Praying for a Rainy Day when Traveling to or from Eretz Yisroel in November

Whereas in chutz la’aretz ve’sein tal umatar (the prayer for rain added to the beracha of Boreich Aleinu in the weekday shemoneh esrei) is not recited until the evening of December Fourth (this year; the exact date varies), people in Eretz Yisroel began reciting this prayer on the Seventh of MarCheshvan. This difference in practice leads to many interesting shaylos. Here are some examples:

Question #1:

Yankel, who lives in New York, is in aveilus, l”a, for his father, and tries to lead services at every opportunity. He will be visiting Eretz Yisroel during the month of November. Does he recite the prayer according to the Eretz Yisroel practice while there? Which version does he recite in his quiet shemoneh esrei? Perhaps he should not even lead services while he is there?

Question #2:

Does someone from chutz la’aretz who is currently attending yeshiva or seminary in Eretz Yisroel recite ve’sein tal umatar according to the custom of Eretz Yisroel or according to the chutz la’aretz practice?

Question #3:

Reuven lives in Eretz Yisroel, but is in chutz la’aretz on the Seventh of MarCheshvan. Does he begin reciting ve’sein tal umatar while in chutz la’aretz, does he wait until he returns to Eretz Yisroel, or does he follow the practice of those who live in chutz la’aretz?

In order to explain the halachic issues involved in answering these shaylos, we must first explain why we begin requesting rain in Eretz Yisroel on a date different from that in chutz la’aretz.

The Gemara (Taanis 10a) concludes that in Eretz Yisroel, one begins reciting ve’sein tal umatar on the Seventh of MarCheshvan, whereas in Bavel one begins reciting it on the sixtieth day after the autumnal equinox. (The Gemara’s method for calculating the autumnal equinox is not based on the solar year, but on a different calculation. The reason for this is beyond the scope of this article.) Someone who recites ve’sein tal umatar during the summer months in Eretz Yisroel must repeat the shemoneh esrei, since this request in the summer is inappropriate (Taanis 3b; Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 117:3).

WHY ARE THERE TWO DIFFERENT “RAIN DATES”?

Since Eretz Yisroel requires rain earlier than Bavel, Chazal instituted that the Jews in Eretz Yisroel begin requesting rain shortly after Sukkos. In Bavel, where it was better if it began raining later, reciting ve’sein tal umatar was delayed until later. This practice is followed in all of chutz la’aretz, even in places where rain is not seasonal, or where rain is needed earlier — although the precise reason why all of chutz la’aretz follows the practice of Bavel is uncertain (see Rashi and Rosh to Taanis 10a; Shu”t Rosh 4:10; Tur and Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 117, and my article on reciting ve’sein tal umatar in the southern hemisphere).

LOCAL CONDITIONS

If a certain city needs rain at a different time of the year, can they, or should they recite ve’sein tal umatar then? The Gemara (Taanis 14b) raises this question and cites the following story:

“The people of the city of Nineveh (in contemporary Iraq) sent the following shaylah to Rebbe: In our city, we need rain even in the middle of the summer. Should we be treated like individuals, and request rain in the beracha of Shma Koleinu, or like a community and recite ve’sein tal umatar during the beracha of Boreich Aleinu? Rebbe responded that they are considered individuals and should request rain during the beracha of Shma Koleinu.”

This means that an individual or a city that needs rain during a different part of the year should recite ve’sein tal umatar during the beracha of Shma Koleinu, but not as part of Boreich Aleinu.

NATIONAL CONDITIONS

Is a country different from a city? In other words, if an entire country or a large region requires rain at a different time of the year, should its residents recite ve’sein tal umatar during the beracha of Boreich Aleinu? The Rosh raises this question and contends, at least in theory, that a country should recite ve’sein tal umatar in Boreich Aleinu. In his opinion, most of North America and Europe should recite ve’sein tal umatar during the summer months. Although we do not follow this approach, someone who recites ve’sein tal umatar at a time when his country requires rain should not repeat the Shemoneh esrei, but should rely retroactively on the opinion of the Rosh (Shulchan Aruch and Rama 117:2). Similarly, someone in chutz la’aretz who recited ve’sein tal umatar as part of Boreich Aleinu in error after the Seventh of MarCheshvan should not repeat Shemoneh esrei afterwards, unless he lives in a country where rain is not necessary at this time (Birkei Yosef 117:3; cf. Shu”t Ohalei Yaakov #87 of the Maharikash,  who disagrees.).

With this introduction, we can now begin to discuss the questions at hand. What should someone do if he lives in Eretz Yisroel but is in chutz la’aretz, or vice versa, during the weeks when there is a difference in practice between the two places? As one can imagine, much halachic literature discusses this shaylah, although I am surprised to report that I found no discussion concerning this question dating back to the Rishonim. I found three early opinions, which I quote in chronological order:

Opinion #1

The earliest opinion I found, that of the Maharikash (Shu”t Ohalei Yaakov #87) and the Radbaz (Shu”t #2055), discusses specifically an Eretz Yisroel resident who left his wife and children behind while traveling to chutz la’aretz. (In earlier generations, it was common that emissaries from the Eretz Yisroel communities traveled to chutz la’aretz for long periods of time to solicit funds.) These poskim ruled that if the traveler is leaving his family behind in Eretz Yisroel, he should begin reciting ve’sein tal umatar on the Seventh of MarCheshvan, following the practice of Eretz Yisroel, regardless of whether he himself was then in Eretz Yisroel or in chutz la’aretz. However, if he is single, or alternatively, if he is traveling with his family, then when he begins reciting ve’sein tal umatar depends on whether he will be gone for the entire rainy season. If he leaves Eretz Yisroel before the Seventh of MarCheshvan and intends to be gone until Pesach or later, he recites ve’sein tal umatar according to the practice of chutz la’aretz. If he intends to return before Pesach, he recites ve’sein tal umatar beginning on the Seventh of MarCheshvan, even though he is in chutz la’aretz.

The key question here is, what is the criterion for determining when someone recites ve’sein tal umatar? These poskim contend that it depends on his personal need. If his immediate family is in Eretz Yisroel, it is considered that his personal need requires rain already on the Seventh of MarCheshvan. Therefore, he begins reciting ve’sein tal umatar on that date, even should he himself be in chutz la’aretz (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:102).

Opinion #2

The Pri Chodosh (Orach Chayim 117) quotes the previous opinion (of the Maharikash and the Radbaz) and disputes their conclusion, contending that only one factor determines when the traveler begins reciting ve’sein tal umatar – how long he plans to stay abroad. If he left Eretz Yisroel intending to be away for at least a year, he should consider himself a resident of chutz la’aretz (for this purpose) and begin reciting ve’sein tal umatar in December. If he intends to be away for less than a year, he should begin reciting ve’sein tal umatar on the Seventh of MarCheshvan. Furthermore, the Pri Chodosh states that whether one leaves one’s immediate family behind or not does not affect this halacha.

These two approaches disagree fundamentally regarding what determines when an individual recites ve’sein tal umatar? According to Opinion #1 (the Maharikash and the Radbaz), the main criterion is whether one has a personal need for rain as early as the Seventh of MarCheshvan. According to Opinion #2 (the Pri Chodosh), the issue is whether one is considered a resident of Eretz Yisroel or of chutz la’aretz.

According to this analysis of Opinion #2, a resident of chutz la’aretz who intends to spend a year in Eretz Yisroel begins reciting ve’sein tal umatar on the Seventh of MarCheshvan, whereas, if he intends to stay less than a year, he follows the practice of chutz la’aretz (Pri Megadim; Mishnah Berurah; cf. however Halichos Shelomoh, Volume 1 8:28 pg. 107). However, according to Opinion #1, he would being reciting ve’sein tal umatar on the Seventh of MarCheshvan if he or his family intend to spend any time during the rainy season in Eretz Yisroel.

Opinion #3

The Birkei Yosef quotes the two above-mentioned opinions and also other early poskim who follow a third approach, that the determining factor is where you are on the Seventh of MarCheshvan. (See also Shu”t Dvar Shmuel #323.) This approach implies that someone who is in Eretz Yisroel on the Seventh of MarCheshvan should begin praying for rain, even though he intends to return to chutz la’aretz shortly, and that someone who is in chutz la’aretz on that date should not, even though he left his family in Eretz Yisroel.

Dvar Shmuel and Birkei Yosef explain that someone needs rain where he is, and it is not dependent on his residence. Birkei Yosef points out that if there is a severe drought where he is located, it does not make any difference if he lives elsewhere; he will be a casualty of the lack of water. This was certainly true in earlier generations, when water supply was dependent on local wells. Even today, when water is supplied via piping from large reservoirs, this opinion would still rule that the halacha is determined by one’s current location, and not one’s permanent residence.

Opinion #3 (the Birkei Yosef’s approach) is fairly similar to that of Opinion #1 (the Maharikash and the Radbaz), in that both approaches see the determining factor to be temporary need and not permanent residency. However, these two opinions dispute several details, including what is the ruling of someone in chutz la’aretz whose family remains in Eretz Yisroel. According to Opinion #1, this person begins ve’sein tal umatar on the Seventh of MarCheshvan, whereas Opinion #3 contends that he begins only when the other bnei chutz la’aretz do.

Why does Opinion #3 disregard his family being in Eretz Yisroel as a factor, whereas Opinion #1 is concerned with this fact? Birkei Yosef explains that praying for rain for one’s family when one is in chutz la’aretz is praying for an individual need, which one does in Shma Koleinu, not in Boreich Aleinu, since the rest of the community there has no need for rain. Opinion #1 presumably holds that praying for Eretz Yisroel when I am in chutz la’aretz is not considered praying for an individual, even though my reason to pray for rain in Eretz Yisroel is personal.

After analyzing these three conflicting opinions, how do we rule? Although the later poskim, such as the Mishnah Berurah, refer to these earlier sources, it is unclear how they conclude halachically. (See Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 6:38, which contains a careful analysis of the words of the Mishnah Berurah on this subject.) Thus, an individual should ask his Rav what to do in each case.

TRAVELING AND RETURNING

What does one do if he travels and returns within these days? Assuming that he began to recite ve’sein tal umatar on the Seventh of MarCheshvan because he was in Eretz Yisroel (and he followed those opinions that rule this way), does he now stop reciting it upon his return to chutz la’aretz?

This question is raised by the Birkei Yosef (117:6), who rules that he continues reciting ve’sein tal umatar when he returns to chutz la’aretz.

What does one do if he is reciting ve’sein tal umatar, and the community is not, or vice versa — and he would like to lead the services? Birkei Yosef rules that he should not lead the communal services; however, if he forgot and did so, he should follow his own version in the quiet Shemoneh esrei and the community’s version in the repetition (Birkei Yosef 117:8). However, Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach permitted him to lead the services, following the community’s practice in his public prayer and his own in his private one (Halichos Shelomoh 5:21; note that according to Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:23, 29; 4:33 he should not lead the services.).

Let us now examine some of the shaylos we raised above:

Question #1:

Yankel, who lives in New York, would like to lead services when visiting Eretz Yisroel during the month of November.

According to all of the opinions involved, when davening privately Yankel should not recite ve’sein tal umatar until it is recited in chutz la’aretz, since he does not live in Eretz Yisroel, does not have immediate family living there, and was not there on the Seventh of MarCheshvan. As explained above, according to most opinions, he should not lead the services, since he is not reciting ve’sein tal umatar and the congregation is, whereas according to Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach, he may lead the services. According to Birkei Yosef (Opinion #3 above), if he is in Eretz Yisroel on the Seventh of MarCheshvan, he should begin to recite ve’sein tal umatar then, since he now has a need for rain; he should continue to recite this prayer even when he returns to chutz la’aretz. However, in this case, when returning to chutz la’aretz, he should not lead services, according to most opinions, since he is reciting ve’sein tal umatar and they are not. If he forgot and led the services, he should recite ve’sein tal umatar in the quiet Shemoneh esrei but not in the repetition.

According to the Pri Chodosh (Opinion #2 above), if he is in Eretz Yisroel on the Seventh of MarCheshvan, he should not recite ve’sein tal umatar, since he lives in chutz la’aretz. Following this approach, he should not lead services when in Eretz Yisroel, but he may resume when he returns to chutz la’aretz.

Question #2:

Does someone attending Yeshiva or seminary in Eretz Yisroel, recite ve’sein tal umatar according to the custom of Eretz Yisroel or according to the chutz la’aretz practice?

The answer to this question will depend upon which of the above-quoted authorities one follows. According to Opinion #1 (the Maharikash, the Radbaz) and Opinion #3 (the Birkei Yosef), they should follow the practice of Eretz Yisroel, since they need the rain, while in Eretz Yisroel, even though they are not permanent Israeli residents. According to Opinion #2 (the Pri Chodosh), if they are staying for less than a year, they follow the practice of chutz la’aretz, whereas if they are staying longer, they should begin reciting it from the Seventh of MarCheshvan. Several people have told me that Rav Elyashiv ruled that they should recite ve’sein tal umatar while they are in Eretz Yisroel, unless they intend to return before the end of the rainy season.

Question #3:

Reuven lives in Eretz Yisroel, but is in chutz la’aretz on the Seventh of MarCheshvan. Does he begin reciting ve’sein tal umatar while in chutz la’aretz, does he wait until he returns to Eretz Yisroel, or does he follow the practice of those who live in chutz la’aretz?

According to Opinions # 1 and #2, he should follow the practice of those living in Eretz Yisroel, but for different reasons. According to Opinion #1, the reason is because he knows that he will return to Eretz Yisroel during the rainy season and therefore follows the practice there. According to Opinion #2, since he left Eretz Yisroel for less than a year he is considered an Eretz Yisroel resident.

Although it would seem that the Birkei Yosef (Opinion #3) would hold that he should not recite ve’sein tal umatar until the bnei chutz la’aretz do, it is not absolutely clear that he would disagree with the other poskim in this case. One could explain that he ruled only that one follows the bnei chutz la’aretz if he is there for an extended trip, but not if he is there for only a few weeks that happen to coincide with the Seventh of MarCheshvan. For this reason, when someone recently asked me this shaylah, I ruled that he should follow the practice of those dwelling in Eretz Yisroel. Subsequently, I found this exact shaylah in Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer (6:38), and was very happy to find that he ruled the same way I had. (However, Halichos Shelomoh 8:19 rules that he should recite ve’sein tal umatar in Shma Koleinu and not in Boreich Aleinu.)

CONCLUSION

Rashi (Breishis 2:5) points out that until Adam HaRishon appeared, there was no rain in the world. Rain fell and grasses sprouted only after Adam was created, understood that rain was necessary for the world and prayed to Hashem for rain.  Whenever we pray for rain, we must remember that the essence of prayer is drawing ourselves closer to Hashem.

 

Keeping My Feet Together

Many articles on various Rosh Hashanah topics are available for reading or downloading under the headings “Rosh Hashanah,” “Shofar” or “Tashlich.”

Keeping My Feet Together

Question #1: Proper posture

“The Shemoneh Esrei on Rosh Hashanah is very long. Is it sufficient that I stand with my heels touching, or must my feet be side-by-side touching their entire length?”

Question #2: Standing straight

“Why do we keep our feet together during kedushah but not when responding to kaddish?”

Question #3: Kaddish together

“Is it required to have one’s feet together when reciting kaddish?”

