pray for HaShem’s Light to be revealed in the world and he will be doubly rewarded. The reason for this is because prayer has the power to penetrate all the barriers that are preventing the light from descending to this world. From the words of the Leshem we see why when one prays, he should not be focused on his material needs. Rather, one should pray for the desecration of HaShem’s Name in this world to be removed and then all the good will flow automatically from Above.

Tefillah Teachings

The Halacha section is based on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch with the final rendition of the Mishna Berurah.

If one had a need to relieve himself and prayed anyway, if he calculated that he could refrain from relieving himself for the time it takes to walk a parsah (seventy-two minutes) his prayer is valid. This would be the case even if when he began praying he felt that he could wait for this long, and after praying he relieved himself prior to this measurement of time. Nonetheless, he still has fulfilled his obligation of prayer. If, however, he would not be able to refrain for that long and he prayed anyway, his prayer is invalid and he must pray again. There are those who maintain that this ruling only applies to one who needs to defecate, whereas one who had to urinate would not have to pray again. There are those who disagree, and the Mishna Berurah does not render a ruling regarding this.

Tefillah Translated and Elucidated

Hashem ahavti meon baisecho umekom mishkan kevodecho, HaShem, I love the shelter of Your House and the place of Your glory’s residence. It is noteworthy that prior to this verse (Tehillim 26:8) it is said (Ibid verse 6) erchatz binikayon kapai vaasovivo es mizbachacho HaShem, I wash my hands in purity and circle around Your altar, HaShem. It would seem that in order for one to love HaShem’s House, i.e. a house of prayer, one must first prepare properly for prayer. One must first recognize that he is coming to pray before the King of all kings, and through sincere repentance, he can enter HaShem’s House and pray before Him. We find a precedent for this when HaShem instructed Yaakov to go up to Bais-el and make an altar there. It is said (Bereishis 35:2-3) vayomer Yaakov el baiso viel kol asher imo hasiru es elohei haneichar asher bisochichem vihitaharu vihachlifu simloseichem vinakumah vinaaleh Bais­-el vieeseh sham mizbeiach lakeil haoneh osi biyom tzarasi vayehi imadi baderech asher halachti, so Yaakov said to his household and to all who were with him, “Discard the alien gods that are in your midst; cleanse yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bais-el; I will make there an altar to G-d Who answered me in my time of distress, and was with me on the road that I traveled. Thus, we see that Yaakov understood that the way to serve HaShem is by first preparing, and for that reason he requested that everyone first remove the alien gods from their midst.

Tefillah Tale

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Noted attorney Robert Harris, Esq. of Woodmere, told me a wonderful story: A man once pleaded with the Al-mighty to bestow a bit of His abundance upon him. He implored and begged his Creator for long life and wealth. After all, the poor soul figured, G-d had an abundance of everything; why then, wouldn’t He spare something for a Jew in need. He entered a huge, empty synagogue on the Lower East Side and began to cry. “Ribono Shel Olam (Master of the universe),” he cried, “in the great extent of Your eternity what is a million years?” The man began to tremble. He imagined that he actually heard a response. “To Me a million years is just a mere second!" boomed a voice inside his mind. The man continued. “And,” he pleaded, “to the magnitude of Your great bounty, what, may I ask, is a billion dollars?” “A billion dollars is just a mere penny,” came the resonating reply. “Then,” begged the man, “can I not have just one of your pennies?” “Surely!” came the response. And then a pause. “But you must wait a mere second!” [Reprinted with permission from]

Tefillah Test

Last week we posed the question: why do we recite in Shemone Esrei that HaShem is harotzeh bisshuvah, the One Who desires repentance? Repentance is a mitzvah in the Torah, so we should say that HaShem commands us to perform the mitzvah of repentance? One reader wrote, and I found this afterwards in the Avudraham, that the words harotzeh bisshuvah are based on the verse that states (Yechezkel 33:11) emor aleihem chai ani nium HaShem Elokim im echpotz bimos harashah ki im bishuv rasha midarko vichaya shuvu shuvu midarcheichem haraim vilamah samusu bais Yisroel, say to them: ‘as I live – the word of the Lord HaShem/Elokim – [I swear] that I do not desire the death of the wicked one, but rather the wicked one’s return from his way, that he may live. Repent, repent from your evil ways! Why should you die, O House of Israel?’ Thus, it would appear that there is a mitzvah of Teshuvah, and HaShem sincerely desires that we repent our ways so we can be close to Him. It is noteworthy that we find a similar idea regarding Torah study. There is a mitzvah to study Torah, and the Toras Kohanim (Bechukosai) states that HaShem desires that the Jewish People toil in Torah study.

This week’s question is, in the Shemone Esrei we begin all the blessings with a praise of HaShem or a request of HaShem. In which blessing do we begin with an action that we will perform? If you have a possible answer, please email me at and your answer will be posted in next week’s edition of Birum Olam.

Tefillah: Birum Olam: Prayer stands at the Pinnacle of the World

Volume I Issue 4

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