Rosh Hashana- The Power of Shofar

We find an allusion to the Misva of Shofar in Parashat Nisavim, where the Torah warns, “Pen Yesh Bachem Shoresh Poreh Rosh Ve’la’ana” – “Lest there is among you a root of evil of rebellion” (Debarim 29:17). The first letters of the phrase, “Shoresh Poreh Rosh Ve’la’ana” are “Shin,” “Peh,” “Resh” and “Vav” – the letters of the word “Shofar.”

This allusion is very significant, as it expresses the unique power and impact of the Shofar blowing – namely, its ability to eliminate the “root” of evil within us. Before Adam’s sin in Gan Eden, evil was separate from good; the human being was pure and good, and evil existed outside of him. But as a result of Adam’s partaking from the forbidden tree, evil became ingrained within him, and since then, the good and evil inside us struggle with one another. The Shofar blowing, however, has the power to subdue the force of evil inside of us, so we can once again become perfectly good and pure. It eliminates the “Shoresh Poreh Rosh Ve’lana’a” – the “root of evil and rebellion” from which sin grows.

This power of the Shofar sound is expressed in the number of sounds that we blow. The primary obligation of Shofar blowing requires blowing thirty sounds, which we do before Musaf. We blow additional sounds during Musaf, but the primary obligation is fulfilled through the first thirty sounds. The reason for the thirty sounds is because the Torah mentions three times the obligation to sound a “Teru’a,” and the Sages inferred from the text that every Teru’a must be preceded and followed by a Teru’a. Therefore, in principle, we should blow nine Shofar sounds – blowing three times a series of Teki’a, Teru’a, and another Teki’a. However, the Talmud records three different opinions as to what the Torah means by the word “Teru’a.” One view maintains that this refers to what we call a Teru’a – a series of very short sounds – whereas another opinion is that it means a Shebarim – three medium-sized sounds. According to the third view, the Biblical term Teru’a refers to a combination of a Shebarim and Teru’a (“Shebarim-Teru’a”). In order to satisfy all three opinions, we blow all three Teru’a sounds. It thus emerges that we blow thirty sounds: three sets of Teki’a-Shebarim-Teru’a-Teki’a (3X4=12); three sets of Teki’a-Shebarim-Teki’a (3X3=9); and three sets of Teki’a- Teru’a-Teki’a (3X3=9) – for a total of 30 (12+9+9).

The Gemara establishes that the Teru’a sound – however it is defined – must be at least the length of nine “Trumitin” – brief sounds. Moreover, the Teki’a must be the same length as the Teru’a. As such, when we blow thirty Shofar sounds, we blow 270 Trumitin (30X9). This number is the Gematria (numerical value) of the word “Ra” – “evil.” By blowing these 270 sounds, we subdue the forces of “Ra” within us so our innate goodness can prevail.

Of course, our primary intention when we hear the Shofar is to fulfill the Torah obligation to hear the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. However, we should be aware of the fact that there are many profound ideas and powers associated with this previous Misva, and that it gives us the spiritual strength that we need to subjugate our evil inclination and allow the goodness within us to shine.

Through the Righteous

Hashem Does Not Bring About Failure Through the Righteous

The Gemara (Chullin 7a) recounts an incident where Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair travelled to a certain hotel and the innkeeper brought some barley for the rabbi’s donkey. The donkey, however, did not want to eat. They proceeded to sift and clean the barley by removing all of its waste but the donkey would still not eat. Rabbi Pinchas asked them, “Did you possibly not tithe the barley?” They immediately tithed the barley and the donkey finally ate. Rabbi Pinchas told them, “This poor animal (the donkey) is on its way to perform the will of its Creator and you wish to feed it untithed produce?”

Our Sages derived from here that if one is truly righteous and is always careful not to consume any food that is even doubtfully forbidden, Hashem will aid this individual so that he not fail in these areas at all. Hashem will even prevent failure through the animal of such an individual (for it was forbidden to feed one’s animal such untithed produced).

The Gemara (Gittin 7a) quotes the Mishnah (Shabbat 34a) which states, “One must inquire about three things in one’s home on Erev Shabbat shortly before sunset: ‘Have you tithed? Have you established the Eruv? Light the candles!’” Rabba bar Bar Chana explains that one must inquire about these issues in a calm manner just as one must be calm regarding all other things that he brings to the attention of one’s household in order for one’s words to have the desired effect and cause the members of the household to want to do them. Rabbi Avhu adds that “one should never instill excessive fear in one’s household for Rabbi Chanina ben Gamliel instilled excessive fear in his household and as a result, he almost transgressed the prohibition of consuming meat torn off of a live animal.”