Answer:

Fulfilling the mitzvah of davening requires that we observe many halachic details. The Rambam organizes these laws under two headings: essential and non-essential components. In Chapter 4 of Hilchos Tefillah, he lists five essential components of prayer, meaning the Shemoneh Esrei. These are:

1) Cleansing one’s hands before prayer

2) Having one’s body properly covered

3) Praying must be in a place that is clean and without inappropriate odor

4) Not davening when one senses bodily needs

5) Having basic, proper intent and focus

The Rambam calls these five requirements “essential,” which means that a prayer missing any of these qualities does not fulfill the mitzvah and one is required to recite it again. Someone who cannot meet these requirements is exempt from praying until he can meet them. Therefore, it is preferred that someone unable to fulfill the basics of these requirements miss the prayer rather than recite a tefillah that violates these laws. Many of these topics are available for reading or downloading on RabbiKaganoff.com

Non-essentials

In Chapter 5 of Hilchos Tefillah, the Rambam lists eight non-essential components of prayer, meaning that these are important aspects, but one fulfills the mitzvah to pray even if they are entirely missing. These eight aspects are:

  1. Standing during prayer
  2. Facing the Beis Hamikdash
  3. Correct positioning
  4. Appropriate attire
  5. Proper location
  6. Volume
  7. Bowing
  8. Prostrating

The Rambam notes that these requirements are not essential, and that, therefore, someone who failed or was unable to do them has fulfilled the mitzvah to daven. Furthermore, one who is unable to fulfill any of these aspects should daven anyway. Therefore, although davening while properly attired is very important, one who will be unable to dress appropriately should daven and observes this law only to the extent that he can under the circumstances.

Correct positioning

One article cannot cover all the laws of these rules, so here we will discuss one aspect of the requirement to position one’s body in a certain way. The Rambam (Hilchos Tefillah 5:4) states the following aspects of positioning one’s body:

When standing to daven shemoneh esrei, one’s feet should be together and alongside one another.

One’s eyes should be facing downward, yet his heart should be directed upward, as if he is standing in heaven.

One’s hands should be resting on one’s heart, with the right hand atop the left, standing in fear and awe like a servant before his master.

One should not place his hands on his hips.

As I mentioned above, although these factors are important components of proper prayer, they are not essential, and one who neglected to do them has fulfilled the requirement to pray (see Mishnah Berurah 95:1; Kaf Hachayim 95:2). Therefore, someone who cannot put his feet together should daven without his feet together, rather than not daven at all (Kaf Hachayim 95:3).

Feet together

The Rambam states: “When standing to daven shemoneh esrei, one’s feet should be together and alongside one another.” The basis for this ruling is the Gemara (Brachos 10b) which mentions this requirement based on the following. In Yechezkel’s opening prophecy, he shares with us a vision of the heavenly courts, describing the feet of the angels as veragleihem regel yesharah, literally, “their feet were a straight foot” (Yechezkel 1:7). According to Targum and one interpretation of Rashi, the verse means that the angels stood in a way that their feet lay one alongside the other. The Gemara explains that when we daven we should also have our feet aligned, which Rashi explains to mean that one foot should be alongside the other so that they appear as one “foot.”

This passage of Gemara leaves one puzzled. Indeed, Yechezkel reports to us that the angels stood with their feet together. But why is a person who is praying required to emulate the position of the angels? Are we also required to pray while flying, as the angels sometimes do?

A simple approach

On a simple level, one could explain that standing with one’s feet together makes one feel somewhat vulnerable and therefore humble, and that this position allows one to fulfill davening with trepidation and humility (Levush, Orach Chayim 95:1). However, although this approach seems to supply a good reason for us to have our feet together when we pray, it does not seem to explain what the Gemara was saying since this has nothing to do with the fact that the angels stand this way.

The latter question is discussed by an early commentator, the Rashba (in his commentary to the Gemara Brachos), who writes the following:

“I was asked by someone who is an enemy of our people [probably someone trying to proselytize among the Jewish people]: Why do we keep our feet together when we pray, and what proof is being brought from the holy bearers of the divine chariot to someone praying?

“I responded as follows: ‘There are two major reasons for this. The first reason is that man’s body was created with limbs — his hands and legs — whose purpose is to enable him to reach and acquire what he wants and to distance himself from harm. The hands bring him items of pleasure, push away from him harmful items, and are what he uses against his enemy in warfare. His feet move him great distances in a very short time, and enable him to escape from harm.

“It is essential to prayer that a person realize that none of these abilities are man’s own activities and they will not save him without G-d’s help. Everything is dependent on G-d’s will. In order to entrench this idea in one’s soul, one must place one’s feet together when praying, to symbolize that his feet are completely bound and paralyzed. They are without any ability to flee from danger. This forces man to realize that all his abilities of locomotion are only because G-d helps him.” This reason is quoted by the Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 95 in the name of a much later authority, the Mahari Abohav.

The Rashba continues: “The same is true with one’s hands. The Gemara teaches that in times of difficulty, Rava would fold his arms when he prayed… This position demonstrates that it is as if one’s arms are bound and one is without help except for Hashem.”

The Rashba then adds: “There is another reason why we assume the position of the angels when we pray: The human species, whose purpose is to recognize the Creator and to praise He who created man from nothing, has a specific responsibility to serve G-d and to keep His commandments. Man is an angel, an emissary, placed on earth, just as the celestial angels serve and recognize their Creator. Mankind can therefore be called malach” (as he is in Malachi 2:7), which means G-d’s messenger. Thus, the Rashba explains that placing one’s feet together, whether performed by man or by angels, demonstrates a lack of ability, thereby recognizing that all our strength at all times comes from Hashem. We are also showing that we are, indeed, comparable to angels, since we are fulfilling G-d’s mission on Earth. To quote the Zohar (parshas Pinchas #229), “The Holy One, blessed is He, said: Those who pray with their feet together like the angels, I will open the gates of the Sanctuary for them to enter.”

There is yet another reason why we pray with our feet touching, side-by-side, which is that when we are talking to Hashem, it is essential that we be fully and exclusively focused. This places us on the levels of the angels who are always focused exclusively on their Divine mission.

Is regel a foot?

After explaining why we pray in a position similar to that of the angels, the Rashba adds: “You should realize that the word regel has a double meaning, for it means not only the foot but it also means cause (as in Bereishis 33:14 and 30:30). According to this interpretation, the verse in Yechezkel 1:7, veragleihem regel yesharah, should be translated as their cause is a straight cause, meaning that the angels consistently follow the path of truth.

“In this manner, someone standing and praying before Hashem must abandon thoughts of himself, and focus completely on the prayer he is reciting. Concentrating all his energies on this goal develops him such that everything he does, all the time, should be only for the purpose of strengthening his body in order to serve Hashem. Placing his legs together demonstrates having a straightforward cause directed toward the purpose for which he was created — to serve G-d. For this reason, man can be compared to the chariot that bears Hashem’s presence into the world.”

Should the front of the toes be separated?

Having established the basis for the practice that one’s feet should be together when reciting shemoneh esrei, we find a discussion in the rishonim whether the feet should be slightly separated in front. Rabbeinu Yonah quotes some who hold that the tips of both feet should not touch, so that it appears like a calf’s foot with its split hooves. Rabbeinu Yonah disputes this, saying that the requirement is only that the feet be together like one foot — there is no mention of making one’s feet look like a split hoof.

Nevertheless, we still find a dispute among early acharonim whether one should lechatchilah stand with a slight split at the front of one’s toes or not. The Olas Tamid writes that this is preferred. However, the Yeshuos Yaakov disagrees, contending that one should not have one’s feet slightly separate. He notes that the angels cover their feet that look like those of a calf so as not to be reminiscent of the eigel hazahav, the Golden Calf. Therefore, we should deliberately not have our feet look like this, reasons the Yeshuos Yaakov.

The Yerushalmi

Having quoted the passage of the Talmud Bavli that explains how we should stand when we pray, we should be aware that there is also a passage of Talmud Yerushalmi (Brachos 1:1) regarding this issue. There, the Yerushalmi quotes a dispute between Rabbi Levi and Rabbi Simon, one of whom held the same opinion as the Bavli that one should daven with one’s feet pressed together and the other holding that, when davening, one should assume the position that the kohanim did when walking in the Beis Hamikdash. There, the kohanim took very small steps such that the big toe of one foot was next to the heel of the other when they walked.

Since in a dispute between the Talmud Bavli and the Talmud Yerushalmi we rule according to the Bavli, it would appear that the dispute recorded by the Yerushalmi is halachically irrelevant. The commentaries are thus surprised to note that the Tur quotes the Yerushalmi, leading the Beis Yosef and the other commentaries to question why the Tur does so. Many answers are proposed to explain the Tur’s position. I will quote here two of them, whose answers yield halachic ramifications.

The Bach explains as follows: In his opinion, halachah requires that one daven with one’s feet in one of the two positions advocated by the Yerushalmi. The Bach contends that if one’s feet are in neither of these positions one has not fulfilled the requirements of prayer. The Tur agrees that it is preferable to place one’s feet alongside one another, since we rule as the Bavli does. However, he quotes the Yerushalmi because someone who failed to position his feet in either of these positions is required to daven again. Furthermore, someone who cannot align his feet alongside one another should position them so that the toe of one foot is alongside the heel of the other. Thus, although we follow the ruling of the Bavli that one should daven with the two feet alongside one another, it is also important to know the conclusion of the Yerushalmi, which is why the Tur included this information.

Several authorities note that, according to this approach, the Tur’s interpretation of the topic has him in dispute with the Rambam’s ruling, quoted above, that positioning is never essential to prayer, and that one fulfills the mitzvah of davening with one’s feet in any position. Since they see no evidence that such a dispute exists, they are reticent to create one on this basis and instead suggest other approaches to resolve why the Tur quoted the Yerushalmi. Notwithstanding this conclusion, some authorities opine that someone who davened with his feet apart should daven a voluntary prayer (called a tefilas nedavah), to make certain that he fulfilled the mitzvah (Olas Tamid). Later authorities reject this approach and rule that one should assume that he fulfilled the mitzvah (Kaf Hachayim).

Another approach

The Aruch Hashulchan suggests a different explanation why the Tur presented the Yerushalmi’s discussion. He explains that the Tur wants us to realize that someone who is unable to have his feet together for whatever reason, but who can assume the alternative position of having his toe touching his heel, should daven in the latter position. According to this approach, everyone accepts that these rules are all only lechatchilah and that one who davened with his feet in a completely different position has fulfilled the mitzvah, bedi’evid, after the fact.

Sitting with your feet together?

Is someone who must pray from a sitting position, either because of health reasons or because of travel, required to daven with his feet together? The Pri Megadim rules that he should still keep his feet together while davening. He further explains that someone who must daven while sitting should not lean backwards or to the sides while praying, and should also be careful not to stretch or cross his legs while davening, because these positions all convey an air of conceit.

All or nothing?

At this point, let us refer to the first question with which I opened our article: “The Shemoneh Esrei on Rosh Hashanah is very long. Is it sufficient that I stand with my heels touching, or must my feet be side-by-side touching their entire length?”

From what we have seen, it is clear that the proper position for davening is to have one’s feet side-by-side and touching their entire length.

Kedushah

At this point, let us address the remaining of our opening questions:

“Why do we stand with our feet together during kedushah but not when responding to kaddish?”

“Is it required to have one’s feet together when reciting kaddish?”

By way of introduction, let me quote a discussion from a late rishon, the Terumas Hadeshen (#28). He quotes the following question:

“Should an individual align his feet when he responds to the chazzan’s kedushah?”

To which he answers, “It appears to me that he should, since the prayer states, We shall sanctify his name just as they sanctify His Name in the highest heavens, and in the heavens they recite the kedushah with a ‘straight foot,’ as the verse reads ‘their feet were a straight foot.’ We should attempt to act like the angels to the best of our ability; there is neither conceit nor foolishness in our doing so. Indeed, this is the proper way to act.” This answer of the Terumas Hadeshen is quoted subsequently by all the authorities, and is codified in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 95:4).

Borchu

Although none of the reasons mentioned above applies to reciting Borchu, that is, we are not trying to compare ourselves to angels, nor is it the ultimate prayer; nevertheless, the custom is that Borchu is recited with one’s feet together. This custom is recorded by some late authorities (Aruch Hashulchan). Therefore, one should align one’s feet when reciting Borchu. However, since there is no halachic source that requires reciting Borchu with one’s feet together, one should not admonish someone who recites Borchu with his feet apart.

Kaddish

I have found no early source that requires one to have one’s feet together while reciting kaddish. Although it is standard practice that people recite kaddish with their feet together, since there does not appear to be an early halachic source for this practice, one should not admonish someone who fails to do so.

Conclusion

Understanding how much Chazal were concerned about the relatively minor aspects of davening, such as how we position our feet, should make us more aware of the fact that davening is our attempt at building a relationship with Hashem. As the Kuzari notes, every day should have three very high points — the three times that we daven, and from these three prayers we gain our strength and inspiration for the rest of the day.

 

The Mitzvah Snatcher

CHAPTER 1

A QUICK DAVENING

Yankel is in the year of mourning for his father and meticulously fulfills his filial responsibility to “daven in front of the amud.” Finding himself one day at a Mincha minyan in an unfamiliar neighborhood, he races to the amud before anyone else gets a chance. After davening, a nicely dressed gentleman hands Yankel a business card and asks if he can speak to him for a second.

“Are you new in the neighborhood? I don’t believe we have ever met before. My name is Irving Friedman.”

“Mine is Yankel Schwartz. No, I don’t live here. I was just passing through and needed a Mincha minyan.”

“Oh, I would like to make your acquaintance. Could I trouble you for your phone number?”

Not suspecting anything, Yankel provides Irving Friedman with his home, business, and cell phone numbers. Friedman then asks him for his home address, which arouses Yankel’s suspicion. “Why do you want to know?”

“Well, I guess I should be straightforward with you,” Irving continues. “I want you to be aware that you owe me a huge amount of money. You see, I have the chazakah of davening at the amud during this minyan. By grabbing the mitzvah, you stole from me nineteen brachos of the repetition of Shmoneh Esrei and two Kaddeishim, for each of which you owe me ten gold coins. I have made the exact calculation on the back of my business card. If you doubt that you owe me this money, I suggest you discuss the matter with your own rav. Since you look like an ehrliche yid, I assume that you will attempt to pay me before Yom Kippur. However, if that is too difficult, I am willing to discuss a payment plan. You have my phone number on the card.” With this, Irving Friedman (not his real name) got into his car and drove off.

A bit bewildered at this surprising turn of events, Yankel looked at the business card in his hand. The front of the card had Friedman’s name, business address, and the title and logo of his business. On the back, Yankel found the following hand-written calculation:

Invoice:

19 brachos @ 10 gold dinar coins each =                  190 gold dinar coins.

2 kaddeishim @ 10 gold dinar coins each=                 20 gold dinar coins.

Total                                                                            210 gold dinar coins.

Based on my research, these coins are worth between $24 and $200 each, in contemporary dollars (see Shiurei Torah, pg. 302.) This makes a total outstanding debt of between $5,040 and $42,000.

I am willing to accept the lower sum, and I am willing to discuss a payment schedule.

