Tag Archives: Kavana

The Heavenly Gates

Berachos Daf 32

ואמר רבי אלעזר: מיום שחרב בית המקדש ננעלו שערי תפלה, שנאמר: ״גם כי אזעק ואשוע שתם תפלתי״. ואף על פי ששערי תפילה ננעלו, שערי דמעה לא ננעלו, שנאמר: ״שמעה תפלתי ה׳ ושועתי האזינה אל דמעתי אל תחרש״.

On the subject of prayer, Rabbi Elazar also said: Since the day the Temple was destroyed the gates of prayer were locked and prayer is not accepted as it once was, as it is said in lamentation of the Temple’s destruction: “Though I plead and call out, He shuts out my prayer” (Lamentations 3:8). Yet, despite the fact that the gates of prayer were locked with the destruction of the Temple, the gates of tears were not locked, and one who cries before God may rest assured that his prayers will be answered, as it is stated: “Hear my prayer, Lord, and give ear to my pleading, keep not silence at my tears” (Psalms 39:13). Since this prayer is a request that God should pay heed to the tears of one who is praying, he is certain that at least the gates of tears are not locked.

What are these Gates of Tefillah and Tears? For that matter, why do we even bother praying, if the gate is locked?

Furthermore, we know that Tefillah took the place of the Korbanos. If the Korbanos ceased with the Churban and along with that, the Gates of Tefillah were locked, what is the point of the Tefillos?

Rabbeinu Bachye (Bereshis 1;18)  explains that the Tefillah is indeed in place of a Korban, however, accompanying the Korban there was always the Nisuch HaMayim, pouring of water on Mizbeach. He explains that when we are mispallel with tears, we are representing the Nisuch Hamayim. This represents the Sefira of Chesed and the Yemin, which is where the Shaarei Teshuva are. 

Rabbeinu Bachye explains further (Shemos 22,20) that for this reason one should be careful with a Ger, Yosom or Almana  as they tend to cry more, and therefore their Tefillos are heard first. 

We also see that the Shaarei Dimah and Shaarei Teshuva are perhaps the same. The Midrash in Devarim Rabba 2  tells us that while the Shaarei Tefillah are sometimes open and sometimes closed, the Shaar Teshuva is never locked, as whomever wants to do Teshuva is welcomed in. 

The Arizal teaches us (Shar Mamarei Rashbi) that the Shaarei Tefillah are in the Sefira of Binah. This was the level Moshe Rabbeinu was on when he was davening after the Cheit HaEgel. There is a lower rung where Tefillah is accepted and that is through the Sefira of Chesed, in the Shaarei Teshuva and Dimah. 

What are these Sefiros and why are some Tefillos going through the higher sphere of Binah, while others are going via Chesed?

Furthermore, we saw in the Midrash that the Shaar Tefillah is not always locked, when is it open?

The Shaarei Orah (Shaar 2 – Sefira 9) tells us that the Shaar Tefillah is always open for the Tefillos of a Tzibbur. However, for the Tefillah of a Yachid, it is not so clear cut. He goes on to give us a very vivid explanation as to the back end of a Tefillah:

There is a Tefillah quality assurance system manned by Angels, wherein every Tefillah that an individual says goes into a special Heichal and and is reviewed.  If the Tefillah is found to be befitting, it is brought up to Hashem. If it is not a proper Tefillah, it is called a Tefillah Pesula and the Tefillah and all its contents are called Pesilim. These are pushed out of the Heichal and the doors shut behind it. The Shaarei Orah explains that based on this, we find most of our Tefillos are Pesilim and as we brought up earlier, it seems they are going to waste.  He explains that all these Tefillos that were pushed away Hashem gathers them to a special place where they are kept for safekeeping. When one is Mispallel properly with the right Kavana, the Kosher Tefillah then goes up to this special place and brings along with it all the Pesilim, straight up to Hashem. 

If one does not do Teshuva and does not daven with proper Kavana, these tefilos are pushed further out and the doors to the Shaarei Teshuva are shut. 

However, there is still another door, the Shaarei Dimah. These are opened 3 times a day by Hashem Himself and when a person does Teshuva and is Mispallel with tears, his Tefillah and tears will go straight to Hashem. 

We see that the Shaarei Teshuva and Shaarei Dimah are not necessarily the same thing. The Shaarei Teshuva can close too, but the Shaarei Dimah will never close. 

Reb Tzadok takes this a step further and explains that if one is mispallel a heartfelt Tefillah, not only does it go straight to the Kisei HaKavod, but any similar Tefillah that was said by his ancestors, without proper kavana, latches on to his Tefillah to go to Hashem. The Radomsker (Tiferes Shlomo, Vayera) says similarly, that with the correct Kavana you are elevating the unfit Tefillos of your previous gilgulim. 

May we all merit to have our Tefillos brought before Hashem and answered for our best. 

Focused Prayer

Berachos Daf 30

תנו רבנן: סומא ומי שאינו יכול לכוין את הרוחות — יכוין לבו כנגד אביו שבשמים, שנאמר: ״והתפללו אל ה׳״. היה עומד בחוץ לארץ — יכוין את לבו כנגד ארץ ישראל, שנאמר: ״והתפללו אליך דרך ארצם״. היה עומד בארץ ישראל — יכוין את לבו כנגד ירושלים, שנאמר: ״והתפללו אל ה׳ דרך העיר אשר בחרת״. היה עומד בירושלים — יכוין את לבו כנגד בית המקדש, שנאמר: ״והתפללו אל הבית הזה״. היה עומד בבית המקדש — יכוין את לבו כנגד בית קדשי הקדשים, שנאמר: ״והתפללו אל המקום הזה״. היה עומד בבית קדשי הקדשים — יכוין את לבו כנגד בית הכפורת. היה עומד אחורי בית הכפורת — יראה עצמו כאילו לפני הכפורת. נמצא עומד במזרח מחזיר פניו למערב. במערב מחזיר פניו למזרח. בדרום — מחזיר פניו לצפון. בצפון — מחזיר פניו לדרום. נמצאו כל ישראל מכוונין את לבם למקום אחד.

