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.





Requests From Hashem #8

13 09 2011

 Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Requests From Hashem #8  The second section of prayer in Shemone Esrei is bakasha, asking Hashem to fulfill our individual and communal needs. The thirteen requests contained in these blessing comprise all of our fundamental needs. Whether it’s parnassa (sustenance), health, tranquility, or friendship, we need Hashem’s involvement and intervention in our lives.

There are several premises in the bakashot in Shemone Esrei,. The first premise is that I am in need. The second says Hashem has power. The third premise tells us that Hashem desires to help us and that he is the essence of goodness and kindness. And the fourth premise says that through the power of prayer, we can arouse Hashem to help us.

When we pray in times of need, and we are always in need of at least one of the thirteen requests, we must pray with perfect faith that Hashem can and will aid us.

May all our requests be answered l’tova (for the good).

 





Shabbat Shuva: Torah & Tefila, Components of Teshuva

6 09 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shira Smiles

Shabbos Shuva

In the Haftora of Shabbat Shuva we read, “Kechu imachem devarim v’shuvu el Hashem. Take with you words and return to Hashem.” The verse continues, “Kol tisa avon vekach tov uneshalmah parim sfaseynu. May You forgive all iniquity and accept good, and let our lips substitute for bulls.” It seems as if the end of the verse is a repetition of the beginning. The Malbim explains that the first part signifies teshuva m’yirah while the second part refers to teshuva m’ahavah. When one does teshuva out of fear, one gains an understanding of what it means to be close to Hashem and to experience the sweetness of Torah. This propels us further to continue and deepen our love for Hashem.  Teshuva m’ahava transforms sins into good deeds. Consequently, in place of sacrifices, only words will be necessary. Devarim refers to words of Torah and tefila. How do these words impact teshuva?

The Rambam in Hilchot Teshuva notes that a sinner’s mitzvot are destroyed and can only be recaptured when he performs teshuva. What does this mean? Rav Solomon explains that it does not mean that the mitzvot are actually decimated. Rather, they are like burning candles hidden behind a thick veil of sin waiting to be revealed.  “Kechu imachem devarim,” confess your sins. “Imru eilav,” pray to Hashem. “Vkach tov,” allow the good energy to flow through.

This is why we recite on Kol Nidrei night, “Ohr zerua l’tzaddik ulyishrei lev simcha.” Let us bask in the light planted for tzaddikim. Now that we’ve repented, allow us the joy and benefit of those hidden mitzvot. Rav Dessler notes that a critical part of teshuva is praying to Hashem to remove the sins blocking our path so that we can ascend further in avodat Hashem. It is difficult to repent in darkness and the light of mitzvot cannot be accessed before doing teshuva.  Therefore, the first step is to do one or two mitzvot and feel its hidden sweetness. This will ignite a person’s desire to do teshuva and ultimately propel him onward.

In Timeless Seasons, Rabbi Roberts quotes the Gemara that “Kechu imachem devarim” refers to words of Torah. Without knowing what is wrong a person cannot see the error of his ways. Therefore, a pivotal part of the teshuva process is studying the Torah, particularly halacha. One can only be a true servant of Hashem if he studies the details of how to be one.

On Shabbat Shuva, the prophet Hoshea adjures us, “Shuva Yisrael ad Hashem Elokecha. Return   O Israel to Hashem.” The greatest aspect of teshuva is “Ein od milvado,” recognizing that there is no entity that we can rely on, but Hashem. Physical strength, finances, and well connected friends, are all illusory and transient.  Just as an orphan has no one to turn to but Hashem, our only real hope is our Father in Heaven.





NEW CLASS! Meaningful Prayer: Daily Insights Into the Shemoneh Esrai

12 05 2010

Naaleh.com brings you short daily classes on the meaning and depth of the Shemoneh Esrai prayer. This class focuses on the simple translation of the words, as well as the intent one should have while saying them. Sure to enhance your praying experience. Check out the first class on this new series!