Yours sincerely, I. Friedman

CHAPTER 2

Yankel was shocked. He presumed that Irving Friedman was pulling his leg. Yet, Friedman’s demeanor about the entire matter had been so business-like that it did not seem Friedman was playing a prank on him. “Five grand for one Mincha. He must be kidding!!” was all Yankel could think.

Yankel now realized that his running to the amud was very presumptuous. Usually, one goes to the amud when asked by a gabbai, unless one has a regular chazakah to daven at the amud during that particular minyan. Yankel realized that his enthusiasm to get the amud had clouded his reasonable judgment.

Back in his own shul and on familiar turf, Yankel davened maariv at the amud uneventfully and then noticed his good buddy, Shmuel. Besides being a good friend, Shmuel was more learned than Yankel and would be able to help him sort out what had happened. Yankel told Shmuel about the day’s events and showed him the business card.

“I know that the Gemara talks about charging someone ten gold coins for snatching a mitzvah, but I never heard of someone trying to collect it,” was Shmuel’s surprised reaction.

“Where do you think Friedman got this dollar figure?”

“He has a note on the card quoting ‘Shiurei Torah, pg. 302.’ This is a sefer on the subject of halachic measurements. I don’t have the sefer, but let’s see if the shul has a copy.”

Sure enough, the shul library had a copy of Shiurei Torah by Rav Avrohom Chayim Na’eh, one of the gedolei poskim in Eretz Yisroel about sixty years ago. Shmuel located the chapter where the sefer discusses the halachic sources for determining the value of “ten gold coins,” and indeed, Friedman’s calculations were based on the conclusions of Shiurei Torah.

“What should I do? $5,040 is a lot of money. Do I really owe him this much money because I davened Mincha without checking if someone else had a right to the amud?” Yankel asked his friend.

“Maybe discuss the issue with the Rav.”

CHAPTER 3

Still very disturbed about the matter, Yankel called Rav Cohen to schedule an appointment. By now, he regretted his rash Mincha davening, and realized that it is far more important not to infringe on someone else’s mitzvah than to daven at the amud.

At the appointed time, Yankel arrived at Rav Cohen’s office and explained the whole story, showing him the calculation on the back of the business card.

Rav Cohen noticed a halachic flaw in Mr. Friedman’s argument, but felt that Yankel would benefit more if he found out this information a bit later. The sage knew that this was not the first time that Yankel’s impetuous nature had gotten him into trouble. This situation might help him realize not to be so rash.

Rav Cohen introduced Yankel to the halachic issues involved. “As we know from the Chumash, someone who shechts a bird has a mitzvah of “kisui hadam,” to cover the blood with dirt. The Gemara (Bava Kamma 91b) tells us a story of a shocheit who shechted a bird and then, before he had a chance to fulfill the mitzvah of covering the blood, someone else covered it, thus snatching the mitzvah. The shocheit brought the offending party to a din Torah where the great Tanna Rabban Gamliel presided. Rabban Gamliel ruled that the ‘mitzvah snatcher’ must pay ten gold coins for taking someone else’s mitzvah.”

“But in that case he is being fined for taking away his mitzvah, not for the bracha,” Yankel countered.

“Actually, the Gemara (Chullin 87a) asks exactly this question. The Gemara cites a case where someone grabbed someone else’s right to lead the bensching. In the time of the Gemara, when a group of people bensched together, one person recited the entire bensching aloud, and the others listened attentively and answered amen when he finished each bracha. By hearing the brachos of the person reciting the bensching, they fulfilled their obligation to bensch.

“In this instance, someone else began bensching other than the person who had the right to bensch. The Gemara discusses whether the person who bensched must compensate for one mitzvah, which is ten gold coins, or for four brachos, which is forty coins.”

Yankel, now keenly aware of the difference between ten coins and forty, lets out a sigh.

“How does the Gemara rule?” asked Yankel, hoping that the Gemara would rule in his favor and save him a lot of money. After all, if the Gemara rules that the entire bensching is only one mitzvah, his nineteen snatched brachos, which are only one mitzvah, are worth only ten gold coins. However, if the Gemara rules that he must compensate per bracha, he must pay 190 gold coins. By some quick arithmetic, Yankel figured that this saves him at least $4,500! He had never before realized before how much a Gemara discussion might be worth.

Rav Cohen realized what was going through Yankel’s head. “Well, there are other issues that impact on your case, but …. the Gemara rules that he must pay forty gold coins.”

The ramifications of this ruling were not lost on Yankel. “But what is he paying for? He didn’t take anything.”

“That is a really good question,” responded the Rav patiently. “Rashi (Chullin 87a) explains that the mitzvah snatcher is paying for the reward that he deprived the other person of when the mitzvah was taken away.”

“I didn’t know you could put a price tag on a mitzvah’s reward,” Yankel blurted out. “The reward for a mitzvah is priceless!”

The Rav could not miss this opportunity. “If that is so, then you are really getting a very good bargain.”

“Why?”

“What is worth more, the mitzvos one observes, or the money being paid as compensation?”

“Put that way, I must admit that it is a bargain. But it is still a very expensive bargain!”

Yankel continued. “Are there any other instances of collecting money for someone taking away a mitzvah?”

“The Gemara discusses a din Torah raised by a person whose tree was overhanging a public area and could cause potential damage. Before he could trim the tree, someone else chopped down the problematic branches. The owner placed a claim in beis din against the chopper for snatching his mitzvah. The beis din sided with the owner that his mitzvah was indeed snatched.”

“Shmuel told me that he never heard of anyone collect money for snatched mitzvos. Is there any discussion after the time of the Gemara about collecting for snatched mitzvos?”

Tosafos discusses a case when someone was ‘called up’ for an aliyah, and another person went up for the aliyah instead, thus snatching two brachos away from the person who had a right to them.”

“What chutzpah!” blurted out Yankel. Then, realizing the hypocrisy in his reaction, he added. “I shouldn’t be the one to talk. If I had a little less chutzpah, I wouldn’t have gotten into such hot water.”

“Whatever happened to this aliyah snatcher?” queried Yankel.

“How much do you think he should have paid?” replied the Rav, cunningly waiting for the best time to reveal the rest of the story.

“Well, based on the bensching case where he paid forty coins for four brachos, I would imagine the aliyah snatcher should pay twenty coins for two brachos, one before and one after the aliyah.”

“You are catching on really well,” complimented the Rav.

“Well, if I do end up financially poorer for this experience, at least I should end up a bit wealthier in Torah learning,” concluded Yankel. “But what do the poskim rule?”

Rav Cohen decided it was now time to let Yankel in on the secret. “There is a dispute in this question between Rabbeinu Tam and his nephew, Rabbeinu Yitzchok. Rabbeinu Yitzchok rules exactly like you contended – the aliyah snatcher must pay twenty gold coins. However, Rabbeinu Tam ruled that he is not required to pay at all (Tosafos, Bava Kamma 91b s.v. vichiyavo).”

Yankel was on the edge of his chair. Maybe Rabbeinu Tam would be his savior!

“How did Rabbeinu Tam get him off the hook?” was all Yankel wanted to know.

Rav Cohen leaned toward Yankel, asking him, “Which act earns more reward, reciting a bracha or answering amen?”

“I would assume reciting the bracha,” responded Yankel, “But because of the way you asked the question, I must be wrong.”

“Indeed, the Gemara (Berachos 53b) declares that it is greater to recite amen than to recite the bracha. Rabbeinu Tam understands this to mean that the person who answers amen receives more reward than the person who recites the bracha! He therefore concludes that the person who snatched the aliyah need not pay, since the person who should have received the aliyah would receive even more reward for reciting amen to the bracha. Remember, the compensation is for losing reward, and the aliyah snatcher did not take away any reward.”

“One second,” blurted out Yankel, “The guy who covered the blood also didn’t stop the shocheit from reciting amen. Why did he have to pay?”

“That is a really good question that the later poskim ask. There are two very different approaches to explain why Rabbeinu Tam agrees that the blood coverer must pay the shocheit. Some contend that he recited the bracha in a way that the shocheit did not hear the bracha and that is why he must pay. According to this approach, had the shocheit heard the bracha, he would not collect compensation for losing his mitzvah.

Others contend that the shocheit has two different claims, one for the mitzvah and the other for the bracha. Answering amen provides an even greater reward than reciting the bracha, so the shocheit does not collect for missing the bracha. However, the shocheit still lost the reward for performing the mitzvah, and for this loss he deserves compensation (Sma 382:7; Shach and other commentaries ad loc.).”

“Is this why Shmuel said he never heard of someone trying to collect ten gold coins for a snatched mitzvah?”

“No. Actually, the reason for this is a bit complicated,” began the Rav. “Technically, only a beis din whose members received the original semicha that Moshe Rabbeinu conferred to Yehoshua can enforce a financial claim. Since we no longer have this semicha, this would mean that no one could ever collect damages or a bad debt. To avoid this problem, Chazal instituted that one can collect damages or debts through any beis din. However, Chazal instituted this method of collecting only when a person suffered out-of-pocket losses, as he does in the case of a bad debt or an injury. When someone took another person’s mitzvah, however, although this is a real loss, there was no out-of-pocket loss. The result is that a mitzvah snatcher owes money and should pay it, but there is no way to force him to pay the debt (Tosafos, Bava Kamma 91b s.v. vechiyavo). However, since there is definitely a moral obligation to pay, the aggrieved party is permitted to seize property as payment.”

Yankel nodded, showing that he understood. “In conclusion, according to many opinions, I owe Mr. Friedman a considerable amount of money. Does it make any difference that I was unaware that he had the right to the amud and didn’t know that I could become obligated to pay a huge sum of money?”

“It should not make any difference, since you owe him for taking away his reward, which is something that you did whether you realized it or not.”

“Do I also owe him for the two kaddeishim? These are not brachos,” inquired Yankel.

“It would seem that Mr. Friedman considers them to be mitzvos, and from his perspective he is probably right. It is true that whether one snatched someone else’s bracha or his mitzvah, one is required to pay compensation for his lost reward. However, it is not clear from the poskim whether one must pay for depriving someone of a mitzvah that is not min haTorah (Yam Shel Shelomoh, Bava Kamma 8:60).”

“What about the fact that he said amen to my brachos. Does that get me off the hook? Do we paskin like Rabbeinu Tam?” The hope in Yankel’s voice was very obvious.

“Actually, there is a big dispute among poskim. Many rule like Rabbeinu Tam, but this is certainly not a universally held position (see Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 382 and commentaries).”

“What does the Rav paskin in this situation?”

I would suggest that one follow the decision of the Taz (end of Choshen Mishpat 382), who says that you should contact Mr. Friedman and apologize, and offer some compensation (Aruch Hashulchan 382:7).”

Yankel phoned Irving Friedman. After a few pleasantries, he apologized for having taken the “amud” from him that fateful afternoon, and discussed the conversation he had with Rav Cohen. He offered him some financial compensation, but far less than $5000, which Friedman accepted, and that was the last time Yankel “chapped” an amud without asking beforehand.

 

What If I Goofed and Said Tikanta Shabbos by Mistake?‎

Since this coming Shabbos is also Rosh Chodesh, this question may become very germane.

What If I Goofed and Said Tikanta Shabbos by Mistake?

By Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

Question: In the middle of davening Musaf on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh, I realized that I was reciting the Musaf for a regular Shabbos rather than the special Musaf for Shabbos Rosh Chodesh. What should I have done?

Answer:

This Shabbos is also Rosh Chodesh, requiring the recital of a special text for the middle bracha of Musaf. This special Musaf includes elements of the usual Shabbos Musaf, the usual Rosh Chodesh Musaf, and a special introductory passage. This passage, beginning with the words Atah Yatzarta, actually bears closer resemblance to the introductory part of the Yom Tov Musaf than it does to Musaf of either Shabbos or Rosh Chodesh. The rest of the middle bracha of Musaf combines elements of both Shabbos Musaf and Rosh Chodesh Musaf.

I once edited an article in which the author quoted several anthologies, each of which ruled that someone who realizes he is saying Tikanta Shabbos on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh should immediately stop where he is, and go to the beginning of Atah Yatzarta, and recite the entire bracha. However, I believe that this ruling is in error. I will explain shortly why I believe that this answer is erroneous.  But first…

I attempted to trace the sources quoted in the article to see if perhaps I was missing some logic or information that I would clarify in the course of my research.

What I did discover was that each source was simply quoting a previous one, and that they all traced to one obscure 19th century work, which did not explain at all the reason for the ruling. Classic group-think.

I will now explain why I believe this ruling is in error, and what one should do. My major concern is that the approach that these works advocate results in repeating many parts of the shemoneh esrei, and that this repetition constitutes a forbidden interruption in the tefillah. Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge, there is no essential requirement to recite this middle bracha of the shemoneh esrei precisely in order. Obviously, one should maintain the order as is, but there is ample evidence from major halachic authorities that, in general, mistakenly rearranging the order of a bracha is not calamitous (see, for example, Rosh, Taanis 1:1; Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:18 and 4:70:14). Thus, when left with the choice of rearranging the order of a bracha to avoid repetition, or repeating parts of the bracha and ignoring what was already said, one should follow the first approach.

Subsequently, I realized that the position I have followed, is indeed that of Rav Moshe Feinstein. However, it appears that, in general, there are other halachic authorities who feel that the text of a brocha should indeed be kept intact even when repetition will result (see, for example, Mateh Efrayim 582:10; Mishnah Berurah 582:16; Biur Halacha 127:2 s.v. Aval).

Notwithstanding the disputing opinion, I still think that the approach I am suggesting is correct, but I recognize that others may disagree with me. Therefore, I am going to present my approach, as confusing as it may appear.

Based on my opinion, it appears that someone who discovers that he/she began reciting Tikanta Shabbos rather than Atah Yatzarta should mention only those parts of the bracha that he/she has as yet not recited, but not repeat any theme or part of the bracha that one has already said. Although fulfilling this may be confusing to someone unfamiliar with the bracha, this should provide us with a valid reason to pay more attention to the details of this bracha and understand its different parts.

In order to explain how one does this correctly, brachos of Atah Yatzarta and Tikanta Shabbos into their constituent parts, so that we can identify which parts we should not repeat. We can divide these brachos into the following seven sections (the sections for a regular Shabbos have been numbered in a way that parallels the list for Shabbos Rosh Chodesh:

 

Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Regular Shabbos
1. The introduction – from the words Atah Yatzarta until and including the words shenishtalcha (some recite the text hashelucha) bemikdashecha.

 

1. The introduction – from the words Tikanta Shabbos until and including the word kara’ui.
2. The prayer for our return – beginning with the words Yehi Ratzon – until (and including) the word kehilchasam. 2. The prayer for our return – beginning with the words Yehi Ratzon – until (and including) the word kehilchasam.
3. The sentence that introduces the mention of the pesukim of the Musaf Ve’es Musafei Yom HaShabbos Hazeh veyom Rosh Hachodesh… until (and including) the word ka’amur. 3. The sentence that introduces the mention of the pesukim of the Musaf Ve’es Musaf Yom HaShabbos Hazeh… until (and including) the word ka’amur.

 

4. Mention of the pesukim of the korban Musaf of Shabbos. 4. Mention of the pesukim of the korban Musaf of Shabbos.
5. Mention of the pasuk of the korban Musaf of Rosh Chodesh and the passage Uminchasam… until (and including) the word kehilchasam.
6. The paragraph Yismechu Vemalchusecha that concludes with the words zeicher lemaasei vereishis. 6. The paragraph Yismechu Vemalchusecha that concludes with the words zeicher lemaasei vereishis.
7. The closing of the brachaElokeinu Veilokei Avoseinu. 7. The closing of the brachaElokeinu Veilokei Avoseinu.