Rashi explains that once, Rabbi Chanina ben Gamliel’s servants slaughtered an animal and one of its body parts were lost; because they were so frightened that their master would be angry that they lost a piece of meat, they took a piece of non-kosher meat and put it in the pace of the missing piece. Rabbi Chanina ben Gamliel was spared this transgression from Heaven as he was notified that the meat was non-kosher, for Hashem does not bring about failure even through the animals of the righteous and certainly not through the righteous themselves.

The Tosafot quote Rabbeinu Tam’s explanation of this matter that this does not mean to say that the righteous will never sin, for we find several places throughout the Talmud that great luminaries transgressed all kinds of sins. Rather, this means that if one is righteous, Hashem shall protect him from transgressing prohibitions related to forbidden foods, for consuming forbidden foods is a truly shameful sin, for this will cause the flesh of the righteous individual to become one entity with the forbidden foods he has eaten. Thus, this promise that Hashem does not bring about failure through the righteous only applies to eating related prohibitions.

We have heard Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l quote the words of the saintly Ari z”l that one who is careful regarding Chametz on Pesach is guaranteed not to sin the entire year. Maran zt”l recounted that once, the mother of Hagaon Rabbeinu Akiva Eiger questioned this, for we find many great Torah scholars who are meticulous regarding the prohibitions of Chametz and they nevertheless transgress various sins. Hagaon Rabbi Akiva Eiger answered that the words of the Ari z”l are similar to the words of our Sages in that one who is careful regarding Chametz is guaranteed not to transgress any eating related prohibitions throughout the year but this does not mean one will not sin throughout the year at all.

Maran zt”l adds based on the words of Rabbeinu Nissim that when our Sages promise that one will not sin, this only applies when the sinner is not at fault, i.e. Hashem only protects the righteous, those who are careful regarding Chametz, etc. only from incidents that are not in the individual’s control. However, if the person is slightly at fault, such as if one enters a restaurant that is not under the best Kashrut supervision, one will not merit divine protection and it is possible that one will transgress even sins of forbidden food consumption.

Based on this, Rabbeinu Nissim explains that the reason why King Solomon failed at the end of his life and his wives were able to lead his heart astray was because he tried to outsmart the Torah’s commandment of a king not marrying too many wives, for he claimed, “I will marry many wives and my heart shall not stray from Hashem!” At the end, his wives did indeed lead his heart astray. However, regarding matters about which one is not at fault at all and when one is careful with all his actions, such as the incident with Rabbi Chanina ben Gamliel, Hashem shall protect the individual from all failure.

Understanding Torah

Reb Yochanan Sofer writes that he remembers when he began to attend to his grandfather Reb Shimon Sofer zt”l for several hours during the day, the remaining hours that he utilized for learning were tremendously productive. In only a short period of time, he was able to understand the depths of the Gemora and the Rishonim; something that would normally have taken him days on end. This matter astounded him until he found that which the Chasam Sofer wrote: One who gazes at his Rebbe will merit a pure understanding of Torah. This can be derived from the possuk in Yeshaya [30:20]: And your eyes shall see your teacher. This is the explanation of our Gemora: Rabbi Chiya bar Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: If a teacher prevents his student from serving him, it is as if he is withholding kindness from him. The greatest kindness that a teacher can grant to his student is the ability to grasp the intricacies and greatness of Torah.

Understanding Torah

Reb Yochanan Sofer writes that he remembers when he began to attend to his grandfather Reb Shimon Sofer zt”l for several hours during the day, the remaining hours that he utilized for learning were tremendously productive. In only a short period of time, he was able to understand the depths of the Gemora and the Rishonim; something that would normally have taken him days on end. This matter astounded him until he found that which the Chasam Sofer wrote: One who gazes at his Rebbe will merit a pure understanding of Torah. This can be derived from the possuk in Yeshaya [30:20]: And your eyes shall see your teacher. This is the explanation of our Gemora: Rabbi Chiya bar Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: If a teacher prevents his student from serving him, it is as if he is withholding kindness from him. The greatest kindness that a teacher can grant to his student is the ability to grasp the intricacies and greatness of Torah.

