Proper Prayer #13

11 08 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Ari Jacobson 

The Mishna in Avot says, “Hevei mekabel et kol adam b’sever panim yafot.” Greet every person pleasantly. Yet the Kitzur writes that just as it is prohibited to eat before praying, one may not greet a person before giving proper respect to Hashem.

The Kitzur says that one may not deliberately knock on a neighbor’s door in order to greet him before one has davened. This is relevant in an apartment building or a college dorm. If one is preparing to pray in shul and another person comes in, one may not purposely walk over and say good morning.

If you happen to meet someone on the way to davening, it’s permissible to greet him. However, it is proper to change the greeting so that it is evident that you cannot continue on with a long conversation. The Gemara distinguishes between giving shalom and saying good morning. The word shalom is one of Hashem‘s names. When you great someone with Shalom Aleichem it’s implying that He who is the purveyor of all peace should be upon you. Therefore, it is considered a more significant greeting than good morning. Similarly, Shabbat Shalom might have connotations in this regard as opposed to Good Shabbas, which might be more permissible.

According to the Shulchan Aruch, going to someone’s house and greeting him with Shalom Aleichem is prohibited before davening. You can say good morning, although we try to avoid that as well. In cases where it’s permitted to offer a greeting, you can say Shalom Aleichem, but it is better to use a different greeting so the person realizes you have to be on your way.

 

Once the earliest time for davening has arrived, one may not study Torah. The Rishonim give a number of exceptions to this rule. The law only applies if one is studying alone in the house. This is because one may get caught up in learning and miss the times for davening or even forget entirely. If someone else is there he will be reminded. If one is studying in shul or if one attends a regular minyan, there is no concern.

Chazal say that when we stand before Hashem in prayer we should picture ourselves as if we are standing before a king. One should be particular to dress properly for davening. In a place where the custom is to wear a belt, one may not daven without it. There is a prohibition against pronouncing the name of Hashem without a separation between the upper and lower body. If a person is wearing a hospital gown he may press his arms against his waist as a form of separation.

Some people are careful to have special clothing for davening. This is one of the reasons that Chassidim wear a gartel (belt). It serves both as a separation and as a unique article for davening.

It’s appropriate to give tzedaka (charity) prior to davening as the verse says, “Ani b’tzedek echze panecha.” I will greet you with tzedaka. This is the source for the custom to give tzedaka before candle lighting erev Shabbat. In some shuls, many men give tzedaka after the repetition of the shemone esrei. However, it is better to give tzedaka before that and many have a custom to give charity in the middle of Veyavarach David as they say the words “V’ata moshel bakol,” you rule over all. When one gives tzedaka it is as if one is saying, “I believe You have given me all that I have and therefore I will share it with others.”

Prior to davening a person should accept upon himself the mitzva of V’ahavta l’reicha, loving other Jews. If we are united below it creates greater unity above. When our prayers are joined together they are sure to be accepted by Hashem.

One should go to the bathroom before praying. Part of washing negel vasser (ritual hand washing) in the morning is preparation for Shachrit later on. Before davening Mincha you should ideally wash again. If you don’t have water you can cleanse your hands by rubbing them on a hard surface.

Davening with a minyan (quorum) is important; so is praying in shul. Even if a person won’t be attending shul, he should try to daven at the same time the community is davening shemone esrei as the verse states, “V’ani tefilati lecha Hashem eit ratzon.” May my prayers reach You at an opportune time. The Gemara says Hashem doesn’t reject the prayers of a community. When we pray with a minyan individual deficiencies are overlooked.

Hashem promised us that even when the Beit Hamikdash would be destroyed He would provide us with a mikdash me’at, a sanctuary in exile. Therefore, even if there’s no minyan one should try to daven in a shul because the Divine Presence rests there.

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Meaningful Prayer: Consistent Dedication

29 06 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Herschel Reichman

Our sages teach that the prayers were enacted to correspond to the sacrifices. The korban tamid, which was brought daily in the beit hamikdash, signifies the idea of dependability and regularity. It is the concept of a continuous relationship, of absolute dedication to Hashem, which is a fundamental aspect of prayer.