 

We should note that the closings of these middle brachos of Musaf shemoneh esrei are very different. On Shabbos Rosh Chodesh we recite a version that is almost identical to what we recite on a weekday Rosh Chodesh, but we insert three passages to include Shabbos.

Parts 2, 4 and 6 of the two brachos are identical, whether it is Shabbos or Shabbos Rosh Chodesh. Therefore, one should not repeat these sections if one has said them already.

Part 1 on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh, Atah Yatzarta, is very different from what we usually recite on a regular Shabbos. Therefore, someone still in the middle of this bracha should recite this passage again.

If someone missed part 5, mention of the pesukim of Rosh Chodesh, and is still in the middle of this bracha, he/she should recite it and introduce it with the section 3 above, which introduces the korbanos of the Musaf. However, if he/she already recited the pesukim of Shabbos korban Musaf (#4) above, he should omit the reference to Shabbos in this piece and only mention Rosh Chodesh. In the latter case, one should change the plural Musafei to a singular Musaf since he/she now is only mentioning the Rosh Chodesh Musaf.

Having explained the rules governing these halachos, I will now present the conclusions in a hopefully clearer way, depending on when you discover your mistake:

  1. If you were still reciting the beginning of Tikanta Shabbos, and had not yet reached Yehi Ratzon:

Return to Atah Yatzarta and recite it in order without any changes.

  1. If you had already begun the Yehi Ratzon, but are before Ve’es Musaf Yom HaShabbos Hazeh:

Complete the Yehi Ratzon until Ve’es Musaf; then recite Atah Yatzarta until the words Yehi Ratzon, then resume from the words Ve’es Musafei Yom HaShabbos Hazeh Veyom Rosh Hachodesh from the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Musaf and continue through the rest of the tefillah.

  1. If you had just begun Ve’es Musaf Yom HaShabbos Hazeh:

Add the words Ve’es Musaf Yom Rosh Hachodesh Hazeh, and then continue in the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Musaf until Yismechu Vemalchusecha. Immediately prior to saying Yismechu Vemalchusecha insert the words from Atah Yatzarta until the words shenishtalcha bemikdashecha. Then return to Yismechu Vemalchusecha and recite the rest of the tefillah in order.

  1. If you are already in the middle of Ve’es Musaf Yom HaShabbos Hazeh:

Recite Uveyom Hashabbas… until Veniskah. Then insert the words from Atah Yatzarta until the words shenishtalcha bemikdashecha. Then return to the words Ve’es Musaf but say the following: Ve’es Musaf Yom Rosh Hachodesh Hazeh until the word ka’amur. Then say Uverashei Chadsheichem in the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh section and continue in order.

  1. If you are in the middle of Yismechu Vemalchusecha, complete it until Zeicher lemaasei vereishis, and then insert the words from Atah Yatzarta until the words shenishtalcha bemikdashecha. Then return to the words Ve’es Musaf but say the following: Ve’es Musaf Yom Rosh Hachodesh Hazeh until the word ka’amur. Then say Uverashei Chadsheichem in the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh section. Then go to Elokeinu Veilokei Avoseinu (after Yismechu Vemalchusecha) and finish the end of the bracha and the davening.
  2. If you are already in the middle of the closing part of the bracha (Elokeinu Veilokei Avoseinu) complete the clause that you are saying, and then insert the words from Atah Yatzarta until the words shenishtalcha bemikdashecha. Then return to the words Ve’es Musaf but say Ve’es Musaf Yom Rosh Hachodesh Hazeh until the word ka’amur. Then say Uverashei Chadsheichem in the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh section. Then return to chadeish aleinu beyom hashabbos hazeh es hachodesh hazeh and finish the end of the bracha in the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh section.

If you completed the entire bracha of Tikanta Shabbos, but mentioned in the middle of the bracha some reference to the korban Musaf of Rosh Chodesh, you have fulfilled the requirements of this prayer and you should continue Retzei (see Mishnah Berurah 423:6). If you completed the bracha of Tikanta Shabbos but did not yet begin Retzeih, you should say “vena’aseh lefanecha korban Rosh Chodesh hazeh” – “and we shall do before You this Rosh Chodesh offering” and then continue with Retzei (ibid.).

Conclusion

Although all this may sound very confusing, if we spend a few seconds familiarizing ourselves with the divisions of this bracha that I have made, we will easily realize why the halachos are as I have outlined, and will be ready to make the necessary adjustments should we find that we have erred. This readiness has of course a tremendous value on its own: It familiarizes us with the shemoneh esrei, something we always should do, but, unfortunately, often do not pay sufficient attention.

Understanding how much concern Chazal placed in the relatively minor aspects of davening should make us even more aware of the fact that davening is our attempt at building a relationship with Hashem. As the Kuzari notes, every day should have three high points — the three times that we daven. Certainly, one should do whatever one can to make sure to pay attention to the meaning of the words of one’s Tefillah. We should gain our strength and inspiration for the rest of the day from these three prayers. Let us hope that Hashem will accept our tefillos together with those of Klal Yisrael!

 

Uva Letziyon, a Precious Prayer

Chazal tell us that Yaakov’s davening was the introduction of tefilas Maariv, which sometimes includes Uva Letziyon. I therefore introduce:

Question #1: Why does the kedusha that we recite in Uva Letziyon include an Aramaic translation?

Question #2: Why does the Uva Letziyon kedusha quote a different pasuk, Hashem yimloch le’olam va’ed, instead of the third pasuk that we usually say for kedusha, Yimloch Hashem le’olam Elokayich tziyon ledor vador halelukah?

Question #3: If I am delayed in beginning the second Ashrei of the morning prayers, should I daven in order, or should I recite Uva Letziyon together with the tzibur and recite Ashrei later?

Answer:

The greatest thing man can accomplish in life is to praise Hashem, and, indeed, all of our mitzvos and all of our studying Torah are different ways whereby we demonstrate homage to Hashem and fulfill His will. In addition, we actively praise Hashem in many places in our prayer, but, most particularly, when we recite Kaddish and Kedusha. The precious prayer Uva Letziyon, recited most frequently towards the end of the daily Shacharis, includes the Kedusha referred to as the Kedusha Desidra.

The importance of this prayer is manifest in the following incredible passage of Gemara:

Now that the Beis Hamikdash has been destroyed, with what merit does the world exist? The Kedusha Desidra and the Yehei Shmei Rabba recited after the weekly sermon (Sotah 49a with Rashi).

What is the special merit of these two prayers that gives them the ability to sustain the entire world? Both of these prayers involve two highly important mitzvos – studying Torah and praising Hashem – and both are performed by the entire community (Rashi ad loc.). It is presumably for this reason that the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 132:1) emphasizes that one must be very careful to recite the Kedusha of Uva Letziyon with proper concentration. Furthermore, it is prohibited to leave shul until these passages are recited (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 132:2).

Why are these two mitzvos special? Through Torah study we understand a glimmer of the brilliant blueprint with which Hashem created the world. At the same time, reciting Kedusha and Kaddish is our praise in Hashem’s honor. By combining these two concepts, sanctifying Hashem’s name and studying His Torah, we literally maintain the world’s existence!

Rashi (Sotah 49a) explains that the Kedusha Desidra was established so that every Jew be involved in studying Torah each day, since the prayer includes passages that are immediately translated. Being recited both by scholarly Jews and unlettered ones is precisely the reason for its great worth.

Kedusha

The words of the Kedusha parallel the exalted, sublime praise recited by the angels. We recite Kedusha itself three times in three different forms during weekday Shacharis. The main Kedusha that we recite during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei consists essentially of three praises, first the words beginning with Kodosh, Kodosh, Kodosh, from the book of Yeshayahu (6:3), then the sentence Baruch kevod Hashem mimkomo from the book of Yechezkel (3:12), and then the words beginning with Yimloch, which are from Tehillim (146:10). The first two of these verses, Kodosh and Baruch, are the actual descriptions of the Prophets witnessing the angels praise Hashem.

Although when we recite Kedusha we are describing, or perhaps even mimicking, how the angels praise Hashem, the angels must wait for us, the Jews, to praise Hashem, so that they may begin their praise (Chullin 91b). Singing Hashem’s praises in this fashion demonstrates not only our ability to rise to the plane of the angels, but actually expresses our ability to supersede their level.

For this reason, we recite the main Kedusha standing, with our feet together like angels (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 125:2). We lift our bodies by tiptoeing at the beginning of the reciting of each of the three verses (Shla). Furthermore, one should look heavenward while reciting Kedusha (Rama), and some authorities rule that one should keep one’s eyes closed (Taz), although this approach is not universally accepted (Mishnah Berurah 125:6).

One should be careful to recite the Kedusha together with the tzibur, not earlier and not later (Mishnah Berurah 125:3). We rule that as long as one begins reciting each sentence while the tzibur is still reciting it, one is considered to have recited it together with the tzibur (Elyah Rabbah, cited by Bi’ur Halachah).

Why Three Kedushos?

Why do we recite the Kedusha a total of three times during our Shacharis? Would not one recital be sufficient?

The first Kedusha that we recite daily is an integral part of the long, first brochah of what we call the birchos kerias shma the brochos that accompany the recital of the morning shma.

Above, I mentioned the Gemara’s statement that the world exists in the merit of the Kedusha Desidra. The main focus is that every Jew should participate in the daily recital of Kedusha as part of the tzibur. At the time that this prayer was initiated, many of the less learned individuals who attended daily morning services were not concerned about arriving on time, and, consequently, missed the earlier kedushos. So that these Jews not be deprived of the merit of reciting Kedusha together with the community, Chazal instituted this prayer, Uva Letziyon (Avudraham).

Redemption before Kedusha

The main focus of this article is on the third Kedusha and the prayer that surrounds it, whose words begin Uva Letziyon. The beginning of the Uva Letziyon prayer introduces the Kedusha Desidra by reciting three verses. Why do these verses precede the Kedusha Desidra? The opening two are consecutive verses from the book of Yeshayahu, the first of which promises the future redemption, and the second of which refers to the covenant of the Torah.

We are about to complete our morning daily prayers, with which we hope to establish the “Torah-ness” of our day, and now we are embarking on our daily struggle for financial survival. Immediately prior to beginning this effort, we should be reminded that there will be a future redemption in which we are assured participation, provided that we maintain cognizance of our responsibility to Hashem (Hirsch).

The second verse begins with the words, va’ani zos berisi osam amar Hashem…

Hashem says: “As for Me, this treaty I have made with them.” However, as Rav Hirsch notes, the verse should then say va’ani zos berisi itam, with them, an indirect object, and not osam, which is a direct object. The word osam implies that the treaty is not simply with the Jews, but that the Jews are the object of the treaty – the bris is the very essence of what the Jews are — we exist because we are Hashem’s People. Thus, the second verse reminds us that our raison d’etre is to be Hashem’s People, and that this sensitivity should remain with us as we begin the day’s mundane activities and throughout the ensuing day.

The third verse, which reads ve’ato kodosh yosheiv tehilos Yisroel, is from Tehillim (22:4), and means that Hashem awaits the praises of the Jewish People (Avudraham). As I mentioned before, the angels must wait until the Jews begin saying the Kedusha before they may begin their praises. The Jewish People are the sole bearers of the recognition of Hashem for all of Mankind (Hirsch). Thus, this verse is an obvious lead into our shira to Hashem.

Closing of Uva Letziyon

After we recite the Kedusha, we recite a verse from Divrei Hayamim to verbalize the request that the recital of Kedusha bring us closer to Hashem and repair our hearts. We then include prayers for Divine assistance in learning to fear Hashem.

This last request raises a question: How can we ask Hashem to help us fear Him? After all, everything is in G-d’s hands except for the fear of G-d, which is in our hands. Thus, this is the one item that we should not ask from Hashem, but should assume responsibility for, ourselves!

The answer is that we ask Hashem for His assistance in our learning to fear Him – we start on the road and request His help in continuing (Avudraham). As the Midrash states, “Hashem said to Israel: ‘My sons, merely open for me an opening for teshuvah as large as the eye of a needle, and I will expand for you openings wide enough for wagons to drive through'” (Shir Hashirim Rabba 5:2).

Why Aramaic?

With this background to the prayer, we can now begin exploring the answers to our opening questions. The first question was: Why does this Kedusha include an Aramaic translation?

At the time that this prayer was established, the familiar language spoken by Jews was Aramaic, and some of the common people did not understand Hebrew. For this reason, several other parts of our liturgy specifically intended for everyone’s comprehension were also written in Aramaic. The most common instance of this is the Kaddish (see Tosafos, Brochos 3a s.v. Ve’onin), but note, also, ha lachma anya in the Pesach Seder, which includes a personal invitation to any Jew to join the Seder, and the kohen’s question to the father of a firstborn at a pidyon haben, mai ba’is tefei. With the same goal in mind, at the time of the Gemara each verse read during the kerias haTorah was immediately followed by the Targum translation, an observance that we no longer follow, since the average person no longer understands Aramaic. A vestige of this practice remains when we recite the Akdamus praise on Shavuos as part of the kerias haTorah. (By the way, some Yemenite communities still follow this practice of reciting the Targum after each pasuk during kerias haTorah.)

For the same reason, since the Kedusha Desidra was instituted to include the unlettered, it was accompanied by the traditional Aramaic translation, so that everyone who read it would understand it (Tur; Avudraham).

It is also important to note that the Targum is not simply a translation of the verses, but serves as a commentary. For example, the Targum that we recite to the verse Kodosh, Kodosh, Kodosh, which is from Targum Yonasan, teaches that the repetition of the word kodosh is not to show how holy Hashem is (three increasing levels of sanctity), but that His Holiness exists in the highest Heavens, in the earth that He created, and forever.

Why Yimloch?

The second question asked above was: Why does the Kedusha of Uva Letziyon quote a different verse, Hashem Yimloch Le’olam Va’ed (Shemos 15:18) rather than the verse that we recite for Kedusha in the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei? With a bit of an introduction, we will discover that the answer to this second question is also linked to the basic theme of why we recite the Kedusha Desidra. Let us first study a related passage of Gemara:

Onkelos the Convert composed the translation of the Torah that he had been taught by Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. Yonasan ben Uziel composed the translation of Nevi’im that he had been taught by Chaggai, Zecharyah and Malachi [the Last Prophets], and the Land of Israel trembled 400 parsah by 400 parsah. A Heavenly voice emerged, declaring, “Who is it that revealed My secrets to mankind?” Yonasan ben Uziel stood up and declared, “It is I who revealed Your secrets to mankind. It is revealed and well-known before You that I did this not for my honor nor for the honor of my father’s household, but only for Your honor – to decrease contention in Israel.”

He [Yonasan ben Uziel] also wanted to reveal the translation of the Kesuvim. A Heavenly voice emerged, declaring, “You have done enough!”

What is the reason [not to translate the Kesuvim]? Because it contains the End of Days – the arrival of the Moshiach (Megillah 3a). (The translation published on Kesuvim called Targum Yonasan is of unknown, but definitely much later, origin, and was certainly not written by Yonasan ben Uziel. It does not carry the imprimatur of an old, accepted translation.)

With the background that this Gemara provides, I can now explain why the Kedusha Desidra includes a different verse to praise Hashem’s Kingship. In the Kedusha recited during the repetition of Shemoneh Esrei, the third verse, beginning with the word Yimloch, is from Tehillim, which is part of Kesuvim and therefore has no traditional Targum translation. As mentioned above, the main purpose for reciting Kedusha Desidra is to include the entire Jewish population – including even the unlettered, who required an Aramaic translation. Since the sentence beginning with the word Yimloch was without a Targum, a different verse, Hashem yimloch le’olam va’ed, that conveys the same concept, Hashem’s Monarchy, is substituted, because it is a pasuk in Chumash and therefore has a Targum Onkelos (Avudraham).

What should we recite aloud?

The fact that this verse is from Chumash, whereas the two preceding verses are from the Prophets, became the cause of some interesting practices. The Avudraham mentions a custom, rejected by the halachic authorities, to recite the entire Kedusha Desidra quietly, to avoid calling attention to the fact that Hashem yimloch le’olam va’ed is mentioned last, although as a verse from Chumash, it has greater sanctity than the two passages from the Prophets. Although the majority of halachic authorities rule that all three Kedusha verses should be recited aloud (Mishnah Berurah 132:4), other sources mention a custom of reciting only the two pesukim of Kodosh and Baruch aloud – but not Yimloch, which was recited quietly – again to avoid calling attention to the fact that this verse is not recited until after the words of the prophets (Avudraham).

Aramaic out loud

There is a dispute among the authorities as to whether the Aramaic translations may be said audibly. The Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 59) explains that, according to the Zohar, these passages are not to be said aloud, and the Rama (132:1) also rules this way. However, the authorities quote that the Arizal was not concerned about this and interpreted the Zohar in a different way. Most communities follow the practice of the Beis Yosef and the Rama and recite these passages quietly.

Kedusha Desidra with the Tzibur

At this point, we can address the third question asked above: “If I am delayed in beginning the second Ashrei, should I daven in order, or recite Uva Letziyon together with the tzibur and recite Ashrei later?”

Since the whole thrust of Uva Letziyon is that the angels wait until we collectively sing shira, every individual should participate in this recital. Therefore, except for someone who is at a place in the prayer where there should be no interruption, everyone should join for the recital of Uva Letziyon and certainly for the refrains. For this reason, the Magen Avraham (Introduction to 132) rules that someone who has not yet davened and finds himself with a tzibur who are ready to recite the Kedusha Desidra should join them in their recital (cf., however, Shaar Hatziyun 132:3), and certainly that someone who is a bit behind the tzibur should skip ahead to recite the Kedusha Desidra together with the tzibur and recite Ashrei afterwards.

We should note that there is a major dispute among the Rishonim whether one may recite the Kedusha Desidra and the Kedusha of the Birchos Kerias Shma without a minyan. The conclusion of most authorities is that one may recite these two kedushos without a minyan. However, one should strive to recite them with a minyan whenever possible.

On Shabbos and Yom Tov

On Shabbos and Yom Tov, Uva Letziyon is not recited in the morning at all. Instead, its recital is postponed to Mincha. This is because the late-arriving individuals who were the reason for the takkanah of the Kedusha Desidra arrived early enough on Shabbos to daven Shacharis with the tzibur and be present for the Kedusha. Instead, Chazal postponed the recital of Uva Letziyon to Mincha because there was a weekly drosha on Shabbos afternoon, attended also by the amei ha’aretz, that closed with words of hope about the future redemption, the sanctity of the Kedusha and our role in praising Hashem – so the drosha naturally led into the prayer Uva Letziyon (Avudraham). Others provide a slightly different reason for postponing Uva Letziyon to Mincha – since the Shabbos morning davening is fairly long, Chazal postponed Uva Letziyon (Siddur Vilna, quoting Orchos Chayim).

Kedusha at Night

Aside from the daily dose of Uva Letziyon, there are three occasions when we recite this prayer at night. Those three occasions are Motza’ei Shabbos, after reading the Megillah on Purim, and after reading Eicha on Tisha B’Av.

Why Motza’ei Shabbos?

The reason why this prayer is recited on Motza’ei Shabbos is because this is when the deceased evildoers who now inhabit gehennom return there. To ease their plight a bit, we add this prayer, which somewhat delays their return to gehennom.

When this prayer is recited at night, the accepted custom is to omit its two opening verses (those from the Book of Yeshayahu) and begin with the words Ve’ata Kodosh. This is because reciting the words Uva letziyon goel, and the redeemer will come to Tzion, as a prayer, is inappropriate at night. Recital of these words as a prayer at night implies that we are hiding the salvation and the freedom from bondage that Hashem will bring. On the contrary, this redemption will happen in broad daylight.

Why on Purim and Tisha B’Av?

On Purim night we recite this prayer immediately after completing Megillas Esther, expressing the manifestation of Hashem’s Kedusha that resulted from our redemption. We recite this prayer on the night of Tisha B’Av, both because it is a special time to pray for the ultimate redemption and because it is a consolation that deliverance will come (see Abudraham and Aruch Hashulchan 693:1).

Conclusion

We now understand why the prayer Uva Letziyon is so important. Let us all now strive to recite it with the appropriate respect and focus.

 

Hodu – Our Daily Thanks

In commemoration of the thanks recited by Eliezer, we will study:

The Daily Hodu Prayer

Question #1: “Why does Nusach Ashkenaz recite Baruch She’amar before Hodu, whereas Nusach Sfard recites Hodu first?”

Question #2: “I noticed that there are sections of Tehillim that are very similar to Hodu. Why are there noticeable differences between these parts of Tehillim and Hodu?”

Question #3: “The Hodu that is in the book of Tehillim is divided between two chapters, Chapters 105 and 96. Why do we combine them when we daven?”

The beautiful praise to Hashem that begins with the words Hodu lashem ki tov, which we recite as part of the daily morning prayers, is a quote from the Divrei Hayamim book of Tanach, with a concluding selection of other verses. Nusach Ashkenaz recites Hodu immediately after Baruch She’amar, as the first part of Pesukei Dezimra, the Biblical praises of Hashem that we recite every morning, whereas Nusach Sfard recites it prior to Baruch She’amar. I will explain, shortly, the basis for these differing customs, why we recite Hodu daily and the historical context within which it was originally written. This will provide both an education and inspiration about our history, our prayers and our customs, in addition to answering all the above questions.

Historical Background

Allow me to first trace the background of the events that led to the writing of Hodu. Let us return, in history, to the first prophecy of the prophet Shmuel, who is still a child, and is being raised and educated by Eili Hakohen. Eili was already quite advanced in years, and he had handed over the running of the Mishkan, then in Shiloh, to his two sons, who had, unfortunately, abused the authority granted them. Eili admonished them for their wrongdoing, but they ignored his rebuke (Shmuel I 2:22-25).

One fateful night, while the lad Shmuel was asleep, Hashem appeared to him, telling him that a major catastrophe would befall the Jewish People, one that would include the destruction of Eili’s sons. The following morning, Eili, who knew that Shmuel had received Divine communication during the night, insisted that Shmuel tell him all the gruesome details of the prophecy. When Eili heard the prediction, he responded, He is Hashem. He will do what is good in His Eyes (Shmuel I 3:18), thereby accepting Hashem’s judgment.

A short time later, the Jews went to war against the Pelishtim (the Philistines). The first day’s battle went very badly for the Jews, and included the loss of about four thousand slain on the battlefield.

The elders of the Jews then decided to get the aron from Shiloh and bring it into battle with them, to save them from their enemies (Shmuel I 4:3-4). When the aron arrived in the Jewish camp, they sounded a great shofar blast. The Pelishtim discovered that the aron was now in the Jews’ camp, and they were petrified, knowing what Hashem had done to the Egyptians many years before (Shmuel I 4:5-9).

The Aron is captured!

However, the next day’s battle was catastrophic for the Jews. Over thirty thousand fell, including Eili’s sons, and the aron was captured by the Pelishtim (Shmuel I 4:11-12).

The Pelishtim took the captured aron to Ashdod, then a Pelishti city, to the temple that housed their main deity, Dagon, and placed the aron alongside their idol. The first morning, they discovered the statue of Dagon fallen over, which they proceeded to upright. The second morning, Dagon’s statue had fallen again, but this time it was badly damaged. In addition, the residents of Ashdod and its suburbs had become plagued with a serious and extremely painful medical condition. The Ashdodians refused to continue harboring the aron, requesting direction from the leaders of the Pelishtim as to what to do with it. The Pelishti leaders decided to move the aron to their main city of Gath.

However, upon the arrival of the aron in Gath, the people there were struck with the same health problem that had previously plagued Ashdod. Subsequently, the Pelishtim decided to move the aron to a third Pelishti city, Ekron, but the Ekronites refused to allow it to enter their town. The Pelishtim then decided that the aron was too dangerous to hold onto, and that they would therefore return it to the Jews. In the interim, while the Pelishtim prepared an appropriate gift to Hashem to accompany the return of the aron, they kept it in a field that was outside any city, so that its presence would not harm anyone. The Pelishtim then prepared a gold offering to placate Hashem for having taking His aron and for having treated it disrespectfully. They then loaded the aron onto a wagon pulled by two cows and sent it on its way, apparently unaccompanied by any individual. The cows proceeded with their precious cargo towards the city of Beit Shemesh, a Jewish town (Shmuel I 5:1-6:12).

Unfortunately, the people of Beit Shemesh, also, did not treat the aron with adequate respect and, as a result, many of them died. The Jews then moved the aron to Kiryas Ye’arim, to the house of a man named Avinadav, where it was treated with proper respect. The aron remained in Avinadav’s house for twenty years (Shmuel I 6:19-7:2).

The aron is moved

Twenty years later, and much has transpired. Shmuel has gone to his eternal reward. Shaul has become king, lost his right to the monarchy, and fallen in battle. David is now king of Israel. He plans a gala celebration to move the aron from its current location in Avinadav’s house to Yerushalayim. David consults with all the leaders of the Jewish people and gathers 30,000 select men from the length and breadth of the country to participate in the festivities.

However, the event is marred. At one point during the transportation of the aron, it appeared to be slipping from its place, and Uzza, the son of Avinadav, grabbed the aron to prevent it from falling (Shmuel II 6:1-7; Divrei Hayamim I 13). However, this was halachically and philosophically a gross error, since the aron does not require being carried – on the contrary, the aron carries those who carry it (Rashi, Shmuel II 6:7). Uzza died as a result.

David cancelled his plans to move the aron to Yerushalayim that day, and instead, he diverted it, temporarily, to the house of a Levi named Oveid Edom. During the three months that the aron remained in Oveid Edom’s house, his household received much blessing, thus demonstrating that Hashem was not angry at David or the Jewish people. Thus, David decided that the time was now right to move the aron to Yerushalayim, as he had originally planned. Amidst much dancing and jubilation, the aron was transported to Yerushalayim (Shmuel II 6:12-19).

As part of this celebration, David arranged for Asaf, the Levi, and his brothers to sing a unique, ecstatic song of thanks to Hashem, specially written by David in honor of the joyous occasion (Divrei Hayamim I 16:7). (This same Asaf is the author of numerous psalms of praise to Hashem, see Tehillim 50 and 74-83.) The song that David wrote for this special occasion (Divrei Hayamim I 16:8-36) begins with the words Hodu lashem ki tov, and it forms the foundation of the prayer that we recite every morning. We will shortly analyze the thrust of this beautiful prayer.

Why Daily?

Why do we recite this song every day?

Among the beautiful and ancient Midrashic literature that Klal Yisroel possesses is the early, revered work Seder Olam, which the Gemara (Yevamos 82b) attributes to none other than the esteemed Tanna Rabbi Yosi ben Chalafta, one of the greatest disciples of Rabbi Akiva. In an era that included outstanding Tannaim – Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, the author of the Zohar, Rabbi Meir baal ha’nes, the prolific Rabbi Yehudah (ben Illa’ei), who was honored to always speak first ahead of the other great scholars of his generation (Shabbos 33b et al.), and Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, the head of the Sanhedrin – Rabbi Yosi’s halachic opinion is preeminent, even at times when he is in the minority (Eruvin 46b). As the Gemara states, Halacha kerabbi Akiva meichaveiro, ukerabbi Yosi meichaveirav, the halacha is according to Rabbi Akiva when he disagrees with any other individual scholar, and according to Rabbi Yosi even when he disagrees with more than one scholar (Eruvin 46b).

The Seder Olam (Chapter 14) records that, for 43 years, from the time that the aron was moved to Yerushalayim until the Beis Hamikdash was built by Shlomoh Hamelech, the first fifteen verses of the song Hodu were performed to accompany the offering of the daily Tamid every morning, and the next fourteen verses accompanied the afternoon Tamid. Based on this Seder Olam, it became common practice to recite this song of praise, Hodu, every morning to commemorate this ancient practice (Orchos Chayim, quoted by Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim, Chapter 50; Tur, Orach Chayim Chapter 51).

Before Baruch She’amar or after?

At this point, we can address the first question that was asked above:

“Why does Nusach Ashkenaz recite Baruch She’amar before Hodu, whereas Nusach Sfard recites Hodu first?”

The Orchos Chayim already notes that in his day, there were two customs, one of reciting Hodu before Baruch She’amar and the other approach of reciting it after. Even a terse reading of Hodu certainly explains why one would include it in the Pesukei Dezimra, since it is a beautiful praise of Hashem. But why recite it before Baruch She’amar?

Korbanos

To explain this practice, I need to present a small introduction. The part of davening immediately before Baruch She’amar is called korbanos. It includes recital of the Torah verses that illustrate some of the daily procedures in the Mishkan\Beis Hamikdash, the chapter of Mishnayos beginning with the words Eizehu Mekomam, which categorize and explain the different types of korbanos offered, and then concludes with the teaching beginning with the words Rabbi Yishmael omer. One of the reasons why we recite these Torah verses and Mishnah towards the beginning of our daily davening is so that we can fulfill the verse Uneshalmah parim sefaseinu, our lips should replace the bulls (Hoshea 14:3), which, in this context means that our prayers should be adequate substitutes for the offerings. (Bulls are mentioned specifically, since they are the most expensive offerings [Ibn Ezra ad loc.].) This is true even more so today, when we cannot offer korbanos as long as the Beis Hamikdash remains in ruin, and therefore the closest we can come to offering korbanos is to recite the passages about them.

We can now explain why Nusach Sfard recites the Hodu prayer before Baruch She’amar. Its position there acts as a climax to the recital of the korbanos. Although we are unable to sing shirah to accompany the korban Tamid, we can nevertheless praise Hashem with the same words that were recited then. Thus, this prayer is a sequel to korbanos and should be recited prior to Baruch She’amar.

Korbanos or Pesukei Dezimra?

On the other hand, Nusach Ashkenaz recites the Hodu as part of our Pesukei Dezimra, the part of our daily prayer, whose title literally translates as Verses of Song. The same great scholar mentioned above, Rabbi Yosi, declared his yearning to receive the extraordinary reward granted to those who recite the Pesukei Dezimra daily (Shabbos 118b).

Similarity to Tehillim

At this point, we can explain the second question that I raised above:

“I noticed that there are sections of Tehillim that are very similar to Hodu. Why are there noticeable differences between these parts of Tehillim and Hodu?”

The passages of Hodu are from Divrei Hayamim — and they are very similar to passages in Tehillim. The first part of Hodu, that which was sung to accompany the morning Tamid, is almost identical to the first fifteen verses of Tehillim Chapter 105. The second part of Hodu, which was sung to accompany the afternoon Tamid, bears much similarity to the 96th Chapter of Tehillim. Why would David have written two versions of these passages that are so similar, yet with some minor changes between them?

How are these verses different?

Let us begin by noting the differences that exist between the otherwise identical first fifteen verses of Hodu and the first fifteen verses of Tehillim Chapter 105.

There are several very minor changes between the two passages that do not affect the translation in any significant way. Therefore, whichever David wrote first (we have no way of knowing whether he wrote these parts of Divrei Hayamim first or these chapters of Tehillim), when he wrote the second passage, he decided to modify it slightly, and there could be any number of reasons why he chose to do so. For example, he uses a different form for the Hebrew equivalent of the word his mouth. Whereas Divrei Hayamim uses the poetic and less common pihu, Tehillim uses the more common piv. Another seemingly insignificant change is whether Yitzchak’s name is spelled with the letter tzadi, as it usually is (as it is in Tehillim 105), or in the irregular way with the letter sin (Yischak), as Divrei Hayamim spells it.

Avraham or Yisrael?

Three of the differences between Divrei Hayamim and Tehillim are relatively significant: The Divrei Hayamim version calls upon zera Yisrael, avdo bnei Yaakov bechirav — the offspring of Yisrael, his servant, the children of Yaakov his chosen ones — to sing the joyous hymn, whereas Tehillim says, zera Avraham, avdo, bnei Yaakov bechirav, the offspring of Avraham, his servant, the children of Yaakov his chosen ones, mentioning the children of Avraham in the first part of the verse rather than those of Yisrael.

A second, even more significant dissimilarity occurs two verses later, where Divrei Hayamim commands the Jews: zichru le’olam beriso, remember His covenant forever, whereas Tehillim says zachar le’olam beriso, He [that is, Hashem] remembered His covenant forever. Thus, in Tehillim both the subject and tense of the verb are shifted, which now transforms this pasuk from being a commandment to the Jewish people to observe their covenant with Hashem, as it is in Divrei Hayamim, into a praise of Hashem for keeping His end of the bargain.

A third, less significant, change occurs four verses later when Divrei Hayamim states that Hashem promised the Land of Canaan to the Jewish people, biheyosechem mesei mispar, when you were but few in number, which in Tehillim appears as biheyosam mesei mispar, when they were but few in number, speaking not to the Jews, but about them.

The explanation for these variations appears to lie in the differences in the roles that David Hamelech intended these fifteen pesukim to play in the two, respective places. Tehillim Chapter 105 consists of 45 verses, and therefore, the first 15, which are so similar to the Hodu of Divrei Hayamim, are really an introduction or first section of a longer whole. The entirety of that Chapter of Tehillim is to articulate the praises to Hashem for fulfilling all that He promised to Avraham Avinu. The main thought of this praise is that we are to recognize what Hashem has done for us. All of world history was planned and arranged by Him for the purpose of creating the Jewish nation. Its emphasis is thanks to Hashem for what He has already done. We therefore praise Hashem that He remembered His covenant forever. It is also appropriate to refer to the Jews in third person, when they were but few in number. And, since the entire Psalm praises Hashem for fulfilling all that He promised to Avraham Avinu, it is appropriate to describe the Jewish people as zera Avraham, avdo, the offspring of Avraham.

However, when we use these same fifteen verses as an introduction to the rest of Hodu, they function as an exhortation to praise Hashem for making the Jews unique among all the nations of the world. Once we understand this point, then the changes made by David, himself, in the two passages become self-explanatory. Divrei Hayamim commands the Jews: zichru le’olam beriso, remember His covenant forever. (See the essay by Rav Moshe Eisemann, included on page 431 of the Artscroll Divrei Hayamim.) Similarly, Divrei Hayamim is talking to the Jews, and it is therefore appropriate to say biheyosechem mesei mispar, when you were but few in number. And, certainly, we understand why, when Jews are praising Hashem for making us unique among the nations, we emphasize zera Yisrael, the offspring of Yisrael, his servant – since we are not the exclusive offspring of Avraham.

Conclusion

At this point, we can address the third question that I raised above: “When Hodu is quoted in Tehillim, it is divided between two different chapters, Chapters 105 and 96. Why do we combine them when we daven?”

Although the content of Hodu strongly overlaps with the content of those two chapters of Tehillim, there is a difference in emphasis between the role of the chapters of Tehillim and the praise of Divrei Hayamim. Here, in our prayer we use the version of the Hodu as it was used when transporting the aron, and when the shira was sung to accompany the daily korban tamid prior to the building of the Beis Hamikdash.

Rav Hirsch, in his Commentary on the Siddur notes that Hodu was the shira sung when the aron was in “galus” – when it was located in a temporary place. Thus, Hodu was added to our prayers as praise to Hashem when we are in galus. This is so that we remember that we are required to prove our legitimate right as bearers of Hashem’s Name, and that we continue to declare His works and sovereignty – specifically, when it is not popular for us to do so in our current environment.

 

Jews and Idols

man praying at KoselQuestion #1: May I pray while they meditate?

Yankel is in an overseas airport and would like to know:

“May I daven in the ‘meditation room’?”

Question #2: Idol art

“May one enter a house of idol worship to enjoy the artwork?”

Question #3: Converted church

“May we purchase for our shul an abandoned building that once was a church?”

Answer:

Parshas Re’eih includes several mitzvos that involve idol worship. In addition, when Pharoah asked Moshe to pray to end the plague of Hail, Moshe responded that he would pray as soon as he left the city. Rashi, quoting the Mechilta, notes that he could not pray in the city, because it was full of idols. Thus, we see that one should not pray in a place containing idols. The other questions above also relate to the halachic requirement to distance ourselves from idols and idolatrous practice. (As always, the purpose of this article is not to render halachic decisions, but to familiarize our readership with the background of the issues. We direct each reader to his own rav or posek to answer specific shaylos.)

In a similar context, the Gemara (Shabbos 127b) records that when Rabbi Yehoshua needed to speak to a Roman, he removed his tefillin (which he wore all day) before entering the house, so as not to expose the tefillin to the tumah of the idols that an upper class Roman would have.

Meditation room

Let us begin our discussion by explaining the first of our opening questions. Yankel is traveling on business, and his itinerary allows him to daven in the airport, between flights. However, the bustle of his fellow travelers makes it difficult to find a place where he can daven with any sort of kavanah. There is a “meditation room” in the airport, where he can find a quiet corner, but this room is probably used by idol worshippers for their prayers. May he daven there?

We can actually find a precedent for Yankel’s predicament in a responsum penned approximately six hundred years ago, by the great posek, Rav Yisroel Isserlin, who authored the Terumas Hadeshen (#6). His case is fairly similar to Yankel’s – despite the fact that none of the airports he used sported meditation rooms. The Terumas Hadeshen’s question concerns a traveler who needs to daven mincha. Our traveler sees that his two best options are:

(1) To go to a field that is alongside the road and pray there.

(2) To wait until he reaches the nearest inn, which will be one owned and operated by gentiles, and pray there.

Praying in an open field

The Gemara frowns strongly on someone who prays in an open area (Brachos 34b, Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 90:5). Thus, the Terumas Hadeshen suggests that perhaps it is better to wait until he arrives at the inn and pray there. On the other hand, he notes that praying in a non-Jewish inn, even should he find a quiet corner, involves its own halachic challenges, since the inn will =undoubtably be filled with idols and graven images. The Terumas Hadeshen quotes both the Mechilta and the Gemara mentioned above as proofs that one should not pray in a place containing religious icons. Therefore, the better choice is for our traveler to pray in an empty field, if he can find a place where he will not be distracted. However, if there is no place to daven outside without risking being bothered, he should wait until he arrives at the inn, hoping that he’ll find an undisturbed corner in which to daven.

Thus, we see that the Terumas Hadeshen understands that Moshe left the city to daven because he had an alternative place – but it is permitted to pray in a city containing idols, when there is no alternative.

Based on this Terumas Hadeshen, we should be able to answer Yankel’s inquiry. If there is no better place in the airport where he can daven undisturbed, it would seem that he may use the meditation room. Of course, I suggest that our readers refer this question to their own rabbonim and poskim.

Enjoying the artwork

At this point, let us discuss the next question raised above:

“May one enter a house of idol worship to enjoy the artwork?”

I found that this exact question was asked of two recent halachic authorities, Rav Eliezer Yehudah Valdenberg (Shu’t Tzitz Eliezer 14:91) and Rav Ovadyah Yosef (Shu’t Yechaveh Daas 4:45). Both of these authorities prohibit entering a church as part of a tour, to enjoy the artwork, or to study history. Let us examine the sources on which this prohibition is based.

The Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 1:4) states: It is permitted to be outside a city that contains avodah zarah. If there is avodah zarah outside it, inside the city is permitted.

The Mishnah implies that one may not be inside a city that “contains avodah zarah.” The question is: What is meant by the clause, a city that contains avodah zarah? This is the subject of a dispute among the early authorities. Most rishonim (e.g., Rashi, Avodah Zarah 11b; Raavad, to Hilchos Avodah Zarah 9:9) explain that the Mishnah is prohibiting entering a city on a day that there is a big festival in honor of a deity. One may not visit the city that day, because people may think that he is entering the city in order to buy or sell from those observing a holiday. This is prohibited, because his financial dealing with the idolaters may cause them to thank their god for the commerce that was provided, which means that the Jew caused a gentile to worship idols. According to this approach, one may enter a city that contains idols when no festival is being celebrated.

However, the Rambam understands the Mishnah differently, prohibiting entering any city that contains idols. To quote him:

You should be aware that it is prohibited to travel intentionally through any city in which there is a temple of avodah zarah, and it is certainly prohibited to dwell in such a city. However, we are under their control and we live in their lands against our will… if this is the law regarding the city, it is certainly so regarding the temple building itself. It is almost prohibited for us to see it, and, certainly, we may not enter it (Rambam, Commentary to Mishnayos, Avodah Zarah 1:4). The Rambam rules the same in his Mishneh Torah (Hilchos Avodah Zarah 9:9), stating that one may not enter a city that contains an idol.

How do we rule?

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 149:1) rules according to the majority opinion, meaning that it is prohibited to enter a city containing a building intended for idol worship only on a day when there is a festival. The Shach, however, appears to disagree, quoting the Rambam’s opinion as normative halachah. The accepted practice follows the Shulchan Aruch.

However, the Shulchan Aruch is permitting entering only a city that contains an idol. All authorities prohibit entering the house of worship itself. This is based on a passage of Gemara (Shabbos 116a) that states that if someone is being pursued by either a person or a snake that is trying to kill him, he may enter a house of idol worship. Obviously, it is prohibited to enter such a building for any other reason (Shu’t HaRosh 19:17; Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 157:3).

Abizraya de’avodah zarah

Thus, the halachic conclusion is that one may not enter a house of idol worship, except when it is a life-threatening emergency. There is an element of halachic novelty to this ruling. Usually, any prohibition associated with avodah zarah, even benefiting from idols, is prohibited under all circumstances, even to the extent that one is required to give up one’s life not to violate it, yeihareg =velo= yaavor. Clearly, although it is prohibited to enter a house of idol worship, it is not included to the extent that it is yeihareg velo yaavor. (The intrepid reader is referred to Shu’t Divrei Yatziv [#74 in the addenda], by the late Klausenberger Rebbe, who discusses why, indeed, the law is not yeihareg velo yaavor.)

We should note that there are authorities who rule that one may not enter a house of idol worship, even to save one’s life (Bach, end of Yoreh Deah 157, quoting Rashba). These poskim, indeed, consider this prohibition to be yeihareg velo yaavor.

Collecting your debt

An early authority, the Sefer Chassidim (Rav Yehudah Hachassid, early 13th century Germany), shared with us the following story, which bears out the same ruling: A priest owed a Jew a lot of money, and he knew that the Jew would not follow him into a church. Whenever the Jew went to collect the debt, the priest went into a church to avoid paying his debt. A different person who was owed money had entered a church to collect the debt, and now, feeling guilty about it, asked a posek how he should do teshuvah for his sin of entering the church. He was answered that on that date every year (the yahrzeit), he should fast, as atonement for the sin (Sefer Chassidim #435). Thus, we see how seriously Rav Yehudah Hachassid viewed the prohibition of entering a church.

In a similar, much later, ruling, the Maharash Engel (responsum #83) prohibited a Jewish carpenter from installing windows in a church (quoted by Shu’t Tzitz Eliezer 14:91). As noted by Rav Ovadyah Yosef, this should be applied to any Jewish workman – such contract work is off-limits. In the above-referenced responsum, Rav Ovadyah speaks very strongly about how severe a prohibition it is to enter a church.

(Most early authorities conclude that Christianity qualifies as avodah zarah in halachah; see, for example, Rambam, Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 9:4 in the uncensored editions.)

Entering the courtyard

May one enter the courtyard of an avodah zarah, as long as one is careful not to enter the building? A corollary of this question is whether a workman may take a job that includes doing outdoor cleaning or repair work on a church.

The Rema (Yoreh Deah 149:2) rules that when the idolatrous worshippers are gathered outside for some religious observance, a Jew may not enter the courtyard, because of the prohibition of maris ayin: people might think that he is intending to join the worshippers.

At times when there is no such gathering, the Rema quotes a dispute as to whether one is permitted to enter the courtyard. When the courtyard leads somewhere else as well, it is permitted, according to all opinions, to traverse it to get somewhere that is permitted. Even so, it is exemplary practice to avoid entering a courtyard that includes a beis avodah zarah, when he has an alternative route that will not add significantly to the trip.

Converted church

At this point, let us discuss our next question above:

“May we purchase for our shul an abandoned building that once was a church?”

This actual question was asked of Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim I #49). A Catholic church had suffered a fire over twenty years before, and the building was subsequently renovated for use as a school. Subsequently, the school building was destroyed, again, and all that remains of the building now is a shell, with no indication of its previous use. May one purchase the property for use as a shul?

As Rav Moshe notes, the background to the shaylah is not new. Let me provide an introduction.

The halachic authorities discuss the following question: A gentile donated wax candles to his church, but they were never used. May these candles be used in a shul? The Chasam Sofer ruled that they may, since they were never used for idolatrous practice (Shu’t Chasam Sofer, Orach Chayim #42, quoted by Mishnah Berurah 154:44).

What is the law if these candles had been used in the church, and were then sold by the priest? Is a Jew permitted to use these candles? The authorities rule that one is permitted to use the candles for private, non-mitzvah use, but they may not be used in a shul (Shulchan Aruch and Rema, Orach Chayim 154:11). Why is this so?

Although the candles were used for idolatrous purpose, the fact that the priest sold them constitutes this to be an act called bitul, nullifying the prohibition of avodah zarah, which permits using these candles for secular purposes. However, one may still not use them to perform a mitzvah, such as to kindle them in shul, for the Shabbos lights, the Chanukah lights or to enable someone to study Torah (Magen Avraham; Elyah Rabbah 154:15).

By this logic, it would seem that a converted church should not be used for any mitzvah, and certainly not for a shul. This is, indeed, the conclusion of Rav Moshe Feinstein, although he acknowledges that there are those who disagree, as I will now explain.