The Ten Days of Repentance

 

The Ten Days of Repentance
The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (12b) states: “Rabba bar Chinena said in the name of Rav: Throughout the year, one recites (in the Amida prayer) ‘Ha’el Ha’Kadosh’ and ‘Melech Ohev Tzedakah U’Mishpat’ besides for the ten days beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur when one recites ‘Ha’Melech Ha’Kadosh’ and ‘Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat’.” This means that during the Ten Days of Repentance, one must conclude these specific blessings in the Amida prayer by saying “Ha’Melech Ha’Kadosh” and “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat”. Rashi (ibid.) explains that the reason for this is because during these days, Hashem exhibits his sovereignty by judging the entire world.

If one is recites the Amida during the Ten Days of Repentance and in the middle of praying he becomes unsure if he has concluded these respective blessings by reciting “Ha’el Ha’Kadosh” and “Ha’Melech Ha’Kadosh”, according to Maran Harav Ovadia Yosef Shlit”a, he must assume (in any situation) that he concluded these blessings the way he is accustomed to the rest of the year and he must return to the beginning of the Amida prayer.

If one concluded the blessing by saying “Ha’el Ha’Kadosh” but corrected himself immediately within the amount of time that it takes to say the words “Shalom Alecha Rebbi” (approximately two seconds) and recited the words “Ha’Melech Ha’Kadosh”, he has fulfilled his obligation and he need not return to the beginning of the Amida. The same applies to “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat”: If one mistakenly concluded the blessing the way he is accustomed to all year long but corrected himself immediately and said “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat”, he has fulfilled his obligation.

Nevertheless, regarding “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat”, if one concludes the blessing by saying “Melech Ohev Tzedakah U’Mishpat” and did not correct himself immediately and say “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat”, one need not return to the beginning of the Amida prayer; one need only return to the beginning of the “Hashiva” blessing (eleventh blessing of the Amida) and continues from there as usual. Only if one realizes that he has mistakenly said “Melech Ohev Tzedakah U’Mishpat” after he has concluded the entire Amida will one be required to return to the beginning of the Amida prayer. “The conclusion of the Amida prayer” in this context refers to one who has concluded the recitation of the “Yihyu Le’Ratzon” verse following the “Elokai Netzor” paragraph.

The difference between the conclusion of this blessing during the rest of the year which is “Melech Ohev Tzedakah U’Mishpat” and the “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat” conclusion recited during the Ten Days of Repentance is that whereas “Melech Ohev Tzedakah U’Mishpat” means that Hashem loves when His creations act in a righteous and just manner, “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat” refers to Hashem Himself being the Almighty Judge of the world.

The Ashkenazi custom is that one who errs in the “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat” blessing does not return at all, whether he realizes his mistake in the middle of the Amida prayer or at its conclusion. Indeed, even a Sephardic individual who errs in the “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat” blessing, before he begins reciting the Amida prayer once again, he should make the following condition: “If I am indeed obligated to pray again, I am reciting this Amida prayer again as an obligatory prayer. However, if I am not obligated to pray again, this Amida prayer that I am about to recite should be a voluntary, ‘donated’ prayer.”

Our Sages teach us (Rosh Hashanah 18a) teach us that the words of the verse “Seek out Hashem when He is present, call Him when He is near,” refers to the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when Hashem is considered to be closer and more accessible to His creations and their prayers are more easily accepted before Hashem. The Rekanati (Bereshit 22) writes that without these days, the path to acceptance of our prayers would surely be much more far removed from us, for the prosecuting angels created from one’s sins are almost always present and they prevent one’s prayers from being willingly accepted by Hashem. However, during these days when one’s prayers reach infinitely closer to Hashem and are more willingly accepted, one shall merit that his prayers be accepted during these days. One must therefore undertake the awesome responsibility of concentrating on every prayer during these Days of Awe and not to lose even one of them, for each one’s reward is priceless.

As we all know, during the days preceding Yom Kippur, it is customary to increase the amount one donates for Tzedakah. This is especially true with regards to Kaparot, for if one does not fulfill this custom using a chicken, one should fulfill it using money by placing this money on the head of the one requiring atonement and then circling this money around the individuals head while reciting the text of “Elu Ha’Ma’ot Chalifatecha/Chalifatech” which is printed in all Yom Kippur Machzorim. One must nevertheless take care to donate this money to a trustworthy group who is well-known for the integrity of their charity organization as we have spoken about several times.

