Tag Archives: Tefilla

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. 

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.

Does it Snow in Hell?

Day 14 – Berachos 15

אָמַר רַבִּי חָמָא בְּרַבִּי חֲנִינָא: כָּל הַקּוֹרֵא קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע וּמְדַקְדֵּק בְּאוֹתִיּוֹתֶיהָ מְצַנְּנִין לוֹ גֵּיהִנָּם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״בְּפָרֵשׂ שַׁדַּי מְלָכִים בָּהּ תַּשְׁלֵג בְּצַלְמוֹן״ — אַל תִּקְרֵי ״בְּפָרֵשׂ״ אֶלָּא ״בְּפָרֵשׁ״, אַל תִּקְרֵי ״בְּצַלְמוֹן״ אֶלָּא ״בְּצַלְמָוֶת״.

On this same topic, Rabbi Ḥama, son of Rabbi Ḥanina, said: Anyone who recites Shema and is punctilious in enunciating its letters, Gehenna is cooled for him, as it is stated: “When the Almighty scatters [befares] kings over it, it will snow in Tzalmon” (Psalms 68:15). Do not read befares, When He scatters, but befaresh, When he enunciates. When one enunciates the name of God with precision, God will fulfill the verse: It will snow in Tzalmon, on his behalf. Do not read beTzalmon, in Tzalmon, but betzalmavet, in the shadow of death, a reference to Gehenna. As reward for enunciating God’s name precisely, God will cool Gehenna for him.

Berachos 15 – Sefaria

The Gemara discusses the importance of not swallowing up the words in Shema and the importance of saying each word clearly. The Gemara then goes on to say that anyone who says each word slowly and clearly, Gehinnom will be cooler for them.

I found this difficult to understand, if one is saying every word of Shema clearly, he is presumably a Tzadik. So why is he going to Gehennom?

The Tzlach (Rav Yechezkel Landau, popularly known by his more famous work – Noda B’Yehuda) and the Gra (Imrei Noam) explain that this does not mean that it will be colder for Reshaim in hell. Rather, Tzaddikim go to Gehennom on their way to Gan Eden to take out any Jewish Reshaim that may be there, while there they suffer a little for the sake of the Rasha. This suffering is alleviated due to their slow pronunciation of the Shema. This concept is also found in the writings of the Arizal (Pri Eitz Chaim – Krias Shema Perek 3

(This may explain the tradition that Reb Nachman of Breslov said he will pull his Chassidim out of gehennom by their payos – Chayei Moharan #122) 

Even Sheleima – An Overview

Even Sheleima

Even Sheleima is a compendium of the teachings of the Vilna Gaon put together by his Talmid Rav Shmuel Meltzen. The Sefer goes through the process of the intellect of Judaism and takes one on a journey beginning with the discussion of how to break bad middos, and continuing with ideas to increase Avodas HaShem and battling the Yetzer Hara. He then brings us to understand Yirah and Ahava and fulfilling the Mitzvos HaTorah. Once we have this down pat, he discusses raising children, Tefillah and learning Torah. He winds down down with a discussion of reward and punishment and the purification process needed to enter Gan Eden. The last chapter discusses Inyanei HaGeula.

A Teaching – Every passing day a person has a Neshama Yeseira and that gives us additional ruach haKodesh. On Shabbos we get additional Chochma to understand that which we learned (wth the Ruach Hakodesh of the week) in a deeper way.

This sefer is available in both Hebrew and English versions.
The Hebrew version can be purchased here
The English version can be purchased here