Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tefillah: Birum Olam: Prayer stands at the Pinnacle of the World Volume I Issue 9

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

Volume I Issue 9

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 humility one should exhibit while praying.

Tefillah Thoughts

The Medrash (Tanchumah Ki Savo §1) states that Moshe foresaw that the Bais HaMikdash would be destroyed and the Jewish People would cease to offer Bikkurim, the first fruits of the Land. Moshe therefore instituted that instead of the Bais HaMikdash and the bikkurim offering, the Jewish People should pray three times a day. Regarding the offering of bikkurim it is said (Devarim 26:3) higaditi hayom laHaShem Elokecha, I declare today to HaShem, your G-d. The Gerrer Rebbe, the Imrei Emes (Ki Savo 5683), wonders what is meant by the word today, as the word today implies the person has also made this declaration in the past. The Imrei Emes writes that the humility that one demonstrates when appearing before HaShem is the declaration, similar to what Dovid HaMelech declared (Tehillim 109:4) vaani tefillah, but I was prayer. True humility is only possible, however, when the humility leads to joy. Prior to offering a sacrifice one would first have to humble himself. In a sense, when one would offer a sacrifice, he would be offering himself along with the sacrifice. It is said (Bereishis 4:4) viHevel haivi gam hu mibichoros tzono umeichelveihen vayisha HaShem el Hevel viel minchaso, and as for Hevel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and from their choicest. HaShem turned to Hevel and his offering. The Kol Simcha writes that when it is said that Hevel ‘also’ brought, it means that besides offering sacrifice, Hevel also brought himself. Kayin had a higher soul than Hevel but Kayin was lacking in humility. It is for this reason that HaShem turned to Hevel and to his offering. Thus, HaShem first turned to Hevel himself, i.e. to his prayer and his humility, as this in of itself was a sacrifice.

Tefillah Teachings

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

One who knows that he can refrain from passing gas while reciting Shema should don Tefillin prior to the blessing of Shema and recite the blessing on the Tefillin. He should then remove the Tefillin immediately after reciting Shema. One can, however, don a Tallis and recite the blessing on the Tallis before reciting the blessings of Shema. He can even wear the Tallis all day, as one can wear a Tallis even if his body is not clean.

Tefillah Translated and Elucidated

Viacharei kichlos hakol livado yimloch nora, after all has ceased to be, He, the Awesome One, will reign alone. Why do we refer to HaShem as the Awesome One with regard to the time when all will cease to exist? The Eitz Yosef posits that the words ‘after all has ceased to be’ refer to the destruction of the nations of the world because the Jewish People will never cease to exist. Thus, when the nations of the world and all the wicked people are destroyed, only the righteous from the Jewish people will remain. Hashem will then reign alone a s the Awesome One, as it is said (Tehillim 89:8) vinora al kol sivivav, and [HaShem] is awesome over all who surround Him, and the words ‘who surround Him’ allude to the righteous.

Tefillah Tale

Rabbi Avraham Aharon of Prague was the prayer-leader in the Churvah Shul in the Old City of Jerusalem. At times he was so weak that he had to sit down in a chair while leading the prayers. Nonetheless, his prayers were sweet and a pleasure to listen to. On Yom Kippur, Rabbi Avraham Aharon would pour out his heart in a way that was indescribable. His face was completely covered by his Tallis. Rabbi Avraham Aharon recited all the long piyutim (traditional hymns) by heart without even having to look inside the machzor (Yom Kippur prayer book). His enchanting singing and his overflowing heart drew many people to listen to his praying on Yom Kippur. Reb Shlomke the shammas (sexton) related that once on Yom Kippur, when Rabbi Avraham Aharon was praying at the amud (prayer-leader’s stand) with great diveikus, Reb Shlomke looked up and saw an Arab standing next to Rabbi Avraham Aharon. Reb Shlomke approached the Arab and asked him why he was in the synagogue and if he was in need of help. The Arab responded in Arabic that he was passing by on the street and when he heard this man praying, he could tell that he was truly praying to God. Therefore, the Arab felt he had to come in and listen to his prayers.

Tefillah Test

Last week we posed the question: 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? One reader answered that we know that HaShem is our King and is sitting in Judgment. Nonetheless, we request from HaShem that He please judge us with compassion, because although He is our King, He is also our Father first and foremost. We first refer to HaShem as Avinu, our Father, and then we refer to Him as Malkeinu, our King. Thus, we are declaring, “HaShem, we know that You are our King and are judging us right now. Nonetheless, we ask of You to please do not judge us with justice. Rather, judge us as Your children, with love and compassion.” The Kedushas Levi (Parshas Nitzavim) offers a novel approach to the meaning of this passage. The Kedushas Levi posits that HaShem wishes to bestow us with goodness so HaShem is, so to speak, judging Himself, and when He bestows goodness upon us, HaShem receives, so to speak, pleasure. This, then , is the meaning of the words al tavo bamishpat imanu, do not come with us in judgment. We are not asking HaShem that He should not sit in judgment. Rather, he should not judge us and He should only, so to speak, judge Himself (for further elaboration see Kedushas Levi Ibid).

This week’s question is, we recite on Friday night ufros aleinu sukkas shlomecha, and spread over us the shelter of Your peace. What is meant by shelter of peace? How does this differ from peace without a shelter? 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 9

is sponsored lizchus lirifuah shileima Brachje Ephraim ben Rivka

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.

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