Daf for Sunday, Tzom Gedalya – Chagigah 20

Daf Notes is currently being dedicated to the neshamah of

Tzvi Gershon Ben Yoel (Harvey Felsen) o”h

May the studying of the Daf Notes be a zechus for his neshamah
and may his soul find peace in Gan Eden and be bound up in the Bond of life.

Rav Mari proves from the Mishna that chulin which was made according to the tahara standard of Kodesh (pious people would treat chulin in their house as if it was kodoshim in order to train the members of their family with these stringencies) is regarded as if it was Kodesh itself.

 

The Gemora cites a braisa which presents two opinions regarding this: The Tanna Kamma maintains that the chulin is treated as regular chulin. Rabbi Elozar the son of Rabbi Tzadok holds that it is treated as if it would be terumah (not as strict as Kodesh). (19b – 20a)

 

Rabbi Yonasan ben Elozar said: If a scarf fell off of him (Parush – one who eats chulin in a state of purity), and he asked his friend to give it to him and he does, it is regarded as if it was tamei (items can remain tahor as long as they are being guarded from tumah, however, if there is a diversion of attention, the item is deemed to be tamei).

 

Rabbi Yonasan ben Amram said: If someone intended to take out his weekday clothes and he mistakenly took out his Shabbos clothes, the clothes are considered tamei.

 

Rabbi Elozar ben Tzadok said: Two women chaveiros (their husband’s or father’s are extremely careful in regards to the laws of tumah and tahara) whose clothing became exchanged with each other in a bathhouse; Rabbi Akiva ruled that their clothing is tamei.

 

The Gemora asks: Items that are guarded under the assumption that they are a different item remain tahor (it is not regarded as hesech hadaas – a diversion of attention); why was the clothing considered tamei?

 

Rabbi Yirmiyah answers: We are referring to a case where the clothes were being guarded from something that would render them tamei, but not from something that would render them pasul. (The term “tamei” describes something that it itself is contaminated and it can transmit tumah to another item; “pasul” means that it itself is contaminated, but it cannot transmit tumah to another item.) The Gemora proves that there is such a concept of guarding something from becoming tamei, but not guarding it from becoming pasul.

 

The Gemora asks on the rulings mentioned above: Why are the clothes regarded as tamei when they should be considered only pasul? Furthermore, the Gemora proves that a mistaken impression on the item does not render it tamei because it is still being guarded; why should the clothing be regarded as tamei when they were constantly being guarded?

 

The Gemora answers: Rabbi Elozar ben Tzadok’s ruling (regarding the two women in the bathhouse) is understandable because it can be said that each woman thinks to herself that the other woman is the wife of an am haaretz and she therefore diverts her attention away from guarding her clothes.

 

Rabbi Yonasan ben Amram’s ruling (regarding the fellow who mistakenly took out his Shabbos clothes) is also understandable because one is generally more scrupulous regarding his garments that are used on Shabbos than those that are used on weekdays and since he thinks that these garments are his weekday clothing, he guards it less and that is considered a diversion of his attention.

 

The Gemora does not understand Rabbi Yonasan ben Elozar’s ruling because the owner should be able to guard the scarf even while it is in his friend’s hand.

 

Rabbi Yochanan answers: There is a principle that one does not guard something that is in his friend’s hand and therefore the scarf is considered tamei. (20a – 20b)

 

WE SHALL RETURN TO YOU, EIN DORSHIN

 

The Mishna states: The Chachamim imposed various stringencies to protect kodoshim that that did not impose for terumah.

 

1) We may immerse utensils inside of other utensils in a mikvah for terumah, but not for kodesh.
2) Different parts of the utensil are considered separate for terumah, but not for kodesh (if one part becomes tamei, the rest of the utensil becomes tamei).

 

3) One may carry terumah while he is carrying a midras (objects that became tamei when a zav, zavah or niddah place their weight on them – they are classified as an av hatumah and have the ability to contaminate people or utensils), but one may not carry kodesh while carrying a midras.

 

4) The clothing of those eating terumah is regarded as tumas midras for those that are eating kodoshim.

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5) When immersing garments for kodesh, one must first untie them and dry them, but for terumah one may immerse them while they are knotted (and/or wet).

 

6) Utensils that were completed in a state of tahara still require immersion for kodesh, but not for terumah.

