Category: Tefillah


Doing what is Customary

When the Jews reached the Red Sea and saw the Mitzriyim catching up, “וַיִּֽירְאוּ֙ מְאֹ֔ד וַיִּצְעֲק֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶל־ה’ — they became very fearful, and the Benei Yisrael cried out to Hashem.” (Shemos 14:10) Rashi, on the word “וַיִּצְעֲק֥וּ — they cried out”, quotes the Mekhilta, “תָּפְשׂוּ אֻמָּנוּת אֲבוֹתָם — they picked up their ancestors’ profession” and then quotes a pasuq...


Ideals and Yokes

The question I started with was wondering about the first two paragraphs of Shema. (Which is what Arukh haShulchan Yomi is up to.) The first paragraph is an exercise of accepting ol Malkhus Shamayim, the yoke of the Kingdom of [the One in] heaven. The second — ol Mitzvos, the yoke of the commandments. Those mitzvos are the commands of...


Minyan for a Davar sheBiqdushah

There are tefillos including Qaddish, Qedushah, Borkhu, that are labeled a “Davar sheBiqdushah“, literally: “a matter that is in holiness”. The way we usually study the halakhah, it is said that a minyan is required to recite a davar shebiqdushah. Which is why we don’t say (e.g. Qaddish) when davening without a minyan. I am going to propose an entirely...

Minyan Saying Shema 0

Shema Yisrael

The following is a post I wrote for the Judaism Reclaimed Facebook page, a space that in general discusses Judaism Reclaimed: Philosophy and Theology in the Torah, by R’ Shmuel Phillips (Mosaica 2019). The opening in italics is an introduction by R’ Phillips. And the paragraph in sans-serif font was in my original submission, but removed from the post when...


The Parent, the CEO and Me

The Parent I believe that the efficacy of prayer is in the relationship built by turning to one’s Parent in times of trouble. One may indeed get what one prayed for, in some circumstances, because perhaps the deprivation served its purpose once it woke you up to prayer. The you post-prayer has a different set of needs than the you...


תפילה לזכות לאור ולאהבה

תפילה לזכות לאור ולאהבה רבי אלימלך מליז’ענסק A Prayer to Merit Light and Love by Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk (1717-1787, one of the early rebbes of the Chassidic movement) This prayer, written by the Rebbe Reb Elimelekh of Lizhensk, strikes a chord for me because of its heavy focus on hakarat hatov for all we have in life, and asking...


Barukh Sheim

Reciting Shema on Yom Kippur is unique in that we say the second line, “בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד — Blessed is the name of the Glory of His Rule for all eternity.” Every Shema, after accepting Hashem as our King with the opening verse, we continue by declaring His Kingship as the angels do. (Devarim Rabba 2:36) Since...


And with what? With a Shofar

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, Zikhoronos and Shoferos.“Malkhios: so that...


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...


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...


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...



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,...


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:...


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...


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...


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)....


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.)


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...


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...


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...



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...


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...


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.