May one pray in a church?

A prominent, early acharon, Rav Eliyahu Mizrahi, was asked concerning the following: A shul had been used for some sinful activity, and now people were spreading a rumor that one is no longer permitted to daven there. The Mizrahi, as he is usually called, ruled that this was an error in halachah. In his responsum on this topic, he wrote the following: “What they think is in error. According to their mistaken notion, one would never be permitted to pray in the house of any of the Greeks (his way of referring to the Eastern Orthodox Christians, as opposed to the Moslem population where he lived), since they usually have in their homes statues of Jesus and his mother, with a fire burning underneath, and the smoke rises from the fire, which qualifies as straightforward idol worship… Nevertheless, it is permitted for us to rent houses from them and pray in the houses, notwithstanding the fact that we know that they had worshipped idols in the house previously. If this were prohibited, we would be forbidden to pray in the Beis Hamikdash, since the Greeks brought idols inside, prior to the Chanukah miracle (Shu’t Rav Eliyahu Mizrahi #81).

Indeed, why is it permitted to pray inside the Beis Hamikdash after it was made into a house of idol worship? The Magen Avraham (154:17) explains that this is permitted because the building itself was never worshipped. For the same reason, perhaps a church building can be treated more leniently than the leftover wax, which may not be used for a mitzvah, since the wax itself was used for avodah zarah worship.

However, other authorities prohibit using as a shul what was once a church building (Elyah Rabbah), contending that one may pray in such a building only on an occasional basis. Although the Beis Hamikdash was used on a permanent basis, there is a halachic difference between using a building that was originally intended for idol worship, which one may daven in only after it is no longer being used and, even then, only occasionally, and the Beis Hamikdash, which, although used for idolatry, does not lose its kedushah.

A further question is raised on the opinion of the Mizrahi from a Tosafos (Megillah 6a s.v. Teratiyos). The Gemara there states that the Roman teratiyos will become places used for the public teaching of Torah. Tosafos notes that some explained that these were buildings used for idol worship, and that the correct text of the Gemara should be tartachiyos, which means houses of shame. Tosafos, however, rejects this interpretation, explaining that it is prohibited to study Torah in houses used for idol worship. He explains that the word teratiyos to mean theaters, places that the Roman people gathered for social, but not idolatrous, purposes. This Tosafos appears to hold that a building used for idolatry should not be used for kedusha. (Obviously, the Beis Hamikdash is not the same, although Tosafos does not explain why.)

Rav Yaakov Ettlinger, the great German nineteenth-century posek (often called by the title of his magnum opus, the Aruch Laneir, a classical commentary on much of Shas) was also asked a similar question, which is published in his collection of responsa, called Shu’t Binyan Tziyon. Aside from halachic interest, the teshuvah has historical interest, since it is dated 5618 (1858) to a Rav Avraham Asch of New York City, and would be an unusual instance of a pre-civil-war halachic correspondence.

A community requires the acquisition of a building to use as a beis medrash, and they are having difficulty finding an appropriate facility. They have found a building which was originally built as a residence, but was then sold for use as a church. The many years that it was used as a church, the worshippers did not bring any icon inside the building. The building has now been sold, and Rabbi Asch and his congregation would like to purchase this building for their beis medrash/shul.

The Binyan Tziyon notes that, according to the Mizrahi, this is surely permitted. Nevertheless, based on the opinion of Tosafos, the Binyan Tziyon is inclined to prohibit purchasing this building as a shul. However, he rules that if the situation is extenuating, they may use the building for their shul, relying on a combination of several lenient reasons: (1) the opinion of the Mizrahi, (2) the gentiles never brought an icon into the building, and (3) it was not built, originally, to be a church (Shu’t Binyan Tziyon #63).

The Mishnah Berurah writes that the accepted practice is to permit allowing a church building to be converted into a shul, but only when no icon or idol had ever been brought into the building (Biur Halachah s.v. Neiros). If an idol was ever brought into the building, one may not, subsequently, use this building as a shul.

Rav Moshe notes that although the prevalent practice in America was to purchase church properties and renovate them into shullen, he concludes that this is not permitted. However, he does permit this when the building will require a complete renovation, such that its original structure is no longer recognizable. In this instance, he concludes that the newly renovated building has no stigma.

Conclusion

Our belief in Hashem is the most basic of mitzvos. Praiseworthy is he who stays far from idols and their modern substitutes and directs his heart only to Hashem.

*Although this was an actual question, the name has been changed.

 

Where Does My Shemoneh Esrei End? Part II

clip_image002_thumb.jpgQuestion #1: A proper ending

“Someone told me that I am not required to say the prayer Elokei, netzor leshoni meira at the end of Shemoneh Esrei. Is this a legitimate practice?”

Question #2: Responding in kind

“If I am reciting the Elokai netzor at the end of Shemoneh Esrei while the chazzan is already beginning the repetition, should I be reciting ‘Amen’ to his brachos?”

Question #3: What do I Say?

“I finished Shemoneh Esrei, said the pasuk Yi’he’yu leratzon, but am still standing in the place and position I assumed for Shemoneh Esrei. What may I answer at this point?”

Question #4: Do I Repeat the Whole Thing?

“I just finished Shemoneh Esrei, but I did not yet back up the three steps, and I realize that I forgot to say Yaaleh Veyavo. What do I do?”

Answer:

In Part I of this discussion, we began discussing the question about inserting special individual supplications into our private Shemoneh Esrei, and we learned that there are several places that one may do so. We also discovered that the prayer that begins with the words Elokai, netzor leshoni meira, “My G-d, protect my tongue from evil,” which we recite at the end of the Shemoneh Esrei, is intended to be a voluntary, personal prayer. Although it has now become a standard part of our daily prayer, it is intended to be an individual entreaty to which one is free to add, delete, or recite other supplications instead.

We also learned in last week’s article that the early authorities dispute whether one should recite the verse that begins with the words Yihyu leratzon (Tehillim 19:15) before one begins reciting one’s personal requests. Some authorities ruled that it is required to do so, some ruled that it is optional and some held that it is preferred not to recite the verse Yihyu leratzon until after one completes one’s supplications.

Most of the questions of our introduction relate to the rules of interrupting the prayer during the recital of these individual supplications. During the recital of the Shemoneh Esrei itself, I am not allowed to interrupt to answer any part of our prayer. Since these supplications, including the prayer Elokai, netzor, are not technically part of the Shemoneh Esrei, am I permitted to respond during their recital? Am I considered to still be reciting Shemoneh Esrei while I am saying these personal requests? And does it make a difference whether I have yet recited the verse Yihyu leratzon, since its recital officially ends the Shemoneh Esrei.

To sum up

In last week’s article, we learned that there is a dispute whether one may answer the responses to Kedushah, Kaddish, and Borchu after having completed the nineteen brachos of Shemoneh Esrei, but before one has said Yi’he’yu leratzon. There are three opinions:

(1) One may not insert anything including any personal supplication before one recites Yi’he’yu leratzon (Raavad and Rashba).

(2) One may insert a personal supplication, but one may not answer Kaddish or Kedushah (Rabbeinu Yonah, as understood by Divrei Chamudos and Pri Chodosh).

(3) One may even answer Kaddish or Kedushah (Rabbeinu Yonah, as understood by Rama).

How do we rule?

Among the early codifiers we find all three approaches quoted:

(1) The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 122:1, 2) and the Bach conclude, like the Rashba and Raavad, that one may not insert or recite anything prior to saying Yi’he’yu leratzon.

(2) The Divrei Chamudos rules that one may recite personal supplications before one says Yi’he’yu leratzon, but one may not answer Kedushah or Kaddish.

(3) The Rama permits even answering Kedushah or Kaddish before saying Yi’he’yu leratzon. This is the approach that the Mishnah Berurah (122:6) considers to be the primary one and it is also the way the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (18:15) rules. The Rama mentions that some communities had the custom of not reciting Yi’he’yu leratzon until after they completed saying Elokai Netzor and whatever other personal supplications the individual chose to recite.

After saying Yi’he’yu leratzon

Thus far, we have discussed what one should do prior to reciting the verse Yi’he’yu leratzon. Now we will begin discussing the laws that are effective after one recites this verse.

All authorities agree that once a person has recited the verse Yi’he’yu leratzon, he may add personal prayers to the extent that he wishes. Many authorities hold that it is preferable not to recite supplications when, as a result, one will be required to respond to Kedushah or Kaddish while (Rashba and Shulchan Aruch, as explained by Maamar Mordechai).

Amen during Elokai Netzor

At this point, we will address one of the other questions asked in our introduction:

“If I am reciting the Elokai Netzor at the end of Shemoneh Esrei while the chazzan is already beginning the repetition, should I be reciting ‘Amen’ to his brachos?”

If this person was following the custom mentioned by the Rama and had as yet not recited Yi’he’yu leratzon, then he may not respond “amen” to someone else’s bracha. Even if he has recited Yi’he’yu leratzon, it is unclear whether he may respond “amen” to brachos, as I will explain.

First, an introduction: In general, the different parts of the davening have varying status regarding which responses are permitted. For example, it is prohibited to interrupt in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei, even to respond to Kaddish or Kedushah. On the other hand, the birchos kri’as shma, the blessings recited before and after we say the Shma, have less sanctity than does the Shemoneh Esrei. Therefore, according to accepted psak halacha, someone in the middle of reciting birchos kri’as shma may respond to Borchu, and to some of the responses of Kaddish and Kedushah. Specifically, he may answer amen, yehei shemei rabba… and the amen of da’amiran be’alma in Kaddish, and may answer Kodosh, kodosh, kodosh… and Baruch kevod Hashem mimkomo during Kedushah. In addition, he may answer amen to the brachos of Hakeil hakodosh and Shomei’a tefillah. He may not answer “amen” to any other bracha, to the other responses of Kaddish, or say Yimloch to Kedushah. (We should note that the above reflects the opinion of many rishonim and is the conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch, but it is not universally held.

The question at hand is: What is the status of davening after one has recited Yi’he’yu leratzon? May one answer Kedushah or say “amen” at this point? There are no allusions in Chazal to direct us what to do, but in a passage of Gemara discussing a different issue there is a oblique hint that may impact on this topic:

“If he erred and did not mention Rosh Chodesh [i.e., he neglected to say the passage of Yaaleh Veyavo, or neglected mention of Rosh Chodesh while reciting Yaaleh Veyavo] while reciting Avodah [i.e., the bracha of Shemoneh Esrei that begins with the word Retzei], then he returns to the bracha of Avodah. If he remembers during Hodaah [i.e., the bracha that begins with the word Modim], then he returns to the bracha of Avodah. If he remembers during Sim Shalom, then he returns to the bracha of Avodah. If he completed Sim Shalom [i.e., recited the closing bracha], then he returns to the beginning [of the Shemoneh Esrei]. Rav Papa, the son of Rav Acha bar Ada, explained that when it said, ‘If he completed, then he returns to the beginning [of the Shemoneh Esrei]’ it means that he uprooted his feet [i.e., he began to take three paces back, as we do prior to reciting Oseh Shalom]; but if he did not ‘uproot his feet’, he returns [only] to Avodah” (Brachos 29b).

The Gemara teaches that someone who forgot to say Yaaleh Veyavo at the appropriate place in Shemoneh Esrei must return to the words Retzei in order to say Yaaleh Veyavo. However, if he completed reciting the Shemoneh Esrei, then he repeats the entire Shemoneh Esrei. What is the definition of “completing the Shemoneh Esrei?

The Gemara presents three rules:

(1) If he took three paces back, he has completed the Shemoneh Esrei, and must start over again from the beginning.

(2) If he finished Shemoneh Esrei and whatever supplication he recites, then he must start over again from the beginning.

(3) If he is still reciting his supplications, he goes back only to Retzei (Brachos 29b).

We see from this Gemara that reciting the supplications at the end of davening is still considered to be part of the prayer. Does this mean that it has the same rules as being in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei itself as far as interrupting his davening is concerned?

The rishonim discuss this issue. The Rashba (Shu”t Harashba 1:807; 7:405) rules that once one said Yi’he’yu leratzon, the laws of hefsek follow the rules of someone who is in the middle of reciting the birchos kri’as shma. Therefore, he may answer amen, yehei shemei rabba… and amen to da’amiran be’alma in Kaddish, and may answer Kodosh, kodosh, kodosh… and Baruch kevod Hashem mimkomo during Kedushah. In addition, he may answer amen to the brachos of Hakeil Hakodosh and Shomei’a Tefillah.

Answering Amen

May one answer “amen” to any other bracha once one has recited the verse Yi’he’yu leratzon? The Taz (Orach Chayim 122:1) notes what appears to be an inconsistency in the position of the Shulchan Aruch on this matter. To resolve this concern, he explains that there is a difference between someone who usually recites supplications after completing his Shemoneh Esrei, who should not recite amen, and someone who does so only occasionally, who should. Someone who recites supplications only occasionally may interrupt to answer amen once he says Yi’he’yu leratzon, since for him reciting Yi’he’yu leratzon is usually the end of his formal prayer.

However, this ruling would probably not affect us. Since today it is common practice to include Elokai Netzor or other supplications at the end of our daily tefillos, we would be considered still in Shemoneh Esrei, and as a result, we will not be permitted to respond “amen” at this point (Mishnah Berurah 122:1). However, other authorities rule that once one has said Yi’he’yu leratzon, one may even answer “amen” to all brachos (Aruch Hashulchan; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch).

After completing his supplications

Once someone has completed reciting his supplications and recited Yi’he’yu leratzon, he is considered to have finished davening completely, and he may now answer any responses that one should usually recite, including even to answer Boruch Hu uvaruch Shemo when hearing a bracha (Maamar Mordechai; Mishnah Berurah). This is true, even though he has as yet not backed up the three steps.

Conclusion

Rav Hirsch, in his commentary to the story of Kayin and Hevel in Parshas Bereishis (4:3), makes the following observation: “Two people can bring identical offerings and recite the same prayers and yet appear unequal in the eyes of G-d. This is made clear in connection with the offerings of these brothers. Scripture does not say: “G-d turned to the offering by Hevel, but to the offering by Kayin He did not turn.” Rather, it says: “G-d turned to Hevel and his offering, but to Kayin and his offering He did not turn.” The difference lay in the personalities of the offerers, not in their offerings. Kayin was unacceptable, hence his offering was unacceptable. Hevel, on the other hand, was pleasing, hence his offering was pleasing.”

The same is true regarding prayer: the Shemoneh Esrei itself, the Netzor leshoni addition, and the personal supplications that different people recite may appear identical in words, but they are recited with emotion, devotion and commitment. Tefillah should be with total devotion in order to improve ourselves, to enable us to fulfill our role in Hashem’s world.

 

Where Does My Shemoneh Esrei End? Part I

clip_image002_thumb.jpgQuestion #1: Slow on the draw

“The other day, I was finishing Shemoneh Esrei as the chazzan began Kedushah, but I had not yet recited the sentence beginning with the words Yi’he’yu Leratzon when the tzibur was already reciting Kodosh, kodosh, kodosh. Should I have answered Kedushah without having first said Yi’he’yu Leratzon?”

Question #2: A proper ending

“Someone told me that I am not required to say the prayer Elokei Netzor at the end of Shemoneh Esrei. Is this a legitimate practice? Why don’t the siddurim say this?”