 

7) A utensil combines all of its contents together for kodesh (if one piece becomes tamei, they all become tamei even if they are not touching each other), but not for terumah.

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8) Tumah of kodesh extends to a fourth level (revii), while that of terumah extends only to a third level (shlishi).

 

9) Regarding terumah, if one’s hand becomes tamei, the other hand remains tahor, while for kodesh, one must immerse both hands, because one hand contaminates the other for kodesh but not for terumah.

 

10) One may eat dry terumah foods with hands that are tamei, but not kodesh foods.

 

11) An onein (one whose close relative passed away and has not been buried yet), a mechusar kippurim (one who is lacking atonement) require immersion for kodesh, but not for terumah. (20b – 21a)

 

INSIGHTS TO THE DAF

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

 

*** Our Gemara states that one must be more scrupulous regarding utensils that are used on Shabbos than those that are used on weekdays.

The Mabit writes that the Gemora states that one is required to purify himself prior to a festival by immersing in a mikveh. The Mabit wonders why one would not also be required to immerse himself prior to Shabbos? The Mabit answers that one is not required to immerse in a mikveh prior to Shabbos because the sanctity of Shabbos will cleanse the person from any impurities.

 

Reb Yosef Engel questions this answer, as our Gemara clearly states that one is required to be more scrupulous on Shabbos regarding matters of impurity.

 

*** The Gemora states that a person cannot watch something that is in his friend’s hand. We need to be certain that the utensil did not become tamei; only the holder can provide us with that assurance.

 

The Minchas Chinuch (10) proves from here that whenever intention is needed, the one who is performing the action must be the one who has the intention. Therefore, he rules that a non-Jew, mute or minor cannot knead the dough for matzah even if there will be someone else watching. Only the person kneading the dough can be certain that it did not become chametz.

 

Other Acharonim disagree and differentiate between those with intellect and those without. If the person has his own intellect, then he cannot be watched; however, a mute or a minor that have no intellect on their own may be watched.

 

*** The Mishna states: If one hand became tamei, the other is tamei as well; but only regarding kodoshim and not in respect for terumah.

The Minchas Chinuch (106) writes that if a Kohen loses concentration regarding one of his hands during the Bais HaMikdosh service; he has to sanctify that hand again, but not the other hand.

 

The distinction is that the mitzvah for the Kohen to wash his hands and feet prior to performing the sacrificial service is a Biblical one; our Mishna is discussing Rabbinical stringencies that were applied to kodoshim.

 

 

 

 L’zecher Nishmas HaRav Raphael Dov ben HaRav Yosef Yechezkel Marcus O”H

 

Daf for Shabbos – Chagigah 19

Daf Notes is currently being dedicated to the neshamah of

Tzvi Gershon Ben Yoel (Harvey Felsen) o”h

May the studying of the Daf Notes be a zechus for his neshamah
and may his soul find peace in Gan Eden and be bound up in the Bond of life.

 

Rav Nachman rules: One who is washing his hands for chulin does not require intention for purification, however, one who washes his hands for maaser must have specific intention for purification, otherwise, his hands will remain tamei.

 

The Gemora inquires as to the source for this distinction: The Gemora cites a Mishna in Mikvaos (5:6): If a wave that consisted of forty se’ah separated from the sea and fell on a person or utensils that were tamei, they become tahor. This would seemingly prove that intention to purify himself would not be required for chulin.

 

The Gemora rejects the proof: Perhaps the Mishna is referring to a case where the person is sitting on the shore waiting for the wave to separate from the sea and fall on him or on the utensils.

 

The Gemora offers another proof from a Mishna in Machshirin.

 

Rabbah asked Rav Nachman from our Mishna which states: If he immersed himself with no intention whatsoever (only to wash himself); it is regarded as if he didn’t immerse himself at all.This would indicate that intention is needed for chulin as well.

 

The Gemora answers: The Mishna means that immersion without any intention is not valid for maaser or terumah, but it is valid for chulin. (18b – 19a)

 

Rabbi Elozar said: One who immersed himself in a mikvah (ritual bath) and is coming up from the mikvah, he may decide then to purify himself for whatever level he wishes. (Tosfos states: As long as his body is still wet.)

 

The Gemora asks from a braisa: If he still has one foot inside the mikvah, he is permitted to change to a stricter level than he originally intended for, but if he is completely out of the mikvah, he may not change.

