Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tefillah: Birum Olam: Prayer stands at the Pinnacle of the World Volume I Issue 5

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

Volume I Issue 5

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 way in one should pray with his body.

Tefillah Thoughts

It is known that there are two schools of thought as to how one should stand when engaged in prayer. There are those who maintain that one should remain absolutely still while praying, similar to the way in which one would stand before a king. Yet, there are others who maintain that one should move his body while praying, and this is based on a verse that states (Tehillim 35:10) kol atzmosai tomarnah, all my limbs will say… One matter regarding prayer, however, is clear. One is required to be cognizant of the fact that he is standing before HaShem, the King of all kings. It would seem, then, that the two different approaches to how one stands in prayer are not contradictory. When one recognizes that he is standing before HaShem, Creator of the world, in Whose Hands are life and death, one begins to tremble. This would lead one to engage in various movements, and thus it is understandable why someone would sway while praying. For those who remain still during prayer, it would seem that they are demonstrating respect to HaShem while praying. These two aspects of our relationship to HaShem, fear and respect, can be synthesized. When one is cognizant of the respect he must demonstrate to HaShem, he remains still. When, however, one is filled with awe of HaShem, he will tremble and his body will move involuntarily during prayer.

Tefillah Teachings

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

There are those who maintain that if one can refrain from relieving himself for the time it takes to walk a parsah (seventy-two minutes), he is allowed to pray outright. One can rely on this opinion in a situation when if he were to relieve himself the time that one is allowed to pray would pass. If one were to clean his body and this would cause him to miss praying with the congregation, it is nonetheless better that one prays alone when his body is clean.

Tefillah Translated and Elucidated

Vaani eshtachaveh viechraah evracha lifnei HaShem osi, and I shall prostrate myself and bow, I shall kneel before HaShem my maker. There are three terms that are used here for bowing. It is interesting to note that the word for kneeling is evracha, which is similar to the word baruch, meaning blessing. It appears that when we “bless” HaShem, we are demonstrating our total subservience to HaShem, as kneeling is the final act of bowing. Additionally, the Gemara (Yevamos 63a) teaches us that the word baruch is similar to the word markiv, which means grafting. Thus, by subjugating our existence to HaShem, we are, so to speak, grafting ourselves to HaShem.

Tefillah Tale

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz would go daven by Kever Rochel. He would have a Mirrer Yeshiva bochur take him by car. The bochur related the following story: Even before they got to Kever Rochel, the Rosh Yeshiva would take out his long, long lists of name and would look at them and start to cry. Once he got to Kever Rochel and started to say Tehillim, the Rosh Yeshiva would be sobbing. Before leaving the Kever, Rav Chaim said in Yiddish, “Mamme, The Eibeishter hot gizukt nisht tzu vanin, aber Chaim zugt tzu vanin” - Mamme, Hashem, told you not to cry, but I, Chaim , am asking you to cry. This refers to the Galus that Hashem told Rochel Imeinu not to cry for the Jews, since the Galus will end and the Jews will return to Eretz Yisroel. But the Bochur was puzzled by all this and in the car home, asked the Rosh Yeshiva, “If Hashem told Rochel Imeinu not to cry, how could the Rosh Yeshiva ask her to cry?” Rav Chaim answered, “A Tatte und a Mamme can zugen for a kind nisht tzu venin, aber a kint can alumul fregen a mamme tzu vanin.” A father or a mother can ask a child not to cry, but a child can always ask a mother to cry for them

Tefillah Test

Last week we posed the question: 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? The answer to this question is Modim, where we declare that we are thankful to HaShem.

This week’s question is, in the weekday Maariv prayer, in the blessing of baruch HaShem liolam, we end off with the words baruch atah HaShem HaMelech bichvodo tamid yimloch aleinu liolam vaed vial kol maasav, blessed are You, HaShem, the King in His glory – He shall constantly reign over us forever and ever, and over all His creatures. It seems that the wording is awkward. It would be better if we said that HaShem shall constantly reign over us and over all His creatures, forever and ever. Why do we end off with the words vial kol maasav? 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 5

Is sponsored as a zechus lirifuah shileima

Yeruchem Shmuel Ben Dina bisoch shaar cholei Yisroel

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.

For sponsorships please call 248-506-0363.

To subscribe weekly by email, please send email to

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

And other Divrei Torah on

No comments: