Category: Tefillah

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Tiqanta Shabbos

This week I’d like to discuss three seemingly unrelated questions about the words of the tephillah: The focus of Shabbos Mussaf davening is the paragraph that begins “Tiqanta Shabbos…” What most readily jumps to the eye about the tephilla is that the 22 words it opens with are an anagram of the Hebrew alphabet in reverse. (“Tiqanta” starts with a...

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HaKel HaGadol HaGibbor veHaNora

I In this week’s parashah Moshe describes Hashem as “… haKel haGadol haGibor vihaNorah — the G-d, the Great, the A-lmighty, and the Awesome …”. These words were incorporated by the Anshei Kinesses Hagedolah into the opening of the Shemoneh Esrei. The same phrase is also found at the conclusion of the poem “Nishmas”. There, the poet goes even further...

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Atah Qadosh

“You Are Kadosh, and Your Name Is Kadosh, and kedoshim praise You every day. Selah! [For you are G-d, King, Great and Kadosh. –Sepharad] Baruch Atah … the Kadosh G-d.” The question of kedushah is also central to the opening phrase of one of last week’s parashiyos. “Kedoshim tihyu… – Be kadosh for I Am Kadosh.” (Vayikra 19:2) But what...

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Welcome

We recently concluded Mesukim MiDevash, a weekly collection of divrei Torah on the subjects of machshavah, mussar, and the meaning of various teflillos. If you’re curious about what I was thinking about before starting this blog, many of the articles there are mine. Before that, mainly around seven years ago, I wrote the Aspaqlaria column you find in this directory....

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Hispa’alus, or: Yismach Moshe

One of the critical tools of Tenu’as haMussar is hispa’alus, “learning ‘with lips aflame.’” Literally, the word is the reflexive of “to work”, in other words “to work on oneself.” Hispa’alus is such a useful practice it even became part of their davening, tefillah behispa’alus.What is hispa’alus? The Alter of Kelm describes a four-step process: Intense and single-minded concentration on...

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Saying Shema Together

When I was in High School, we would all say Shema together, with trop. Since then, I’ve only seen this practice a few times; amongst a minyan of descendents of students of the Gra in Yerushalayim, at R’ Feldman’s shul in Atlanta, and a couple of other places. When learning Alei Shur this morning, I found this beautiful description of...

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A quick but beautiful thought on tefillah

From a more neglected (compared to Adam I vs Adam II) part of The Lonely Man of Faith by R’ JB Soloveitchik zt”l (pg 58). R’ Soloveitchik describes the perspective of Anshei Kenesses haGedolah: At a later date, when the mysterious men of this wondrous assembly witnessed the bright summer day of the prophetic community, full of color and sound,...

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Tzitzis, Advance and Retreat

There are two descriptions of the mitzvah of tzitzis. First, from parashas Shelach (and Qeri’as Shema): … [T]hey should make for themselves tzitzis on the corners of their garments (bigdeihem) throughout their generations, and that they put on the tzitzis of each corner a thread of blue wool (techeiles). And it shall for you tzitzis, and you will see it...

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Yismach Moshe II

As an example for explaining the idea of tefillah behispa’alus, I raised a number of questions about the meaning of the phrase “Yismach Mosheh“. I wrote: Yismach Mosheh — Moses will be happy bematenas chelqo — with the giving of his portion, ki eved ne’eman — because a reliable servant qaraso lo — You have called to him. The line...

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What is a Berakhah?

Today’s topic: How to make your morning coffee the religious high point of your day.After Shema, which is Torahitic, what is the next most important tefillah? Bentching is also deOraisa, but the text was written by man. But neither Shema nor bentching are said nearly as often as we say the formula for a berakhah in general. Chazal expected us...

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Vetaheir Libeinu

We say in the Amidah for Shabbos and Yom Tov, “Vetaheir libeinu le’avekha be’emes”, usually translated simply as “And purify our hearts to serve You in truth.””Vetaheir libeinu” provides an interesting contrast to “veyacheid levaveinu li’ahavah ulyir’ah es shemekha — and unify our hearts to love and be in awe of Your name”, said in the last berakhah before the...

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Modeh Ani

WARNING: Recording sound quality is poor! Attached is an audio shiur on the subject of Modeh Ani.The topics covered: The meaning of the words and problems with the naive translation Two roles for prayer Yehudah and Modeh — connectedness Hakaras haTov — thankfulness and the nature of chesed

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Al Netilas Yadayim

The audio recording (b”H, much clearer than my first attempt at recording a shiur) attached is from the “Tefillah: Beyond the Words” class, a discussion of the berakhah of “Al Netilas Yadayim“. The class starts with a discussion of berakhos in general: Various opinions of the meaning of the word “barukh”, the structure, three conceptions of how to make a...

