Category Archives: davening

Avodah and Accepting the Yoke of Heaven – Different Paradigms

The first Mishna of Maseches Berachos (which is the first Mishna of Shas according to our tradition) starts by stating the time at which Keriyas Shema should be said at night (when the first three stars appear in the sky). The Gemara immediately asks two questions:

  1. how do we know that we are obligated to read Keriyas Shema at all?; and
  2. why is it that with regard to Keriyas Shema we are told first about the obligation of Keriyas Shema at night but for the berachos which are said before and after, we are told about the day obligations before those of the night.

The Gemara gives two answers:

  1. the passuk in Keriyas Shema states “beshochbecha uvkumecha” so night time for Keriyas Shema comes first, and then since we have started talking about the day we continue in the berachos of the day before returning to talk about the berachos of the night; and
  2. the psukim speaking of the creation of the world always put night before day when speaking of the day therefore night comes before day in general in Halachah (Tosafos there state that the second part of the first answer, that we then simply continue talking about daytime prayers is obviously necessary here as well because otherwise we should have continued the berachos of night).

It is the second answer that I would like to talk about. It is not totally accurate that the Halachah always assumes that the night comes before the day. In the world of sacrifices we assume that the day comes before the night; we both eat the sacrifices (often) and finish the burning of sacrifices the night after and that is not considered for these purposes a separate day (Tosefta Zevachim 6, 15). Furthermore, in the fifth perek of the Maseches Berachos we hear first about the prayers which come in the morning first, and only afterwards afternoon and night (Mishna Berachos 5, 1). The difference for davening is easy to explain, since the obligation for davening is partially derived from the obligation for sacrifices (Gemara Berachos 26b) so it makes sense that the obligations would be expressed in this sense differently. However, that does not explain the basic difference between these different institutions. Why is it that instead of the simple and seemingly sufficient local answer for why the Mishna was expressed the way it is, the Gemara chose a far more global answer, and what does that teach us about the nature of Keriyas Shema as an obligation?

I heard from Rabbi Dr Avi Walfish once that the relationship between kodesh and chol is a central topic of perek Oso Ve’es Beno in Chullin. There we find the following Mishna:

משנה מסכת חולין פרק ה משנה ה

יום אחד האמור באותו ואת בנו היום הולך אחר הלילה את זו דרש שמעון בן זומא נאמר במעשה בראשית (בראשית א) יום אחד ונאמר באותו ואת בנו (ויקרא כב) יום אחד מה יום אחד האמור במעשה בראשית היום הולך אחר הלילה אף יום אחד האמור באותו ואת בנו היום הולך אחר הלילה:

He explained this Mishna based on that contention. There was a need to explain that Oso Ve’es Beno would apply to the general day of creation and not the specific day of sacrifices since the entire world of shechitah seems to derive in large part from the world of sacrifices. This time is the time of the creation of the world. The time depicted here is cosmic. On the other hand, the time of sacrifices where the night follows the day is human time, it is the time of human experience. We experience a day not as night and then daytime but as the time from when we get up in the morning until when we go to sleep at night once it is already dark. In human experience the night follows the day.

If the time of Keriyas Shema is determined by cosmic, objective time, a statement is made. Keriyas Shema is a reaction to the cosmic order. When one sees the wonderful world that G-d has created, that He rules over, the natural reaction is to proclaim His  kingdom and accept the yoke of His service. That is the very essence of Keriyas Shema (Mishna 2, 2). On the other hand, sacrifices are not necessarily an instinctive reaction to the creation of the world. They are crucial precisely because they have a certain artificial feel. Not only is the initial, instinctive, awestruck reaction important. The follow-up, the continuation, which will of necessity be contrived, must also occur. Without that, the initial reaction will not have staying power. This then, is the task of davening. First we express our awe at G-d’s creation, and then we follow up with the hard work of maintaining that sense of awe for the rest of the day.

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Rosh HaShanah All Year Round

Now that Yom Kippur is over, in many ways we return to our normal routines. While Sukkos is just around the corner and so we still have a great many things to do which are not a part of our daily lives, nevertheless, davening has returned to normal, there are no more extra tefillos in the middle of the night, and the constant pressure to do teshuvah has receded. The immediate question which we should be asking is: “what can I take from the last ten days to help me for the rest of the year?” The Alter Rebbe in the Tanya gives an interesting answer:

תניא איגרת הקודש פרק יד
אך הענין יובן ע”פ מ”ש ה’ בחכמה יסד ארץ שיסוד הארץ העליונה היא בחי’ ממלא כ”ע והתחתונה היא ארץ חפץ המכוונת כנגדה ממש ונק’ על שמה ארץ החיים הנה הוא נמשך מהמשכת והארת חכמה עילאה מקור החיים העליונים כדכתיב החכמה תחיה בעליה וכו’ והארה והמשכה זו היא מתחדשת באור חדש ממש בכל שנה ושנה כי הוא יתברך וחכמתו אחד בתכלית היחוד ונק’ בשם אוא”ס ב”ה שאין סוף ואין קץ למעלת וגדולת האור והחיות הנמשך ממנו יתברך ומחכמתו בעילוי אחר עילוי עד אין קץ ותכלית לרום המעלות למעלה מעלה ובכל שנה ושנה יורד ומאיר מחכמה עילאה אור חדש ומחודש שלא היה מאיר עדיין מעולם לארץ העליונה כי אור כל שנה ושנה מסתלק לשרשו בכל ער”ה כשהחדש מתכסה בו ואח”כ ע”י תקיעת שופר והתפלות נמשך אור חדש עליון מבחי’ עליונה יותר שבמדרגת חכמה עילאה להאיר לארץ עליונה ולדרים עליה הם כל העולמות העליונים והתחתונים המקבלים חיותם ממנה דהיינו מן האור א”ס ב”ה וחכמתו המלובש בה כדכתיב כי עמך מקור חיים באורך נראה אור דהיינו אור המאיר מחכמה עילאה מקור החיים (וכנודע לי”ח שבכל ר”ה היא הנסירה ומקבלת מוחין חדשים עליונים יותר כו’) ובפרטי פרטיות כן הוא בכל יום ויום נמשכין מוחין עליונים יותר בכל תפלת השחר ואינן מוחין הראשונים שנסתלקו אחר התפלה רק גבוהין יותר ודרך כלל בכללות העולם בשית אלפי שנין כן הוא בכל ר”ה ור”ה. וז”ש תמיד עיני ה’ אלהיך בה שהעינים הם כינוים להמשכת והארת אור החכמה שלכן נקראו חכמים עיני העדה ואוירא דא”י מחכים והארה והמשכה זו אף שהיא תמידית אעפ”כ אינה בבחי’ ומדרגה אחת לבדה מימי עולם אלא שבכל שנה ושנה הוא אור חדש עליון כי האור שנתחדש והאיר בר”ה זה הוא מסתלק בער”ה הבאה לשרשו. וז”ש מרשית השנה ועד אחרית שנה לבדה ולכן כתיב מרשית חסר א’ רומז על הסתלקות האור שמסתלק בליל ר”ה עד אחר התקיעות שיורד אור חדש עליון יותר שלא היה מאיר עדיין מימי עולם אור עליון כזה והוא מתלבש ומסתתר בארץ החיים שלמעלה ושלמטה להחיות את כל העולמות כל משך שנה זו אך גילויו מההסתר הזה תלוי במעשה התחתונים וזכותם ותשובתם בעשי”ת וד”ל:

Basically, the Alter Rebbe suggests that the blowing of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah brings about a flow of energy and inspiration from G-d (which is stongest by far in Eretz Yisrael) which continues to influence us for the rest of the year. The echoes of the shofar are heard all year round until the last day of the year, something which we symbolize by stopping the blowing of the shofar the day before Rosh HaShanah. That influence is the lasting effect of Asseret Yemei Teshuvah, and it is very much the point of the blowing of the shofar, at least in this piece.

The Alter Rebbe links this inluence specifically to the davening of Shacharis. I don’t have a good reason why it would be linked to Shacharis (except that the shofar is blown in the morning typically, although that does not seem particularly satisfying since the shofar may be blown all day), however, I think that the influence of the Asseret Yemei Teshuvah can be felt palpably in davening every single day. I heard for Rav Moshe Lichtenstein shlit”a once that the first three berachos of shemoneh esreh are contained in the first berachah. When we say the words “hakel hagadol hagibor vehanora” we can see that gadol roughly corresponds witthe first berachah (this becomes stronger when one takes into account the kabbalistic idea of a parallel between gedulah and chesed, and the first berachah is clearly about Hashem’s kindness to our ancestors and to us). The second berachah is parallel to gevurah (it is actually referred to as gevuros). The third berachah is parallel to nora, because it speaks of the awe we fell in out encounter with the divine, and or our urge to praise and our inability to approach. G-d is transcendent and awe inspiring and He controls the world.