 

The Gemora explains the braisa as follows: If he still has one foot inside the mikvah, he is permitted to change to a stricter level than he originally intended for, however if he is completely out of the mikvah, he may decide to purify himself for whichever level he wishes, but he may not change to a different level that he originally intended for.

 

The Gemora discusses the ramifications of this halacha in respect to a Biblical tumah and a Rabbinic tumah. (19a)

 

The Gemora cites a Mishna in Mikvaos (7:6): If there was a mikvah that was precisely forty se’ah and two people immersed themselves one after the other, the first one is tahor and the second one is tamei (since the first one inevitably took some of the water with him). Rabbi Yehudah said: If the second one immersed while the first one’s feet is still touching the water, the second person is tahor as well (using the principle of gud achis, the water on the first person is connected to the water in the mikvah and regarded as part of the mikvah). (19a)

 

Ula said: I inquired from Rabbi Yochanan: According to Rabbi Yehudah’s opinion (we can connect the water on the person’s body to the mikvah if his feet are still touching the water), may one immerse a needle on the head of the first person (while his feet are still touching the water)? Does Rabbi Yehudah only hold of gud achis, we extend and lower the water (on his body) to the mikvah, but he does not hold of gud asik, we extend and raise the water in the mikvah to the top of his head?

 

Rabbi Yochanan replied by citing a braisa: If there were three holes on a slope of a valley; the top and bottom hole each contain twenty se’ah of water and the middle one has forty se’ah. A flow of rainwater connects the three holes. Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rabbi Meir that one may immerse himself in the top hole (since we apply the principle of gud asik, we extend and raise the water from the middle hole to the one on the top. Accordingly, we can use the same principle and immerse a needle on the head of the first person, provided that his feet are touching the water.

 

The Gemora cites another braisa which states that the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah is that one may only immerse himself in the bottom hole and not the top one. (19a – 19b)

 

The Mishna had stated:  One who immersed himself with the intention of purifying himself for chulin, is prohibited from eating maaser sheini; one who immersed himself with the intention of purifying himself for maaser sheini, is prohibited from eating terumah.

 

The Gemora states that this part of the Mishna is according to the opinion of the Chachamim who maintain that there is a distinction between the laws of chulin and those of maaser.

 

The latter part of the Mishna stated: The clothing of the perushim is regarded as tumas madrasfor those that are eating terumah. Here the Mishna omitted maaser, which would indicate that the Mishna is following the viewpoint of Rabbi Meir who maintains that there is no distinction between the laws of chulin and those of maaser.

 

The Gemora states that indeed it is; the first part of the Mishna is in accordance with the Chachamim and the latter part of the Mishna follows the viewpoint of Rabbi Meir.

 

Rav Acha bar Ada said that his version of the Mishna had five levels (including maaser) even in the latter part of the Mishna and thus the entire Mishna will be following the opinion of the Chachamim that there is a distinction between the laws of chulin and those of maaser.

 

 

 

 

INSIGHTS TO THE DAF

PRAYING

WITHOUT THE PROPER INTENTION

 

In the sefer Torah Lishma from the Ben Ish Chai, the following inquiry was asked: Our sages said that prayer without the proper kavanah (intent) is akin to a body without a soul. This being the case, what would be the purpose of prayer when one is unable to concentrate during his Tefillah due to the worries that weigh on his mind? Would such a prayer be accepted?

 

Furthermore, if one understands the words of tefillah and the basic translation of the prayers but does not comprehend the secrets hidden in the tefillos, then the depths of the prayers revealed to us by the Zohar and the Arizal will remain a mystery to him. One who is capable of performing a mitzvah in its entirety but does not grasp the hidden meanings of the mitzvah would seem to be missing an integral part of the mitzvah. Most people are on this level as they fulfill mitzvos and pray three times a day according to their basic understanding and because it is the will of Hashem. Is it possible, then, that most of our generation is deficient in tefillah and the performance of mitzvos due to a lack of comprehension regarding the profound implications of prayer and mitzvah performance?