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Asher Yatzer

This week’s shiur began with a continuation of last week‘s discussion of qedushah (as in “asher qidishanu vemitzvosav”) and taharah (“al netilas yadayim”).The discussion of qedushah’s “separation for” and taharah’s “separation from” was used to flow into discussing the various vectors of human personality — with a detour into the Beis haMiqdash. (That parallel between man and miqdash actually comes...

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E-lokai Neshamah

This week’s class was on E-lokai Neshamah. Some of the topics discussed: Different opinions about why the berakhah doesn’t begin with the word “barukh” The berakhah’s possible connection to Hamapil said before going to bed or Asher Yatzar Is the berakhah primarily about waking up, or the resurrection? Who is the “me” saying “the soul which You put within me”?...

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Birchos haTorah

This week’s shiur (audio recording) concludes a series on aspects of the soul. With Asher Yatzar we looked at man’s ability to exist in and relate to the physical world. This is followed by E-lokai Neshamah, and our connection to heaven and man’s higher calling. Now we look at the universe we hold within our heads, our ability to change...

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Nishmas. part I

This week’s shiur skips to Nishmas, under the assumption that davening in shul runs too quickly for slow and careful recitation, and it would be more practical to skip to around the point where we switch Chazanim and assume a more contemplative pace.Just some of the discussed subjects: Who wrote Nishmas? The Peter connection and what it says about the...

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Nishmas, part II

This week’s shiur picks up from “HaKel besa’atzumos uzekha”, the point where the Chazan begins on Yamim Tovim.Some of the key topics raised: The impossibility of understanding Hashem, and the resulting consequence of tending to describe Him in conflicting dialectics. Immanence — Hashem is everywhere; Trancendence — Hashem is in shamayim. The impersonal G-d of nature, and the G-d of...

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Yotzeir Or, part I

(I was on vacation and so there was no shiur last week.)This week’s shiur picks up with Borkhu and the question of what makes it, or any other prayer (including at least Qaddish and Qedushuah) a davar shebiqdushah (a declaration of holiness).The majority of the shiur was dedicated to opening of the berakhah of Yotzeir Or. We discussed the structure...

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Yotzeir Or, part II

In this second of three parts on the berakhah of Yotzeir Or we continued our look at the problem of evil. (The shiur was given during the Three Weeks.) The previous shiur focused on tragedy, the evil that we experience. This week we look at the interplay of the sun, and what it symbolizes, and the moon, and its symbology,...

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Yotzeir Or, part III

See the previous discussions of Yotzeir Or here (part I) and here (part II). This week we concluded our discussion of the berakhah of Yotzeir Or, as well as the shiur’s run until after the yamim tovim. Some highlights: The process of creation is continual, and thus the berakhah is about the end of evil more than evil itself. There...

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Coronating G-d, part II — Pragmatics

I was recently discussing the ideas in my essay “Coronating G-d“. In it I utilized the Vilna Gaon’s distinction between a melekh (king) and a mosheil. A melekh rules with the support of his people, a mosheil rules by strength. I suggested that the reason why accepting Hashem as Melekh is such a central part of Rosh haShanah is that...

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A Fallen Soldier’s Prayer for Peace

Modified: Transcription of text in Hebrew added. – 30-Sep-2006.(Hat tip to the One Family Fund. May they be put out of business soon!) Benaya Rein Hy”d fell toward the end of the war on Saturday night (yahrtzeit: 19 Av). He and four others were part of a unit that went in battle to rescue wounded soldiers and soldiers in distress....

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Anu ma’amirekha ve’Atah ma’amireinu

Anu ma’amirekha ve’Atah ma’amireinu. Artscroll renders this line from the machzor as referring to we as Hashem’s designated, and Him as our designator.I would like to suggest a different translation. The mishnah says that Hashem created the world with “eser ma’maros — ten utterances”. Ma’amar means utterances, and in particular, Chazal associate it with the ten statements through which Hashem...

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Birkhas Ahavah

The Tefillah: Beyond the Words shiur resumed this week, picking up where we left off, with birkhas Ahavah.Some of the topics discussed: Two dimensions for discussing a middah: “Ahavah Rabba” and “Ahavas Olam” How those dimensions are reflected in the structure of the berakhah as a whole What is love? The avos: Three models for how to express love The...