Sunday, January 4, 2009

Tefillah: Birum Olam: Prayer stands at the Pinnacle of the World Volume I Issue 20

תפילה: ברום עולם
Tefillah: Birum Olam: Prayer stands at the Pinnacle of the World
Volume I Issue 20

Tefillah Thoughts

Man is prayer and prayer transforms a person
The Jewish world is now focused on the war that the Israeli army is waging against our sworn enemies, the terrorist group Hamas. Calls for prayer are being issued to Jews worldwide, and it is incumbent upon all of us to pray for our brethren in Israel and throughout the world. In the recent Daf Yomi, the Gemara (Bava Kama 3b) discusses the damage known as maveh. There is a debate in the Gemara as to which damage the Mishna is referring to. Rav maintains that this damage is the damage that can be inflicted by man, whereas Shmuel posits that maveh refers to the damage that an animal can inflict with its teeth. Each opinion offers support to their opinion from Scripture. It is interesting that Rav cites a verse (Yeshaya 21:12) that states amar shomeir asah voker vigam laylah im tivayun biayu shuvu eisayu, ‘Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The Watchman said, ‘Morning is coming, but also night. If you really desire it, repent and come.’ Rashi explains that Rav is merely proving from this verse that the word maveh is stated regarding man. Nonetheless, it would seem that there is an association between Rav’s opinion regarding the damage of man and this verse. Rav Shlomo Volhbe zt”l in his classic work Alei Shur writes that from this Gemara we see that the essence of man is his prayer. We also find that Dovid HaMelech writes (Tehillim 109:4) vaani sefillah, but I was prayer. Thus, the essence of man is prayer. One must wonder, however, what is man without prayer? It would appear from this Gemara that when one does not constantly engage in prayer, then he is considered a liability, and his actions and words can cause harm to himself and to his surroundings. Thus, prayer is not merely a vehicle that allows a person to be delivered from harm. Rather, prayer is the antidote for the damage known as man. It is said (Iyov 11:12) viish navuv yilaveiv viayar pereh adam yivaleid, let the hollow man acquire a heart! Let the one who is like a wild donkey be reborn as a man!. The way to become a man is by acquiring a heart. It is said (Devarim 11:13) vihayah im shomoa tishmiiu el mitzvosai asher anochi mitzaveh eschem hayom liahavah es HaShem Elokeichem uliavdo bichol livavchem uvichol nafshichem, it will be that if you hearken to My commandments that I command you today, to love HaShem, your G-d, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. The Gemara (Taanis 2a) states that when it is said with all your heart, this refers to prayer, which is referred to as the prayer of the heart. Thus, when one acquires a heart, i.e. he transforms himself into a man of prayer, he can be assured that he will be transforming himself from a donkey to the state of being a man. It is well known that the Arabs, descendants of Yishmael, are referred to as pereh adam, a wild donkey of a man (Bereishis 16:12). The commentators point out that in Hebrew, the noun usually precedes the adjective, so the Torah should have stated that Yishmael will be an adam pereh. From the fact that the Torah used the adjective before the noun, we learn that HaShem was saying that Yishmael and his descendants would essentially be donkey like and the title man would only be secondary. This thought should inspire us to use the power of prayer that HaShem has given us so we can transform our essence into a man, and through the power of prayer HaShem will bring about the downfall of our enemies.
Tefillah Teachings

Washing ones hands before praying even after having washed in the morning

If one washed his hands properly in the morning and he is not aware that his hands became soiled, since he was not focused on keeping his hands clean, he must wash them again before praying. This ruling applies even if from the time that he washed his hands until he prayed he studied Torah in between, as studying Torah is also deemed to be an interruption. However, he is not required to specifically seek out water. If he does not have water available and seeking out water will cause him to miss praying with the congregation, he should just clean his hands with anything that cleans and he should then pray with the congregation.

Tefillah Translated and Elucidated

The world is HaShem’s and He conceals Himself in it
Neelam vigam ain sof liachduso, inscrutable and infinite is His Oneness. The Sefarim write that the word olam, world, is associated with the word heelem, hidden. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 68:9) states that ain haolam mikomo ela hu mikomo shel olam, the world is not HaShem’s place. Rather, HaShem is the place of the world. Thus, it is truly amazing that despite the fact that HaShem is the place of the world, HaShem is still considered neelam, hidden

Tefillah Tale

Rav Elyashiv: 30 Minutes On Yom Kippur
When the family of Rav Elyashiv was sitting shiva for Rebbetzin Elyashiv, a Canadian Jew came to be menachem avel. He told them he came especially to be menachem avel as a sign of gratitude to Rebbetzin Elyashiv for helping his family during a painful and distressing period.
The man related that one of his daughters had veered from the path of Yiddishkeit, and abandoned every vestige of Jewish life. Eventually, she did the worst possible thing, and actually married a non-Jew. “Every effort we made to convince her that she shouldn't do this horrible thing fell on deaf ears,” said the father. He added that he felt responsible for her descent, since it happened after he decided to leave Eretz Yisrael and move to Canada because of his difficulty in earning a living.
His daughter left Canada, and moved with her husband to Switzerland. Eventually, their marriage soured, and she and her husband separated. This took place at the beginning of Chodesh Elul. Immediately after Yom Kippur, the daughter suddenly died. The Rabbanim in Switzerland refused to bury his daughter in a Jewish cemetery since for years she had lived as a non-Jew in all respects.
The father continued his story in a broken voice, “I called Rebbetzin Elyashiv and requested that she ask R' Elyashiv his opinion on the matter. R' Elyashiv asked what my daughter did on the last Yom Kippur of her life. I asked around the community in Switzerland, and I found out that she spent a half hour in shul that Yom Kippur. When Rav Elyashiv heard this, he paskened that she could be brought to kever Yisrael. The fact that she was in shul on Yom Kippur proved that her neshama was connected to the Jewish nation, and identified with the yearning for teshuvah which Yom Kippur represents.” (Aleinu Lishaleiach) [printed with permission from]
Tefillah Test

Atonement in the evening

Last week we posed the question: why do we begin the Maariv prayer with the words vihu rachum yichapeir avon, He, the Merciful One, is forgiving of iniquity? The Eitz Yosef offers two reasons for this. One reason is because in the morning and in the afternoon the two Tamid offerings were brought as an atonement, whereas in the evening there is no Tamid offering brought. It is for this reason that in lieu of the Tamid offering we recite the words vihu rachum. Alternatively, the custom was to administer lashes to sinners between Mincha and Maariv, subsequent to the sins that they had committed during the day. The lashes served as an atonement for the sinners, so they recited the words vihu rachum subsequent to administering the lashes. This recital reflected the idea that the lashes served as an atonement.

This week’s question is, why is it that when an individual prays in solitude and recites the blessing sim shalom in Shemone Esrei, does he recite the words aleinu vial kol Yisroel amecha, upon us and all of Your people Israel? It would seem more appropriate to recite the words alai vial kol Yisroel, upon me and all of Your people Israel. 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 20

is sponsored in merit
of the soldiers in Israel
who are fighting to safeguard
the Jewish People.
Hashem should allow them to be victorious and we should witness the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu,
speedily, in our days.

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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