Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tefillah: Birum Olam: Prayer stands at the Pinnacle of the World Volume I Issue 6

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

Volume I Issue 6

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

The Rebbe Reb Meilech from Lizhensk writes in his Tzetel Katan that one should accustom himself to pray with all his strength and with a voice that arouses concentration. This will enable one to attach his thoughts to his words. Furthermore, one should face the wall and look inside the Siddur, morning and evening, and he should not look to the side from the beginning of prayer until the end. When the Chazan repeats the Shemone Esrei, one should look inside the Siddur and answer Amen to every blessing with all his strength. When the Torah is being read, one should make the effort to hear every word from the one reading as if he was listening to the reading of the Megillah on Purim. One should make himself like a mute person when he is inside the shul, both before praying and afterward until he leaves shul and goes home.

Tefillah Teachings

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

If the Shliach Tzibur, the one who leads the prayers, needs to relieve himself before repeating the Shemone Esrei, if he can refrain himself for the time it takes to walk a parsah (seventy-two minutes), he can do so. The reason for this is because one who prays in such a situation, his prayer is valid, and there is also the issue of kavod habiriyos, dignity of a person involved. Thus, even those who normally rule stringently in such a situation, will be lenient in the case of the Shliach Tzibur. If, however, he would not be able to refrain himself for the time it takes to walk a parsah, then all agree that his prayer is deemed to be an abomination. If one is supposed to read the Sefer Torah and he suddenly needs to relieve himself, he can certainly read the Torah and the reading is valid. One who began to read and then felt a need to relieve himself can certainly complete the reading.

Tefillah Translated and Elucidated

Vaani sifilosi lecho hashed eis ratzon Elokim birov chasdecho aneini biemes yishecho, as for me, may my prayer to You, HaShem, be at an opportune time; O G-d, in Your abundant kindness, answer me with the truth of Your salvation. One must wonder why Dovid HaMelech asks HaShem that his prayer should be at an opportune time. Should not one pray as much as possible, and hope that HaShem will eventually answer his prayers? Why is it critical that one pray at the opportune time? There is a fascinating explanation of this verse from the Tiferes Shlomo. It is said (Shemos 14:14) HaShem yilacheim lachem viatem tacharishun, HaShem shall make war for you and you shall remain silent. The Tiferes Shlomo writes that when one places the focus of his prayers on the distress that the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, feels, so to speak, in exile, then it is vaani sifilosi lecho HaShem, as for me, may my prayer to You, HaShem. When one prays in such a manner it is eis ratzon, an opportune time, as it is the will of HaShem to benefit His creations, and when the Jewish People are in a state of distress, HaShem Himself, so to speak, feels their pain. This is what Moshe told the Jewish people at the Sea: “HaShem shall make war for you, as the essence of the war is for HaShem’s honor, and you shall remain silent, i.e. as for your distress, you shall remain silent.

Tefillah Tale

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: In the early 1980s my grandfather Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, of blessed memory, suffered an angina attack, and his doctor strongly recommended that he undergo an angiogram, a difficult and sometimes dangerous procedure for a man that age. At the time my younger brother, Reb Zvi, was a student at the Ponovez Yeshiva in Binei Brak. In addition to his own prayers on behalf of our grandfather, he immediately decided to approach his Rosh Yeshiva HaGaon Rabbi Eliezer Menachem Shach with a request to pray for Reb Yaakov's welfare. In Jewish tradition, when you pray for the welfare of an individual, you identify the intended party by mentioning him or her together with his or her mother’s name. Thus Moshe our teacher’s name would be Moshe ben Yocheved (Moshe the son of Yocheved). My brother knew he had to present Rav Shach with his grandfather's name, Yaakov, and the name of Reb Yaakov's mother. That was no easy feat, my brother Zvi had no clue of her name. Moreover, at the time of the angina attack, Reb Yaakov was over 90 years old, and in excellent health. Zvi could not recall a time where he had mentioned our grandfather's name in the Mishebairach for the sick. He simply was embarrassed to approach Rav Shach without Reb Yaakov's mother's name, so he went on a search expedition through Bnei Brak attempting to contact people who would know the name of Reb Yaakov's mother. Visiting at the homes of second-cousins and other relatives, my brother inquired. No one knew. Finally, a nephew of Rav Yaakov who lived in Bnei Brak told my brother that Rav Yaakov’s mother was named Etka. Armed with the information and an update on my grandfather’s condition, he approached the home of Rav Shach. The elderly sage invited my brother into his sparsely furnished dining room and asked him to take a seat. The elderly Rosh Yeshiva sat by a wooden table that stood directly under a large bulb illuminating the tomes that lay opened in front of him. The Rosh Yeshiva looked up from the Talmudic passage he was contemplating and smiled toward my brother. He knew my brother and his lineage and asked him how he was feeling. Then he inquired about his grandfather, Reb Yaakov. My brother turned white. “That is exactly why I came,” he stammered. Immediately Rav Shach’s face filled with consternation. My brother continued, “you see, my grandfather was not feeling well and must undergo a procedure. I came to inform the...” Rav Shach jumped up from his chair and exclaimed: “we must say a special prayer for Reb Yaakov ben Etka (Yaakov the son of Etka)!” My brother stood opened-mouthed and could not contain himself. “Rebbe,” he began meekly. “The last 12 hours I have been trying to find out my grandmother’s name in order to present it to the Rosh Yeshiva. Now I see that the Rosh Yeshiva knows the name of my great-grandmother. How is that? Rav Shach explained. “Years ago your grandfather visited Eretz Yisrael. After meeting him I asked him for his mother’s name. I could not imagine a Jewish world without a healthy Reb Yaakov, and there is not a single day that goes by that I do not say a special prayer for his welfare!” [Reprinted with permission from]

Tefillah Test

Last week we posed the question: 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? In Otzar HaTefillos, the Eitz Yosef writes that that the words vial kol maasav refers to the nations of the world. Thus, we are declaring that in the future HaShem will reign over us and over the nations of the world. I would like to suggest that perhaps this is the reason why we mention the words vial kol maasav at the end of the prayer, as in this way we distinguish between the Jewish People and the rest of the world.

This week’s question is, in the blessing of Teshuvah in Shemone Esrei, we recite the words hashiveinu avinu lisorasecho vikarveinu malkeinu laavodasecho vihachazireinu bisshuvah shileima lifanecho, bring us back, our Father, to Your Torah, and bring us near, our King, to Your service, and influence us to return in perfect repentance before You. Why do we first beseech HaShem to return to His Torah and bring us close to His service, and only at the end do we request that HaShem influence us to repent? It would seem that one should first repent and then he can study Torah and perform HaShem’s service. 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 6

Is sponsored by Moshe and Betty Gasner in loving memory of Betty’s father,

Aryeh Leib ben Dovid ob”m, niftar the 18th of Elul

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.

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