The Sages taught in a Tosefta: A blind person and one who is unable to approximate the directions and, therefore, is unable to face Jerusalem in order to pray, may focus his heart towards his Father in Heaven, as it is stated: “And they shall pray to the Lord” (I Kings 8:44).

One who was standing in prayer in the Diaspora, should focus his heart toward Eretz Yisrael, as it is stated: “And they shall pray to You by way of their land which You have given to their fathers” (I Kings 8:48).

One who was standing in Eretz Yisrael, should focus his heart toward Jerusalem, as stated: “And they shall pray to the Lord by way of the city that You have chosen” (I Kings 8:44).

One who was standing in Jerusalem, should focus his heart toward the Temple, as it is stated: “And they shall pray toward this house” (II Chronicles 6:32).

One who was standing in the Temple, should focus his heart toward the Holy of Holies, as it is stated: “And they shall pray toward this place” (I Kings 8:35).

One who was standing in the Holy of Holies, should focus his heart toward the seat of the ark-cover [kapporet], atop the ark, the dwelling place of God’s glory.

One who was standing behind the seat of the ark-cover, should visualize himself as if standing before the ark-cover and turn toward it.

Consequently, one standing in prayer in the East turns to face west, and one standing in the West, turns to face east. One standing in the South, turns to face north, and one standing in the North, turns to face south; all of the people of Israel find themselves focusing their hearts toward one place, the Holy of Holies in the Temple.

We see there is an idea that everyone should be mispallel in the direction of the Kodesh Kedoshim. Why is it not enough just to have Kavana that we are davening to Hashem? Why do we need to physically face the direction of the Kodesh Kedoshim?

Rav Steinman Zt’l explained that one who lives in a world of gashmius, may have a hard time connecting to Hashem and the spiritual world. Therefore, he should be mispallel in a Shul, as a spiritual bubble and pray towards the ultimate center of spirituality, the Beis HaMikdash. This way he can focus and connect with Hashem during his Tefilla. We also find Chazal teach us that all the Tefillos from the whole world go up to Hashem via the Kodesh Kedoshim, therefore it is befitting that we should pray in its direction. Based on this, we can understand that when one is mispallel in the direction of the Kodesh Kedoshim, he is more focused as to Whom he is being mispallel, and will then have more Kavana.

Therefore, even if one is on a plane and does not know which direction is correct, if you have in mind that you are davening towards the Koshesh Kedoshim, it helps you focus and have proper Kavana. 

8 + 4 = 1

Day 12 – Berachos 13

תַּנְיָא סוֹמְכוֹס אוֹמֵר: כָּל הַמַּאֲרִיךְ בְּ״אֶחָד״, מַאֲרִיכִין לוֹ יָמָיו וּשְׁנוֹתָיו. אָמַר רַב אַחָא בַּר יַעֲקֹב: וּבַדָּלֵית. אָמַר רַב אָשֵׁי: וּבִלְבַד שֶׁלֹּא יַחֲטוֹף בַּחֵית.

It was taught in a baraita, Sumakhos says: One who extends his intonation of the word One [eḥad] while reciting Shema, is rewarded that his days and years are extended. Rav Aḥa bar Ya’akov said: This is only true if he extends the letter dalet, so the word eḥad is sounded in its entirety. Rav Ashi said: This is only so long as one does not pronounce the letter ḥet hurriedly.

Berachos 13 – Sefaria

 The Gemara teaches us that when saying Shema one should say the word Echad with more Kavana, especially the letter Daled and one should be careful not to swallow up the letter Ches.

We know that the Shema is our acceptance of the unity of Middas HaDin (Elokeinu)  & Middas Rachamim (Hashem). We also know that the reason to enunciate clearly the letter Daled, is to have in mind that Hashem is our God in every direction. Daled being the numerical value of 4, represents the 4 directions. 

This begs the question, why is the gemara making an extra point to make sure not to swallow the letter Ches in Echad? 

The Pnei Menachem (Vayashev) gives a fascinating explanation.

We know, Yaacov Avinu had 12 sons, 8 from Rachel & Leah and 4 from Bilha & Zilpa

The Alef represents Yaacov, The Ches represents the 8 Sehvatim from Rachel & Leah and the Daled represents the 4 Shevatim from Bilha and Zilpa.

He explains, that the 8 Shevatim did not treat the 4 children of Bilah & Zilpa properly, rather they treated them as if they were slaves, as Bilha & Zilpa were originally maidservants.  This mistreatment caused a lack of unity amongst the Shevatim and was detrimental to the concept of Echad.

Before Yaacov died he said Shema Yisrael and this was a sign that the Shevatim came back to a place of Echad. The Pnei Menachem explains that the reason we properly enunciate the Daled is to have in mind that the 4 sons of Bilha and Zilpa are just a part of Klal Yisroel as their brothers. For this same reason , we need to be careful not to swallow the Ches, as each and every one of the Shevatim was unique and we need them together in order to achieve Echad and then have true Malchus in our world.