Category: Tefillah

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Shemeih Rabba

The Arukh haShulchan (OC 56:1,3) discusses the meaning of the opening words of Qaddish “Yisgadel veyisqadeish shemeih rabba“. Praying that Hashem’s Great Name be made great and holy. And since a name is how we refer to something, we are talking about how humans perceive Hashem’s presence. The Arukh haShulchan mentions a tradition that “שמיה – His name” is an...

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Berakhos and Continuous Creation

You may have heard the Baal Shem Tov’s thought that the close of the first berakhah before Shema in the morning, “Yotzeir haMe’oros – Who Creates the [Celestial] Lights.” He says that it is written in the present sense because the Ribbono shel olam didn’t create the me’oros and then they just continue to persist. Rather, He is creating and...

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What does אחָד in שמע ישראל actually mean?

Shoaib asked on Mi Yodeya: In the Shema the word used for the oneness of God is אחָד (ref.). This is startling for a Muslim, as they find in the Quran almost a transliteration of the same word, i.e. the Arabic احد (pronounced: Ahad). What is surprising, however, is that in almost all the translations that I could find on...

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VeShomru

The opening of the middle berakhah of Shabbos Morning Admidah is somewhat famously odd, “Moshe will be rejoicing with the giving of his portion, for You called him a loyal servant. A crown of splendor descended on his head when he stood before You in Mount Sinai, and two stone luchos he brought down in his hand. And Shabbos was written in them,...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayechi II – My Sword and My Bow

In this second shiur on Vayechi, we look at Meshech Chokhmah on Bereishis 48:22. My sword and my bow – tzelos’hi uva’ushi – tefilah vesachanunim — siddur prayer and personal requests. There are two mitzvos of prayer — one to impress how we ought to relate to G-d, one to express our actual feelings for and requests from Him. Audio:...

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Waiting before Prayer

כמה ישהה בין תפלה לתפלה? רב הונא ורב חסדא. חד אמר: כדי שתתחונן דעתו עליו. וחד אמר: כדי שתתחולל דעתו עליו. [Minimally,] how long must one wait between [one] prayer to [another] prayer? Rav Huna and Rav Chisda [both spoke on the subject, but we lost the record of who said which]. One said: long enough that one would be...

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A Thought About Maoz Tzur

(Updated again for 2009, 2013 and now in 2016.) One line in Ma’oz Tzur I particularly love. The 5th verse of Ma’oz Tzur describes the Chanukah story. One phrase in this verse is “ufortzu chomos migdalai“, which would be literally translated “and burst open the walls of my citadel”. Mentally, I used to picture breaking down the walls of the...

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Sweet Charoses

(Embellished with thoughts from my daughter Noa’s recent bas mitzvah speech. Yay, Noa!) If you think about it, charoses is quite strange. On the one hand, as we learn in preschool and the Rambam writes, “The charoses is a mitzvah from the Soferim, as a commemoration of the mortar that they worked in in Egypt.” (Laws of Chameitz and Matzah 7:11)....

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Tefillah beHispa’alus: Building the Temple Within – part 1

This was a webinar given for The Mussar Institute on 3-Mar-2014. Class 1 of 2. (Part 2 is here.) The format is more introducing and practicing tools for kavanah than a class in the meaning of the words of the siddur. Audio only version is available here. (Admittedly this is a good deal of the blind leading the blind.)

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And with what? With a Shofar – II

אמר רבי יהודה משום רבי עקיבא … אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא: … ואמרו לפני בראש השנה מלכיות זכרונות ושופרות. מלכיות: כדי שתמליכוני עליכם. זכרונות: כדי שיעלה זכרוניכם לפני לטובה. ובמה? בשופר. Rabbi Yehudah said an idea from Rabbi Aqiva …: The Holy One, blessed be He said, “… say before Me on Rosh haShanah, Malkhios, Zikhoronosand Shoferos. “Malkhios: so that...

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Pesach, Matzah, Maror

AishDas’s motto is lifted from the motto of HaOlim, founded by Dr. Nathan Birnbaum which existed from the 1910s through the 1930s, ending with the decimation of European Jewry. “Da’as, Rachamim, Tif’eres” — Knowledge of G-d coming from an intimate relationship with Him, mercy toward others, and harmony of mind and emotion. The idea is an understanding of the three...

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Who in his time?

There were two lines from the Shemoneh Esrei of Rosh haShanah that particularly spoke to me this year — “mekhalkeil chaim bechesed – Who sustains the living with lovingkindness”, and the line from Unsaneh Toqef which tells us that on Rosh haShanah it is written and on the fast of Yom Kippur it is sealed… mi beqitzo umi lo beqitzo...

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VeAhavta

My rebbe, Rav Dovid Lifshitz, passed away on 9 Tammuz 5753, 20 years ago today. I am posting a gemara that rebbe would often refer to in his shmuessin. Yuma 86a: At Rabbi Yanai[‘s school] it was said: Anyone whose peers are embarassed by what is heard about him, that is a desecration of Hashem’s name. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchaq...

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Don’t Present Oneself as a Liar!

צריך שיהיו תפילין עליו בשעת ק”ש ותפלה. A man must have tefillin on at the time of reading Shema and prayer [Shemoneh Esrei]. – Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 25:4 בשעת ק”ש ותפלה: ר”ל לכל הפחות בשעת ק”ש ותפלה וכדלקמן בסימן ל”ז ס”ב ואמרינן בגמרא כל הקורא ק”ש בלי תפלין הרי הוא כאלו מעיד עדות שקר בעצמו ח”ו ופירשו בתוספות לפי...

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Thoughts about Teshuvah

“Aspaqlaria: Aseres Yemei Teshuvah” (49 pages) is a collection of essays adapted from those that appeared here on the subjects of teshuvah, shofar, vidui, and the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. It is in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format, ready for printing.

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Malki-Tzedeq and Birkhas Avos

Compare these two snippets. I added color to highlight my point. First, Bereishis 14:19-20. A massive regional war just completed, and Avraham joins the kings he fought with. Malki-Tzedeq the king of Shaleim (the future Jerusalem) and priest of the Kel Elyon (most high G-d) serves food and blesses him: וַיְבָרְכֵהוּ וַיֹּאמַר: “בָּרוּךְ אַבְרָם לְאֵ-ל עֶלְיוֹן קֹנֵה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ. וּבָרוּךְ...

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Modeh Ani (redux)

A while back I blogged a recording of a shiur I gave on Modeh Ani. The sound quality on the recording was too poor for the shiur to be made out by most listeners. I recently emailed a group a piece on Modeh Ani that makes, in abbreviated form, many of the points I made in that shiur. So, here it is.`...

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Tefillah Behitpa’alut

These are notes from a talk I gave in Zion Il at the 8th Mussar Kallah. As a favor to those who asked me to publish notes, as the talk was given on Shabbos, I tried to use a more Israeli-sounding transliteration scheme than I’m used to. The result is probably sadly inconsistent. Defining Tefillah Our forefather Jacob, lying on...

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Selichah, Mechilah, Kapparah, Yir’ah and Simchah

Caveat: Most of these entries are extrapolations from something I learned. In this case, the entry is a chidush on top of an earlier chidush. In Mesilas Yesharim ch. 24, the Ramchal describes the various types of yir’ah (awe / fear). This is the topic of an earlier entry. To quote: 1- Yir’as ha’onesh: fear of punishment. This is the...

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How Does Prayer Influence?

As a memorial to R’ Mordechai Eliyahuzt”l, here is a translation of the introduction to his siddur, “Sefatei Tiftach”: How Does Prayer Influence? One must read well the verses that speak about the creation of man in order to understand man’s mission in this world: כו וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ וְיִרְדּוּ֩ בִדְגַ֨ת הַיָּ֜ם וּבְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֗יִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה֙ וּבְכָל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וּבְכָל־הָרֶ֖מֶשׂ...

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The Structure of Maggid

I recently reworked and expanded an older piece on the structure of the Seder as a whole, and why it comes in fifteen steps grouped by the cups of wine into four. This section is also a rewrite, reflecting parallel changes to Maggid in particular. Within our framework, Maggid is the substance of the second cup of the seder. It...

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Dai- Dai- Einu…

Chassidim have a tendency of finding lessons in Jewish practices on the basis that “if they are not prophets, they are the ‘children of prophets’”. (“Children of prophets” is an idiom in Tanakh for those studying for prophecy.) Along those lines… I don’t know about the rest of you, but I lack the patience to sing the entire Dayeinu, all...

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Gratitude

I I noticed that there are two types of middos — intransitive and transitive. I mean those terms in the grammatical sense: Intransitive middos have no object, no specific target. Sadness is what I would call an intransitive middah, as it’s a state of mind rather than part of a relationship with another. Transitive ones express an attitude toward an...