We must maintain a continuous connection with our Creator. We are intrinsically bound to Him. We only exist because He wills us to. He supports us in every situation and is constantly providing for us. The Gemara says that a person should never cease praising and thanking Hashem for all that He gives us. Since it’s impossible for a person to pray all the time, the sages instituted a minimum of three times a day. We can also express our ongoing dedication to Him by involving ourselves in kindness and good deeds.

Although we don’t have the korban tamid any more, our steadfast readiness to serve Hashem day after day with dedication and love stands in its stead.





Prayer as a Privilege

30 04 2012
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Although we often say that prayer is a weapon, we tend to forget that it is also a privilege. When we begin the shemonei esrei we ask, “Hashem sefatai tiftach.Hashem open my mouth to speak with you. Rav Soloveitchik would say many times that a person needs a license to pray. You have to go through a certain regimen and routine before beginning the quintessential tefilah. Whether it’s in the morning with pesukei d’zimra, birchat kriat shema, and ga’al yisrael, or ashrei in the afternoon, a person cannot just begin asking Hashem for whatever he wants. You have to get yourself ready and prepare the groundwork for your audience with Hashem.

Prayer is an opportunity. It’s not something we can take for granted. Therefore, it’s very important to feel humble when we begin to pray. As David Hamelech says, “Anochi tolaat v’lo ish.” I am a worm and not a person. We must stand before Hashem k’ani b’petach, like a pauper at a rich man’s door. We must know that we are imperfect and that only Hashem can help us.





Prayer as a Weapon

21 02 2012
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman 

When Yaakov Avinu blessed his children, he said, “I took Shechem b’charbi u’vekashti,” with my sword and arrow. Targum Unkelos translates b’charbi u’vekashti as “b’tzeluti uvuati, meaning with my prayers and requests. Prayer is a powerful weapon

In Tehilim, King David, one of the greatest formulators of Jewish prayer, uses the term zemirot, from the root word zemer, a song. Zemer can also mean to cut with a sword or knife or to prune. A zemer is a song with a cutting edge. It can break through all obstructions that prevent us from achieving our goals. Whether it’s praying for redemption, health, or whatever other things we are lacking, there are tremendous barriers. Prayer is like a sword that can pierce right through. Nothing can withstand the power of prayer. Not only does it bring blessing, but it can cause miracles to happen. Nothing can stop prayer, which works above natural law.

Chazal say, “Afilu cherev chada munachat al tzavoro al tityaesh min harachamim.” Even if a sharp sword rests upon your neck, do not despair of Hashem‘s mercy. People at the brink of death have risen from their sickbed through the power of prayer. Prayer is a sword, a powerful weapon that Hashem gave to us.

In the Shemonei Esrei, we say three times daily, “Ki ata shomea tefilat amcha.” You listen to the prayers of your people. There’s no prayer that goes unanswered. Even if a person thinks he wasn’t helped, one day he will be. Moshe prayed 515 prayers to enter Eretz Yisrael. Although he himself did not merit to do so, his prayers weren’t in vain. Every Jew who entered the land after him, did so on the strength of his prayers.





Meaningful Prayer- Asking For Mercy

3 08 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

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The core section of Shemoneh Esrei is the blessings of bakasha – asking for mercy. This comes after we have already established through the first three blessings of praise, that Hashem has the power and will to help us in any way He sees fit. The Rambam writes that the thirteen requests for individual and communal support are archetypes for all personal requests that a person may have. Many of these requests are spelled out specifically. The thirteenth blessing of Shema Koleinu is a catch-all blessing where we can ask Hashem to listen to all of our prayers.

Rav Soloveitchik notes that we can see the greatness of Hashem in the inclusiveness of Shemoneh Esrei. Whatever minute trivial request a person may have, he is able to include it within the Shemoneh Esrei and Hashem will listen to him. Hashem, the Master of the universe, the King of kings, is ready and willing to help us with anything that ails us. Our Sages gave us the basic format of thirteen platforms of bakashot, but they left it open for us request anything.  We should approach prayer with the notion that any request is legitimate. There is no limit to what we can ask Hashem to do for us, whether tiny or gargantuan, whether to heal your little pinkie or to bring the Messiah. The only address is our Master and King, our loving Father, Hashem.