Volume I Issue 3
In this series we will be exploring the meaning of prayer, and more specifically, of how to pray. In this issue we will examine what we should be praying for.
What is it that we are supposed to be praying for? It is said (Shemos 20:20) lo saasun iti elohei chesef veilohei zahav lo saasun lachem, you shall not make [images of what is] with Me; gods of silver and gods of gold shall you not make for yourselves. Rabbeinu Bachye (Ibid) interprets this verse homiletically as follows: HaShem is saying to us that when you are iti¸ with Me, i.e. when you are engaged in prayer, elohei chesef veilohei zahav lo saasun lachem, you shall not be thinking of your gold and silver. It would appear from the words of Rabbeinu Bachye that when one prays, he should not be focused on his materialistic needs. Rather, one should focus on the glory of HaShem. This idea requires clarification, as the Gemara (Shabbos 10a) contrasts Torah study and prayer by stating that Torah study is deemed to be chaye olam, pursuit of eternal life, whereas prayer is deemed to be chaye shaah, concerns of the transitory life. Rashi explains that studying Torah brings one to the World to Come, whereas one prays so that eh can obtain his needs in the world, such as health, peace and livelihood. It would seem, then, that the main function of prayer is for ones material needs and not for HaShem’s glory. Next week we will G-d willing reconcile these two apparently contradictory ideas.
The Halacha section is based on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch with the final rendition of the Mishna Berurah.
It is written (Koheles 4:17) shimor raglecho kaasher teilech el Bais HaElokim, guard your foot when you go to the House of G-d. The Gemara (Brachos 23a) interprets the word raglecho to be referring to the need for one to relieve himself. Thus, one should check himself prior to praying to see if he needs to relieve himself. One who feels even the slightest urge to relieve himself is prohibited from praying. One is forbidden to study Torah when he feels the need to relieve himself, and certainly one is prohibited to recite Shema and blessings until he cleans himself. This applies even if he does not have such a great need to relieve himself and subsequently he will not violate the prohibition of baal tishaktzu (refraining from relieving ones self is deemed to be an abomination). Nonetheless, he is prohibited to engage in Torah study and prayer if he cannot hold himself back the measure of a parsah (4 mil, which is the equivalent of walking for seventy-two minutes). If he can wait the distance it would take to walk a parsah, then he would be permitted to recite Shema but he would still be prohibited from reciting Shemone Esrei. The Shaarei Teshuvah, however, is stringent even in such a case. One who teaches Torah to the masses or is lecturing to a group and feels the need to relieve himself is permitted to refrain from relieving himself, as the prohibition of baal tishaktzu is only rabbinic in nature, and this prohibition is superseded by the concept of kavod habriyos, dignity of HaShem’s creations.
Tefillah Translated and Elucidated
Vaani birov chasdecho avo veisecho eshtachaveh el heichal kodshecha biyirosecho, but I, through Your abundant kindness I will enter Your house; I will prostrate myself toward Your Holy Sanctuary in awe of You. In this verse (Tehillim 5:8) Dovid HaMelech declares that the only manner in which one can enter before HaShem is through HaShem’s kindness. Every second that we exist is through HaShem’s kindness. It is said (Iyov 41:3) mi hikdimani vaashaleim tachas kol hashamayim li hu, whoever anticipated Me, I can reward him, for whatever is under all the heavens is mine! The Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 27:2) states that HaShem declares: “who praised Me prior to My giving him a soul, and who praised My Name prior to My giving him a son, who made a fence for his roof prior to My giving him a roof etc.” Thus, we must acknowledge that even our ability to enter a house of prayer to praise HaShem is only because HaShem gave us the ability to do so. Alternatively, we say that we enter HaShem’s house with abundant kindness, and the Zohar states that one should not enter the House of Prayer until he takes counsel from the Patriarchs, as the word chasdecho, kindness, reflects Avraham, eshtachaveh el heichal kodshecha, I will prostrate myself toward Your Holy Sanctuary, reflects Yitzchak, and the words biyirosecho, in awe of You, reflects Yaakov.
The children were the first to notice his absence. Perhaps it was the lack of candies that he customarily gave out to the children which caused them to worry about him and to inquire about his absence. The elderly candy man had been a fixture at the shul in
Last week we posed the question: In the Tefillah of Vihu Rachum we recite the words (Daniel 9:17) vihaseir panecho al mikdoshco hashameim limaan Ado-nai, and let Your countenance shine upon Your desolate Sanctuary, for the Lord’s sake. What is another possible interpretation for the word Ado-nai here? The Yaavetz in his Siddur writes that the word Ado-nai refers to Avraham, who referred to HaShem as Ado-nai, and publicized HaShem as the Master of the world.
This week’s question is, 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? If you have a possible answer, please email me at BirumOlam@gmail.com 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 3
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Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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