Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tefillah: Birum Olam: Prayer stands at the Pinnacle of the World Volume I Issue 8

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

Volume I Issue 8

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 one should pray and how one should conduct himself inside the shul.

Tefillah Thoughts

It is said (Devarim 26:19) ulisitcho elyon al kol hagoyim asher asah lishilah ulisheim ulisifares vilihyoscha am kadosh laHaShem Elokecha kaasher dibeir, and to make you supreme over all the nations that He made, for praise, for renown, and for splendor, and so that you will be a holy people to HaShem, your G-d, as He spoke. The Baal HaTurim writes that when the Jewish People praise HaShem, it is for HaShem’s splendor, and this is what the Gemara (Megillah 16b) means when it states that in the future HaShem will be for crown for every righteous person. This means to say HaShem returns to us the very same crowns that we used to crown HaShem with our prayers. However, one who speaks idle chatter in shul, his body will be surrounded by thorns (See Ibid for an allusion to this from Scripture). This statement really requires no explanation. During the Aseres Yimei Teshuvah, when HaShem is so close to us and desires to hear our prayers, let us utilize the opportunity to come close to Him and not, Heaven forbid, to distance ourselves from him with needless chatter in shul.

Tefillah Teachings

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

If one could not refrain from passing gas and this prevented him from praying during the prescribed time for prayer, he is deemed to be an onus, i.e. one who has no choice in the matter. The Acharonim write that if one cannot refrain from passing gas, he can recite the shema which is biblical in nature whereas he should not recite Shemone Esrei. The reason for this distinction is because it is improper to stand before the King in prayer and pass gas, whereas the recital of Shema is not deemed to be speaking before the King. Rather, reciting Shema is fulfilling the will of HaShem. One should not even wait to recite shema while donning Tefillin. Rather, he should try to don Tefillin at the first available opportunity.

Tefillah Translated and Elucidated

Lieis naasah vicheftzo kol azai melech shimo nikra, at the time when his will was brought all into being – then as ‘King’ was His Name proclaimed. This statement speaks volumes regarding HaShem’s Kingship. Hashem was not referred to as King until everything came into being. Prior to the arrival of Moshiach and the End of Days, HaShem’s Kingship, so to speak, has been concealed from the world. Why is this so? The answer to this question is because when man does not perform according to HaShem’s expectations, then he is in essence concealing HaShem’s Kinship in this world. It is noteworthy that in the High Holiday prayers, we stress the fact that HaShem will become King “once again” in the future, when the entire world will recognize HaShem and His Greatness.

Tefillah Tale

After Kol Nidrei in the Feldafing DP Camp in 1945, the Klausenberger Rebbe, Reb Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam zt”l went up to the open ark and began to speak to Hashem. The Rebbe called out the words of the Viduy, “Ashamnu, bagadnu, we have sinned, we have rebelled.” The Rebbe, in an almost accusatory fashion, asked, “Did we really rebel? Did we Heaven forbid rebel against you? Did we steal? Was there anyone to steal from in Auschwitz and in Muldorf?” The Rebbe then paused and said, “Actually, I am a thief. I once returned from the slave labor and collapsed on my bunk to rest, and my shriveled skin got caught between the two boards. Upon trying to free myself with the little strength that I had left, I tore my skin from my bones. As blood streamed out, I moaned softly. This moan was loud enough to awaken the fellow prisoner sleeping next to me. This stealing of someone else’s sleep was the only theft I committed and I confess this thievery before the Master of the World.” The Rebbe continued in this manner, enumerating all the sins mentioned in the Viduy. The Rebbe dismissed all the supposed sins of the survivors. “We did not sin willfully. We did not commit the sins listed here. This Viduy was not written for us.” The Rebbe then took the machzor that he had been holding and closed it. The congregation watching him stood in shock. After a pause, the Rebbe declared,” yet, we are guilty of sins not mentioned in the Viduy. We sinned in matters of faith and trust in HaShem. Did we not doubt HaShem because of our despair and hopelessness in the camps? We recited Shema at night with the hope that it would be our last recital, bringing an end to our despair. How many times did we ask HaShem that because we had no strength, that he should take our souls, so we would not have to recite Modeh Ani in the morning? When the sun rose and we were required to thank HaShem for returning our souls with great mercy, we were filled with anger and rage. When we removed the corpses from the barracks, were we not jealous of those lucky people who had already met their deaths? This is how we sinned. We sinned with a lack of faith and trust. We must beat our chests and confess those sins. We need to ask HaShem to restore our trust and faith in Him. ‘Trust in G-d forever.’ Trust in Him at all times, nation! Pour your hearts out before Him.”

Tefillah Test

Last week we posed the question: why is it that in certain blessings of Shemone Esrei we request of HaShem to do something for us and then we offer a reason for it, whereas in other blessings we make a request of HaShem without an explanation? An example of a blessing where we offer the reason for the request is selach lanu, where we ask HaShem to forgive us because He is a forgiving G-d. Following Nusach Ashkenaz, it appears that there are six blessings where we offer the reason for our supplication. These are 1) the blessing of selach lanu; 2) the blessing of riei vianyeinu; 3) the blessing of rifaeinu; 4) the blessing of es tzemach; 5) the blessing of shema koleinu; 6) and the blessing of sim shalom. It would seem that the common theme in these blessings is that we are facing a crisis in our life, be it physical or spiritual and we are therefore required to explain to HaShem why He should deliver us from our situation.

This week’s question is, why in the High Holiday prayers we ask HaShem al tavo bamishpat imanu, do not come with us in judgment. We are being judged, so how can we ask that HaShem not judge us? 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 8

Is sponsored by the Singerman family in Michigan

in loving memory of Reb Shlomo Tzvi ben Reb Yehudah Leib ob”m

and Reb Aharon ben Reb Shlomo Tzvi ob”m

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.

For sponsorships please call 248-506-0363.

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