I would add to this a further thought. The first berachah continues “gomel chassadim tovim vekoneh hakol vezocher chasdei avos umeivi go’el livnei vneihem lema’an shemo be’ahavah”. Koneh hakol implies G-d mastery over the world. He created the world and therefore He owns it and He control it. This similar to the berachah of malchuyos on Rosh HaShanah which also speaks of G-d’s mastery over the world. Zocher chasdei avos is parallel to the second berachah of mussaf on Rosh HaShanah, zocher haberis. And meivi go’el livnei vneihem lema’an shemo be’ahavah is parallel to the berachah of shefaros which ends on a request that G-d sound his great shofar of ge’ulah and redeem us. If so, we carry the three berachos of mussaf on Rosh HaShanah with us the entire year. Furthermore, those berachos accompany the blowing of the shofar. As such, if we allude to them, we are really alluding to the blowing of the shofar. It is as though we are sounding the shofar for ourselves every day three times before we pray. If Rosh HaShanah is meant to be the moment of Malchus Shamayim which lasts us for the entire year then we tap into it each time we daven, because when we daven we have to be conscious of our standing before the king, and of our dependence upon him.

The Holy King and the Transcendental God

The Gemara in Berachos 12b records a Halacha that during the Asseres Yemei Teshuva one should replace “ha’el hakadosh” with “hamelech hakadosh” and “melech ohev tzedakah umishpat” with “hamelech hamishpat” during shemoneh esre. Over the years a lengthy addition was made to the berachah of “hamelech hakadosh” during Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. However, even before the addition was made, the change in the wording is not easy to understand. The words “ha’el hakadosh” describe G-d as a transcendental force, one who is separated from the rest of the world. The Rav zt”l famously translated “kadosh, kadosh, kadosh” as “transcendental, transcendental, transcendental” (based on the comment of Rashi at the beginning of Parashas Kedoshim that “kadosh” means separate or distinguished). G-d is separate from the world, He is external to the world. His power is so overwhelming that He cannot even be related to. After thanking Him for helping our people through the ages and proclaiming how His goodness is made possibly by His total control over nature, we encounter His awesome, overwhelming, and above all inscrutable, power. That is the G-d of “ha’el hakadosh”. After that, the davening is essentially an attempt to bridge that enormous gap: to strengthen and add texture to our relationship with G-d. So on a weekday we ask Him to give us the knowledge to address Him properly, to repent before Him and be worthy of His presence. On Shabbat, we appeal to Him through the holiness of the day. During chagim we appeal to Him through our own chosenness. If He has chosen us to be His people, He must now provide us with the ability to address Him and, so to speak, to approach His holy throne. Seemingly, this is the subtext on Rosh HaShanah as well (for on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur the middle beracha also starts with those words which speak of chosennes, “ata bechartanu”). However, on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur we find one thing which is very different. On those days, instead of saying “ha’el hakadosh”, we say “hamelech hakadosh.” If so, the following text, “Ata bechartanu”, is not a way of connecting with G-d, it is a way of emphasizing an already existing connection. You are our holy king (as opposed to the inscrutable and transcendental force which controls the world), we say to Him, and You chose us to be Your people.

Let us now consider the additions to the third beracha on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. The beracha starts as it does on any other day: “You are holy (transcendental) and Your name is holy (transcendental) and the holy ones (Israel and the angels, those who are different) will every day praise You.” However, the beracha then goes on an excursis: “and for this reason all the nations will fear You and they will all bow down to You.” While the progression within most of the addition is easily understood (first the entire world will fear G-d and acknowledge His mastery over it, then they will give honor to G-=d’s chosen people, then the righteous will rejoice and G-d will return to the seat of His kingship on earth and restore the divine presence to Jerusalem) but the place of this addition in a beracha about the transcendental nature of G-d is not obvious. In fact, it seems to contradict that idea.

Towards the end of this addition to the third beracha of davening we find a proof text for the predictions our prayers make and the hope that they express: “May Hashem rule forever, your god oh Zion, for all generations Hallelujah!” This passuk seems to be the best possible proof text to site when talking about G-d’s kingship and so we would have thought that we would then naturally progress to the end of the beracha: “Blessed are you the holy (transcendental) king.” However, that isn’t what happens. The beracha has one more thing to add: “You are holy and Your name is fearful and there is no other god than You.” The dichotomy stairs us in the face, an a solution is provided: “You are holy (transcendental)” and so can’t relate to You, not really. And yet, “Your name is fearful”, we might not be able to relate to You or comprehend You, we might not be able to approach Your holy throne, and yet we can interact with your name. Your name carries an image and connotations. Your name provides the way that we can build our relationship with You. And what characterizes that relationship? “And Hashem the Lord of Hosts will be elevated in judgement and the holy (transcendental) G-d will be sanctified by justice.” G-d’s name provides us with our relationship with Him and that relationship is characterized most obviously by the fact that He judges us for our actions. Through that judgement He can be our “holy king.”