 

The Ben Ish Chai responds: One who cannot concentrate on his prayers because he is entertaining other thoughts during tefillah should nevertheless continue to pray. This can be proven from the following Zohar in Parashas Vayechi: Rav Chizkiyah said that it is said that one should first prepare the praise of his Master and then pray. What should one do, however, if his heart is heavy and he wishes to pray, yet, since he is in distress he cannot properly formulate the praise of his Master? Rabbi Yosi responded that despite the fact that he cannot focus properly on his prayers and he will not be able to formulate the praise of his Master properly, he should still formulate the praises of his Master and he should pray. This is what it is said, a prayer of Dovid: Hear HaShem, what is righteous, be attentive to my supplication. First, hear HaShem righteous, as this is the formulation of praises for his Master, and subsequently, be attentive to my supplication, [give ear to my prayer]. One who is capable of formulating the praises of his Master and does not do so, regarding him it is said, even if you were to intensify your prayer, I will not listen.

 

In regards to the second question, the Ben Ish Chai writes that one is obligated to attempt to learn and understand the secrets of Hashem as Dovid told his son Shlomo: Know the G-d of your father and serve Him. Nonetheless, one who did not merit understanding these concepts and concentrates on the basic translation of the words and performs a mitzva with all its intricacies, his tefillah and mitzvos are considered complete and they are not deficient. This idea can be proven from the words of the Zohar in Parashas Yisro: If a mitzvah comes his way and he focuses on it, he is meritorious. If one did not have the proper intention he is meritorious as he has performed the will of his Master. Yet, he is not deemed to be like one who has fulfilled HaShem’s will selflessly and has performed the deed with the intention of fulfilling HaShem’s will for the sake of HaShem’s glory like one who does not know how to think. The reason for this is because the matter is dependant on the will performed selflessly and with the action selflessly performed below, the action above is removed and is purely rectified. In a similar vein, the action of the body rectifies the action of the soul with that will, as HaShem desires the heart and will of a person. Nonetheless, one needs to act wholeheartedly, which is the essence of everything, and regarding this Dovid prayed and said, may the pleasantness of the Lord, our G-d, be upon us, our handiwork, establish for us. No man is wise enough to align his will and his heart to rectify a matter completely, and for that reason he prays, our handiwork, establish for us. What is meant by the words establish for us? Establish and rectify Your rectifications above appropriately upon us. This, despite the fact that we are not capable of aligning our will completely. Rather, we perform the action, and You establish our handiwork. One who is on that level who requires rectification, establish it as one so that this matter should be rectified properly.

 

It thus emerges that this is precisely what Dovid requested of HaShem; a mitzvah or tefillah should not be regarded as deficient because of one’s lack of understanding regarding the secrets that are contained in the mitzvos. Rather it should be considered complete and whole without the slightest blemish.

 

For this reason our sages have instructed us to recite the tefillah of vihi noam prior to the performance of any mitzvah or the recital of any tefillah. The recital of this verse inspires Dovid’s prayer and our deeds will be accepted completely despite the fact that we did not have the proper intention.

 

Rabbeinu Chaim, son of Rabbeinu Yitzchak, one of the Rishonim quotes our Gemora: We have learned in a Mishna in Mikvaos (5:6): If a wave that consisted of forty se’ah separated from the sea and fell on a person or utensils that were tamei, they become tahor. The Gemora explains that the Mishna is referring to a case where the person is sitting on the shore waiting for the wave to separate from the sea and fall on him or on the utensils. It is evident from our Gemora that even though the person did not directly immerse the utensils in the water; he was merely anticipating that the wave will detach itself from the sea and fall on the contaminated utensils, this is sufficient, provided that he has intention that the water should purify the utensils.

 

The Gemora in Chulin (31) states a similar halacha regarding a woman who was a menstruant. If water fell on her and her friend anticipated this and had intention for her, the immersion would be valid even though the menstruant herself was not intending for this to happen.

 

It would follow that we can apply this principle to other mitzvos as well. One who bakes matzah must have intention that it is being baked for the commandment of matzah. If one was baking without the proper intention, but another person was observing and did have the proper intention, the baking is valid and the matzah may be used for the mitzvah.

 

Rabbeinu Chaim concludes: If the intention of one’s fellow can facilitate the fulfillment of the mitzvah for his friend, then certainly the intentions of the Holy One, Blessed is He can achieve the same result. We entreat of HaShem before our prayers and prior to the performance of a mitzvah that He should establish our handiwork and rectify our actions for we are not capable of aligning our will completely. It is our mission to perform the actions to the best of our capabilities and Hashem will rectify the deeds appropriately.

 

 

 

 

 

 L’zecher Nishmas HaRav Raphael Dov ben HaRav Yosef Yechezkel Marcus O”H