Parashas Beha’aloscha

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What are we doing when we are Praying

Taste of Talmud

A chazzan was taking a very long time while leading the services in Rabbi Eliezer’s Shul. The other students complained to R’ Eliezer about the length of the prayers that day. His response was, “Were his prayers any longer than those of Moshe Rabbeinu in praying on behalf of the Jewish nation to be saved from annihilation for having committed the sin of the golden calf?” In order for his prayers to be effective at that time, Moshe Rabbeinu prayed for 40 days and 40 nights! Sometime later, R’ Eliezer’s students were startled to hear a chazzan run through the prayers extremely fast. Surprisingly, in response to his students’ complaints this time, R’ Eliezer asked them, “Were his prayers any shorter than those of Moshe Rabbeinu who said only five words on behalf of his sister; “E-l na, refa’h na lah” (G-d please heal her now) and did not even mention her name”! (Berachos 34a) Rabbi Eliezer was conveying to them an important lesson in prayer: Different situations require different kinds of prayer. The Rif in his commentary on this Gemarah says that the determining factor in these situations was the level of sin which needed to be ameliorated with prayer. The principle is: The greater the sin, the greater the level of internal development needed to be brought about through prayer. Prayer was the medium through which Moshe Rabbeinu was able to realign the connection between G-d and the Jewish nation as well as with Miriam. Hence, more time was spent in prayer rectifying the sin of the Golden Calf as its ramifications were greater.

Taste of Halacha

We have all been in situations when we did not have as much time to pray as we would have liked. What are the Halachic guidelines for determining which part of the prayers to give precedence to in such instances? The Mishna Berura delineates five aspects of prayer one must try to fulfill. 1) “Lismoch geulah lis’filah” (mention the  redemption from Egypt prior to praying). 2) Pray the Shmoneh Esrei together with the Tzibbur (congregation). 3) Pray the entire order of the prayer, “Al haseder” (in the right order) this allows for a proper flow of blessing through the “Tzinoros”, (pipes of heavenly emanation). 4) Say all of the “Birchos haShachar” (blessings of the morning). 5) Say your prayers with feeling, as our sages have taught, “Tov M’at B’kavana May’harbay Bli kavana” (it is far better to have a small amount with directed thought than a large amount without).  (See Mishna Berura to Orach Chaim 52) Based upon these principles the Piskei Teshuvos makes the following statement, “The minimum requirement for prayer is to say the Berachos of Tallis and Teffilin, Netilas Yadayim, Asher Yatzar, Elokai Neshama, Birchos Hatorah, Boruch She’amar, Ashrei and Yishtabach. Then you should say all of
the Blessings of the Shema and the Shema followed immediately by Shmoneh Esrei with the congregation. Ideally, however, Rav Shlomo Wolbe Zt”l writes, “a person should organize his day in a way in which he will be able to arrive in Shul with sufficient time to be able to say all of the prayers with proper concentration before starting the Shmoneh Esrei together with the congregation”. Alei Shur Vol. 2 page 350.

Taste of Prayer

What is prayer? Our sages teach us that it is “Avoda Sh’b’lev”, service of the heart. What is service of the heart? Rav Wolbe Zt”l tells us what it is not. It is not providing G-d a “service” that He needs. G-d does not “need” anything. Prayer is also not an opportunity to complain to G-d about what we do not have. As Jews who believe in G-d, we know that whatever we have is what is best for us. So what exactly are we doing when we are praying? Rav Wolbe explains that Prayer is the way in which we develop our relationship with G-d to a level where we perceive that we are speaking to the All-powerful Being. As we say in the first blessing of the Shmoneh Esrei, “Ha-El HaGadol HaGibor Vehanora”, G-d is the Great, Mighty and Awesome G-d. Prayer is our way of exercising our emunah (faith). G-d gave prayer the power to bring forth divine blessing in all areas. However, this is not accomplished through “complaining” about our physical or spiritual status. It is accomplished through following the order of our prayers. In so doing we attest to the fact that G-d is the source of everything in this world. This initiates the flow of blessing much as the push of a button turns on a conveyor belt in a big factory. Recognizing that G-d is the source of everything in this world leads to a proper alignment of our relationship with G-d in our lev (heart). What is a practical way to help us focus during our prayers? Rav Wolbe writes, “One who sits quietly for just one minute before he begins to pray and thinks about what he is about to do will see amazing results in the quality of his prayer”. Alei Shur Vol. 2 page 350.

Taste of Talmud

A chazzan was taking a very long time while leading the services in Rabbi Eliezer’s Shul. The other students complained to R’ Eliezer about the length of the prayers that day. His response was, “Were his prayers any longer than those of Moshe Rabbeinu in praying on behalf of the Jewish nation to be saved from annihilation for having committed the sin of the golden calf?” In order for his prayers to be effective at that time, Moshe Rabbeinu prayed for 40 days and 40 nights! Sometime later, R’ Eliezer’s students were startled to hear a chazzan run through the prayers extremely fast. Surprisingly, in response to his students’ complaints this time, R’ Eliezer asked them, “Were his prayers any shorter than those of Moshe Rabbeinu who said only five words on behalf of his sister; “E-l na, refa’h na lah” (G-d please heal her now) and did not even mention her name”! (Berachos 34a) Rabbi Eliezer was conveying to them an important lesson in prayer: Different situations require different kinds of prayer. The Rif in his commentary on this Gemarah says that the determining factor in these situations was the level of sin which needed to be ameliorated with prayer. The principle is: The greater the sin, the greater the level of internal development needed to be brought about through prayer. Prayer was the medium through which Moshe Rabbeinu was able to realign the connection between G-d and the Jewish nation as well as with Miriam. Hence, more time was spent in prayer rectifying the sin of the Golden Calf as its ramifications were greater.

About tasteofyeshiva

RABBI YAIR FRIEDMAN teaches at The Torah School of Greater Washington, and Yeshiva L' Baalei Batim. He is the owner and director of Camp Gevaldig LLC.
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