Tag Archives: Spirituality

The Three Components of Tefilla According to Rav Kook

Berachos Daf 26

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), and standing 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. 

AvrahamAmidaShacharit
YitzchakSiachMincha
YaacovVaYifgaArvit

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.

AvrahamAmidaShacharitWithstand all that comes before you
YitzchakSiachMinchaTake what you have and grow from it
YaacovVaYifgaArvitReach Higher

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.

The Holy Glow of Rav Yochanan

Day 4. Berachos 5 


The Gemara relates a story

Rav Yochanan went to visit Rav Eliezer, who was sick. Rav Yochanan noticed that the room was very dark. Rav Yochanan proceeded to lift up his sleeve and the room filled with light. Rav Eliezer, however, immediately started to cry. Rav Yochanan tried to comfort Rav Eliezer while trying to understand why his friend was crying. Eventually Rav Eliezer told him I am crying over the beauty of your arm which will be decomposed in the earth. Rav Yochanan responded – This is something worthy of crying about and they both started crying together. 

Berachos 5

What is going on here?
Why is Rav Yochanan lifting up his sleeve to bring light into the house, just open the window?
Why is his arm even producing light?
Finally, why are these two great Sages crying over the eventual decomposition of Rav Yochanan?

The Meforshim explain as follows: The more pure and holy a person is, the more he shines, this is why we see the faces of Tzaddikim have a special glow. However, this glow is only for this world as it is on our physical bodies. Once there is Techiyas HaMeisim our bodies will return to how they were in this world. In the meantime, the shine of holiness stays inside the ground and is no longer revealed.

The seforim further teach us that the dirt of the ground is the secret of the future. We build and plant on the ground, as we look forward to the future.  Rav Eliezer was crying because he was thinking about the times of Mashiach in the future, when the holiness of Rav Yochanan will once again be revealed. 

Regarding why he was crying even though Rav Yochanan was still alive  – the meforshim explain that Rav Yochanan came from a family from Yerushalayim known for their beauty, and seeing his arm, reminded Rav Eliezer of Yerushalayim and he was crying over the Churban. Another explanation is that Rav Eliezer knew that this beauty of Rav Yochanan was similar to the beauty of Adam HaRishon, who brought the concept of death to the world and therefore he cried. 

Regarding why he picked up his sleeve – The meforshim explain based on the Yerushalmi that during the winter months, Rav Yochanan suffered from headaches and he only put tefillin on his arm. Rav Eliezer was crying over the light that glows on a person from the mitzvos that he does. However once a person dies, he no longer has the opportunity to reach this level of wholesomeness. 

May we all merit to this special glow of the tzaddikim. 

Based on Ayin Eliyahu; Semichas Chachamim; Maharsha, Imrei Daas & Maggid Taaluma