Study Notes on Jewish Prayer
3-What do we pray for? Pray for the stock market, the horse race? How do we know what we are supposed to pray for?
הַצּוֹעֵק לְשֶׁעָבַר, הֲרֵי זוֹ תְּפִלַּת שָׁוְא. כֵּיצַד. הָיְתָה אִשְׁתּוֹ מְעֻבֶּרֶת, וְאָמַר, יְהִי רָצוֹן שֶׁתֵּלֵד אִשְׁתִּי זָכָר, הֲרֵי זוֹ תְּפִלַּת שָׁוְא. הָיָה בָא בַדֶּרֶךְ וְשָׁמַע קוֹל צְוָחָה בָּעִיר, וְאָמַר יְהִי רָצוֹן שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיוּ אֵלּוּ בְּנֵי בֵיתִי, הֲרֵי זוֹ תְּפִלַּת שָׁוְא
one who cries over the past, behold this is a vain prayer. How so? If his wife was pregnant and he says, “May it be his will that my wife bear a male child,” this is a vain prayer. If he is coming home from a journey and he hears a cry of distress in the town and says, “May it be his will that this is not be those of my house,” this is a vain prayer. Mishna Berakhot 9:3 ( Explanation of Bartenura: What has happened, has happened!).
4-Are we commanded to pray? Voo shteyt es geschrieben? Find me the line in the entire Bible where it says you are commanded to pray! ( Implied but not explicit).
5. Why pray at a fixed time? Shacharit, Micha , Maariv- Avraham- Yizthak-Yaakov
Fixed and spontaneous
Tefilah- is “Keva”- Fixed. Before, after meals, Amidah-fixed text. Fixed time- Shacharit, Minha, Maariv. Tachanunim can not be fixed( although it is in the prayerbook)
But, Rabbis say: Do not make your prayer fixed but make it a supplication( tachanunim).( Pirke Avot)
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel writes of his coming to Berlin as a young student, an ordained Chasidic Rabbi, who has gone to the realm of the goyim, Berlin, the Berlin of Cabaret and intellect. overwhelmed by the glory of such an intellectual society. Then the sun is setting, and he is broken out of his revelry by the realization that it is time to stop and daven mincha. Was he in the mood? No! Then why daven, why not wait till the mood strikes him. And he realizes that the mood may never strike him if he waits for it, but if he begins to daven, he might come to the mood, to the spirit.
Opposite approach: Rosenzweig’s approach was subjective also in connection with the mitzvot, Jewish observances. He did think that he would one day become a fully observant Jew, but believed in the gradual approach in which the observances slowly made their impact by “ringing a bell” for him. Typical of this approach is Rosenzweig’s answer to someone who asked him whether he wore tefillin [phylacteries]: “Not yet,” he replied.
But, Heschel is a Chasid at heart and Chasidic masters never davened on time- Does the Holy One wear a watch?
4. What is the nature of our prayer. All is opposites
Tefilah and Tachanunim. Two opposites.
Tefilah- from root ” pll”- judgement-one is in judgement. One is claiming what is justly his-her? One is putting oneself in judgement before the Holy One. One is critical of one self.
“ natan baplilim” (brought him to court)," lifnei haelohim"-to the judges. Elohim, the word for God, is the same word for " judges".
The Amidah is” Hatefilah”, The Prayer, par excellence, as it encompasses the key concepts of Judaism.
Tachanumin- Just the opposite- from “ Chen”, find favor. A Pleading- My case can’t stand in court. judgement has failed- plea for mercy.
Tachanun is classic example- Elohai neztor at the end of the Amidah is a brief example. Tachanun of the weekday morning service is a long, formalized example.
Public and Private- Tzibur and Yachid
Prayer may be said in private. It’s a personal affair. The ancient rabbis would stand in a quiet spot, in front of a wall ( long before The Wall, the Kotel).
Prayer is best said in public- in a Minyan-10.Kaddish, Barchu, Torah reading. Concept of kiddush Hashem—if it’s a secret, its no kiddush!
Fear & Anxiety-That motivates tachanunim . Also in Psalms
But also Joy & Awe- To some extent- Tefilah (awe), Psalms, especially those in the prayer book
Two other complimentary dimensions:
Brachah-Hamotzi & Shechechyanu
and Hodayah ( Thanksgiving)- Hallel,
So, let’s look at these issues from the texts- how we started, how we evolved, how we answered these issues in all ages.
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