רבי אליעזר אומר כל העושה תפלתו קבע וכו׳: מאי ״קבע״? … רבה ורב יוסף דאמרי תרוייהו: כל שאינו יכול לחדש בה דבר.
We learned in the mishna that Rabbi Eliezer says: One whose prayer is fixed, his prayer is flawed. The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of fixed in this context?
Rabba and Rav Yosef both said: It refers to anyone unable to introduce a novel element, i.e., something personal reflecting his personal needs, to his prayer, and only recites the standard formula.
אמר רבי זירא: אנא יכילנא לחדושי בה מילתא, ומסתפינא דלמא מטרידנא.
Rabbi Zeira said: I could introduce a novel element in every prayer, but I am afraid that perhaps I will become confused. Consequently, there is no room to require the masses to introduce a novel element into their prayers.
What was the chiddush in the tefilla?
The Avnei Nezer (YD 454;24) explains based on Brachos 57 that it was a Tefilla to be cleansed of Chet. Rebbi Zeira, felt that there was always something that was preventing him from reaching Shleimut. Therefore, he always had what to add into his tefillos. This was akin to the Tefillos of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim, always striving to grow and purify himself more. In order to have a flawless prayer, one needs to be able to recognize his own flaws. However, due to Rebbi Zeira’s righteousness, he was afraid he would become confused and off track. Therefore, Rebbi Zeira stopped adding these Tefillos.
איתמר, רבי יוסי ברבי חנינא אמר: תפלות אבות תקנום… אברהם תקן תפלת שחרית, שנאמר: ״וישכם אברהם בבקר אל המקום אשר עמד שם״, ואין ״עמידה״ אלא תפלה, שנאמר: ״ויעמד פינחס ויפלל״.
Abraham instituted the morning prayer, as it is stated“And Abraham rose early in the morning to the place where he had stood” (Genesis 19:27), andstanding means nothing other than prayer, as this language is used to describe Pinehas’s prayer after the plague, as it is stated: “And Pinehas stood up and prayed and the plague ended” (Psalms 106:30).
יצחק תקן תפלת מנחה, שנאמר ״ויצא יצחק לשוח בשדה לפנות ערב״, ואין ״שיחה״ אלא תפלה, שנאמר ״תפלה לעני כי יעטף ולפני ה׳ ישפך שיחו״.
Isaac instituted the afternoon prayer, as it is stated: “And Isaac went out to converse [lasuaḥ] in the field toward evening” (Genesis 24:63), and conversation means nothing other than prayer, as it is stated: “A prayer of the afflicted when he is faint and pours out his complaint [siḥo] before the Lord” (Psalms 102:1).
יעקב תקן תפלת ערבית, שנאמר: ״ויפגע במקום וילן שם״, ואין ״פגיעה״ אלא תפלה, שנאמר: ״ואתה אל תתפלל בעד העם הזה ואל תשא בעדם רנה ותפלה ואל תפגע בי״
Jacob instituted the evening prayer, as it is stated: “And he encountered [vayifga] the place and he slept there for the sun had set” (Genesis 28:11). The word encounter means nothing other than prayer, as it is stated when God spoke to Jeremiah: “And you, do not pray on behalf of this nation and do not raise on their behalf song and prayer, and do not encounter [tifga] Me for I do not hear you” (Jeremiah 7:16).
Berachos 26 – Sefaria
We see from the Gemara above that we learn the concept of Tefila from the Avos. It is interesting that although the conclusive proof is that the Avos indeed prayed to God, there are three different terms for their three different prayers.
What are the different terminologies for?
Rav Kook explains that these 3 terminologies are reflective of 3 different components to our Tefilla.
He explains that the key concept of prayer is the gathering together of all the spiritual elements within a person, that would otherwise be lost in our world of materialism. Prayer enroots these spiritual elements to create a strong connection to the Creator of the world. In the event that one is caught up in other things and is sinking in his Ruchnius, those deeply rooted spiritual elements will keep him afloat.
As morning is when one is getting ready for a day of work and other activities, it is a crucial time to make sure your spiritual roots are intact ready for the day ahead. This is called Amida, to stand, as it is helping you to stand tall spiritually.. This is also reflective of Avraham, who as the founder of Monotheism, was able to withstand all the trials and tribulations that came his way.
Sicha, this name for Tefilla shares its name with Sichim, the trees and flowers of the natural world. Sichim are called this as they sprout up and instill new emotional energies into a person. Mincha takes place towards evening, when a person is worn down from a long day and the soul can then thrive in its best habitat. Also, hiis natural spiritual energies kick in to help him thrive in his Avodas Hashem and add more and more to his “tree”. Rav Kook explains that this growth process is the root of Middas HaDin, which is what keeps nature going in its correct path. Yitzchak represents Middas HaDin, therefore it is appropriate that he should compose this Tefila about the natural aspect of our spiritual growth.
There is also a higher element of Tefila, in which through that, a person can connect to Hashem in more advanced ways; perhaps even reaching the level of prophecy. This is referred to as Tefillat Leila. This is also called Pegiya, as one is going off the chartered path of Nature, or Din and stumbling into new realms which are beyond the grasp of one’s simple intellect. This is reflective of Yaacov who had a vision with a ladder and angels going up and down after he found himself at Har HaMoriyah and is most appropriate for nighttime.
Withstand all that comes before you
Take what you have and grow from it
This may also explain the opinion that one is not obligated to say Arvit, as it is just a Reshus. Tefilla is to help foster a spiritual firewall to protect you from slipping into too much materialism. Per this explanation of Rav Kook, this is accomplished during Shacharit to plant the roots and in Mincha to sprout upwards and bear fruits. Arvit is a higher level, beyond our comprehension, of reaching beyond the treetops. For this, it is not a Chovah to reach so high, rather it is a Reshus.
And Rabba bar Ḥinnana Sava said in the name of Rav: Anyone who can ask for mercy on behalf of another, and does not ask is called a sinner, as it is stated following Samuel’s rebuke of the people: “As for me, far be it from me that I should transgress against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you, but I will teach you the good and the right way” (I Samuel 12:23). Had Samuel refrained from prayer, he would have committed a sin.
Berachos 12b – Sefaria
The Gemara tells us that anybody who is able to pray on behalf of another should do so. One can ask – why doesn’t the Gemara simply say that one should pray on behalf of others, and if one is unable to, its ok. Why the seemingly extra words of “Anyone who can ask”?
Rav Steinman Zt’l explained so beautifully, that when it comes to interpersonal relationships, many times one has in his or her heart a grudge or feeling of jealousy against another. A prayer for someone that you bear a grudge against, is not considered a wholehearted prayer and is not necessarily answered.
Therefore, he explains, the Gemara says that only one who is able to pray wholeheartedly and drop any grudges against the other, should pray for his friend.