Question #3: Responding in kind

“If I am reciting the Elokai Netzor at the end of Shemoneh Esrei while the chazzan is already beginning the repetition, should I be reciting ‘Amen’ to his brachos?”

Question #4: What do I Say?

“I finished Shemoneh Esrei, said the pasuk Yi’he’yu Leratzon, but am still standing in the place and position I assumed for Shemoneh Esrei. What may I answer at this point?”

Question #5: Do I Repeat the Whole Thing?

“I just finished Shemoneh Esrei but did not yet back up the three steps, and I realized that I forgot to say Yaaleh Veyavo. What do I do?”

Answer: Historical introduction

The Anshei Keneses Hagedolah, called in English The Men of the Great Assembly, were 120 great leaders of the Jewish people at the beginning of the Second Beis Hamikdash period and included such luminaries as Ezra, Mordechai, Daniel, and the last of the prophets, Chaggai, Zecharya and Malachi. To help us fulfill our daily obligation of praying, they authored the “amidah,” our main prayer. Since this prayer consisted, originally, of eighteen blessings we call it the “Shemoneh Esrei,”  a name which we also use when referring to the prayers of Shabbos, Yom Tov, and Rosh Chodesh Musaf, even though those tefillos are always only seven brachos (with the exception of Musaf of Rosh Hashanah, which is nine.) A nineteenth brocha, that begins with the word Velamalshinim (or, in the Edot Hamizrah version, Velaminim), was added later when the main Torah center was located in Yavneh after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, about 400 years after the original Shemoneh Esrei had been written (Brachos 28b).

Standardized versus subjective prayer

Tefillah includes both standardized and individualized prayers. This article will discuss both types of prayer.

People often ask why our prayers are so highly structured, rather than having each individual create his own prayer. This question is raised already by the early commentators, and there are a variety of excellent answers. One of the answers is that it is far more meaningful to pray using a text that was written by prophets and great Torah scholars. The Anshei Keneses Hagedolah, who authored the Shemoneh Esrei, included among its membership some of the greatest spiritual leaders of all history and also the last prophets of the Jewish people. An additional reason is that many, if not most, individuals have difficulty in structuring prayer properly, and therefore the Shemoneh Esrei facilitates the individual’s fulfilling the Torah’s mitzvah of prayer by providing him with a beautifully structured prayer (Rambam, Hilchos Tefillah 1:4).

Furthermore, our prayers are structured because of concern that when someone creates his own prayer he may request something that is harmful to a different individual or community, something that we do not want in our prayer (Kuzari 3:19). For example, someone might request that he receive a particular employment opportunity, but that prayer is harmful to another person. The Shemoneh Esrei is written in a way that it protects and beseeches on behalf of the entire Jewish community. We thereby link ourselves to the Jewish past, present and future each time we pray.

In addition, the halachos and etiquette of prayer require that one not supplicate without first praising Hashem, and that the prayer conclude with acknowledgement and thanks. When Moshe Rabbeinu begged Hashem to allow him to enter the Chosen Land, he introduced his entreaty with praise of Hashem. From this we derive that all prayer must be introduced with praise. We also learn that, after one makes his requests, he should close his prayer with thanks to Hashem. All these aspects of prayer are incorporated into the Shemoneh Esrei and may be forgotten by someone composing his own prayer.

When may I entreat?

There are several places in the organized prayer where one may include personal entreaties, such as during the brocha that begins with the words Shema koleinu (Rambam, Hilchos Tefillah 1:9). In addition to these different places in the Shemoneh Esrei, after one has completed Hamevarech es amo Yisroel bashalom, which is basically the end of Shemoneh Esrei, is an ideal place to add one’s own personal prayer requests. The Gemara (Brachos 16b-17a) lists many tefillos that different tanna’im and amoraim added in this place on a regular basis. Several of these prayers have been incorporated into different places in our davening – for example, the yehi ratzon prayer recited by Ashkenazim as the beginning of Rosh Chodesh bensching was originally the prayer that the amora Rav recited at the conclusion of his daily prayer.

Two of the prayers quoted in the Gemara Brachos form the basis of the prayer that begins with the words Elokai, netzor leshoni meira, “My G-d, protect my tongue from evil,” which has now become a standard part of our daily prayer. This prayer, customarily recited after Hamevarech es amo Yisrael bashalom and before taking three steps back to end the prayer, was not introduced by the Anshei Keneses Hagedolah, and, indeed, is not even halachically required. This prayer contains voluntary, personal entreaties that became standard practice. One is free to add to them, delete them, or recite other supplications instead.

The questions quoted as the introduction to our article relate to the laws that apply to the end of our daily prayer, the Shemoneh Esrei. Chazal established rules governing when we are permitted to interrupt different parts of our davening and for what purposes. Thus, there is discussion in the Mishnah and the Gemara concerning what comprises a legitimate reason to interrupt while reciting the blessings that surround the Shema or during Hallel. However, the status and laws germane to interrupting the supplications one recites at the end of the Shemoneh Esrei are not mentioned explicitly in the Mishnah or the Gemara. Rather, there is ample discussion germane to this issue among the rishonim and the later authorities. This article will provide background information that explains which rules are applied here, when they are applied and why.

Introducing and concluding our prayer

The Gemara (Brachos 4b and 9b) teaches that the Shemoneh Esrei must be introduced by quoting the following verse, Hashem, sefasei tiftach ufi yagid tehilasecha, “G-d, open my lips so that my mouth can recite Your praise” (Tehillim 51:17). The Shemoneh Esrei should be concluded with the verse Yi’he’yu leratzon imfrei fi vehegyon libi lifanecha, Hashem tzuri vego’ali, “The words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart should be acceptable before You, G-d, Who is my Rock and my Redeemer” (Tehillim 19:15). These two verses are considered an extension of the Shemoneh Esrei (tefillah arichta), a status that affects several halachos, some of which we will soon see.

Before or after Yi’he’yu Leratzon?

The first question we need to discuss is whether personal supplications recited after the completion of the Shemoneh Esrei should be included before one recites Yi’he’yu Leratzon or afterwards. When the Gemara rules that one should recite Yi’he’yu Leratzon after completing the Shemoneh Esrei, does this mean that one should recite this sentence before one recites personal requests?

This matter is debated by the rishonim. The Raavad prohibits uttering anything between the closing of the brocha, Hamevarech es amo Yisroel bashalom, and the recital of the verse Yi’he’yu Leratzon. In his opinion, reciting any supplication or praise at this point is a violation of the Gemara’s ruling, which implies that one must recite Yi’he’yu Leratzon immediately after completing the 19 brachos of the Shemoneh Esrei. This approach is quoted and accepted by the Rashba (Brachos 17a).

On the other hand, Rabbeinu Yonah (page 20a of the Rif, Brachos) notes that even in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei one may insert personal supplications – therefore, inserting personal requests before Yi’he’yu Leratzon is also not a hefsek, an unacceptable interruption.

Yet a third opinion, that of the Vilna Gaon, is that it is preferable to recite supplications before reciting Yi’he’yu Leratzon.

What about Kedushah?

The later authorities discuss the following issue: According to the conclusion of Rabbeinu Yonah, who permits reciting personal supplications before one has recited Yi’he’yu Leratzon, may one also answer the responses to Kedushah, Kaddish, and Borchu before one has said this verse?

The Rama (Orach Chayim 122:1) rules that since one may insert personal requests before Yi’he’yu Leratzon, one may also answer Kedushah or Kaddish. Many disagree with the Rama concerning this point, contending that although inserting a prayer prior to reciting Yi’he’yu Leratzon does not constitute a hefsek, one may not insert praise at this point (Divrei Chamudos, Brachos 1:54; Pri Chodosh, Orach Chayim 122:1). Their position is that one may insert entreaties at many places in the Shemoneh Esrei, but adding anything else that is unauthorized, even praise, constitutes a hefsek. It is for this reason that someone in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei may not answer Kedushah or the other important congregational responses.

The straightforward reading of the Tur agrees with the Rama’s understanding of the topic (Maamar Mordechai; Aruch Hashulchan 122:6; although we should note that the Bach did not understand the Tur this way.)

To sum up

Thus far, I have mentioned three approaches regarding what one may recite after having completed Hamevarech es amo Yisrael bashalom, but before one has said Yi’he’yu Leratzon.

(1) One may not insert anything (Raavad and Rashba).

(2) One may insert a personal supplication, but one may not answer Kaddish or Kedushah (Rabbeinu Yonah, as understood by Divrei Chamudos and Pri Chodosh).

(3) One may even answer Kaddish or Kedushah (Rabbeinu Yonah, as understood by Rama).

How do we rule?

Among the early codifiers we find all three approaches quoted:

(1) The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 122:1, 2) and the Bach conclude, like the Rashba and Raavad, that one may not insert or recite anything prior to saying Yi’he’yu Leratzon.

(2) The Divrei Chamudos rules that one may recite personal supplications before one says Yi’he’yu Leratzon, but one may not answer Kedushah or Kaddish.

(3) The Rama permits even answering Kedushah or Kaddish before saying Yi’he’yu Leratzon. This is the approach that the Mishnah Berurah (122:2) considers to be the primary one and it is also the way the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (18:15) rules.

The Rama mentions that some communities had the custom of not reciting Yi’he’yu Leratzon until after they completed saying Elokai Netzor and whatever other personal supplications the individual chose to recite. Notwithstanding this custom, many authorities suggest reciting Yi’he’yu Leratzon immediately after completing the words Hamevarech es amo Yisrael bashalom, since this procedure allows someone to answer Kedushah according to all opinions and avoids any halachic controversy (Divrei Chamudos; Magen Avraham). However, according to the opinion of the Gra, mentioned above, this is not the preferable way to add one’s personal supplications to the tefillah.

At this point, we can address the first question asked above:

“The other day, I was finishing Shemoneh Esrei as the chazzan began Kedushah, but I had not yet recited the sentence beginning the words Yi’he’yu Leratzon when the tzibur was already reciting Kodosh, kodosh, kodosh. Should I have answered Kedushah without having first said Yi’he’yu Leratzon?”

Most Ashkenazic authorities conclude that one who has not yet recited Yi’he’yu Leratzon may answer the first two responses of Kedushah, that is, Kodosh. kodosh, kodosh and Baruch kevod Hashem mimkomo. Sefardic authorities, who follow the ruling of the Rashba and the Shulchan Aruch, prohibit responding before saying Yi’he’yu Leratzon.

Notwithstanding that most Ashkenazic authorities conclude that one may answer the first two responses of Kedushah before one has said Yi’he’yu Leratzon, they still prefer that one recite Yi’he’yu Leratzon immediately after closing the brocha Hamevarech es amo Yisrael bashalom. Nevertheless, this last issue is still disputed, since the Gra rules that one should delay reciting Yi’he’yu Leratzon until one finishes one’s supplications. In other words, whatever one chooses to do, he will be right with the Jews.

For Part II of this article, click here.

 

What Is the Bracha Magen Avos and Should We Recite It on Yom Kippur?

Question #1: Where?

Where is the bracha of Magen Avos first mentioned?

Question #2: What?

What is the bracha Mei’ein Sheva?

Question #3: When?

On what occasions do we omit reciting the bracha Mei’ein Sheva?

Answer:

What is the Bracha Mei’ein Sheva?

The bracha Mei’ein Sheva is recited by the chazzan after we conclude the Friday night Shemoneh Esrei, immediately after the congregation recites together the pesukim of Vayechulu. (Although the term Shemoneh Esrei is technically an inaccurate description of the Shabbos davening since it has only seven, and not eighteen, brachos, I will refer to it as Shemoneh Esrei, since that is what it is usually called.) This bracha is called Mei’ein Sheva, literally, an abbreviation of the seven brachos, because it is a synopsis of the seven brachos that comprise the Shabbos tefillah. Some people refer to the bracha as Magen Avos; since this phrase appears at its beginning, it is a common colloquial way of referring to this bracha.

Why did Chazal institute the Bracha Mei’ein Sheva?

In ancient times, the shullen were often located outside the towns in which people lived, and walking home from shul alone at night was dangerous. Chazal therefore instituted this bracha after Shemoneh Esrei, thereby delaying the end of davening so that someone who arrived late would be able to complete his davening and return with everyone else and not be left to walk home alone (Rashi, Shabbos 24b; Mordechai, Shabbos #407; Ran; Meiri).

According to an alternative approach, the bracha Mei’ein Sheva is a form of repetition of the prayer. The individual who arrived late could listen to the chazzan’s recital of this bracha and thereby fulfill his responsibility, even though the chazzan recited only one bracha and the regular Shabbos tefillah is seven (Rav Natrunai Gaon, as explained by Gra, Orach Chayim 269:13).

Although our shullen are no longer located outside the cities, once Chazal established the recital of bracha Mei’ein Sheva, we continue with this practice. Even in the time of the Gemara, it was practiced in places where the shullen were located inside the cities, notwithstanding that there was no danger to walk home from shul alone (Meiri, Pesachim 100b; Ran [on Rif, Pesachim 20a]; Or Zarua, Hilchos Erev Shabbos #20; Kolbo #11, 35).

Mei’ein Sheva instead of Kiddush

Yet another reason is presented why Chazal introduced Mei’ein Sheva. In ancient times, there were occasions when it was difficult to obtain wine for Kiddush Friday night, and Mei’ein Sheva was instituted as a substitute for reciting Kiddush (Yerushalmi, Brachos 8:1 and Pesachim 10:2. This passage of Talmud Yerushalmi is quoted by Tosafos, Pesachim 106b s.v. Mekadeish).

Why do we not recite Mei’ein Sheva on weekdays?

If the reason for reciting Mei’ein Sheva was out of concern that someone delayed might be placed in danger because he would need to return home by himself, why did Chazal not introduce a similar prayer after weeknight maariv, in order to make sure that this delayed individual would not be placed in danger?

The Rishonim raise this question, explaining that in the era when Mei’ein Sheva was established, someone who realized that he was delayed would not have gone outside the city to the shul on a weekday, but would have come home directly and davened at home. On Shabbos and Yom Tov, however, he would not have wanted to miss the davening in shul.

Do we recite Mei’ein Sheva on Yom Tov?

The Gemara rules that the prayer Mei’ein Sheva was instituted only on Friday evening, and not on Yom Tov evenings that did not fall on Fridays (Shabbos 24b). Why was Mei’ein Sheva not said on Yom Tov? Was there no concern of someone arriving late to shul on Yom Tov eve?

In the writings of the Rishonim, I found several answers to this question. One approach is that, although the concern that someone may be left behind may have equally existed on Yom Tov, since the more common situation was on Shabbos, Chazal did not include Yom Tov in the takkanah (see Meiri, Shabbos 24b).

Another approach is that, on Yom Tov eve, people were careful to arrive on time for davening, and there was no concern about individuals arriving late for shul and remaining alone (Mordechai, Pesachim #611).

Yet a third approach is that there are kabbalistic reasons why this danger was a concern only on Shabbos, even when it falls on Yom Tov, but not on a weekday Yom Tov (Kolbo #35).

Based on a statement of the Talmud Yerushalmi that the reason for Mei’ein Sheva was not because of the dangers of walking home alone, but because wine was not always available, some later commentaries present yet a fourth reason why the takkanah was established only for Shabbos and not for Yom Tov. Since most authorities hold that Kiddush on Yom Tov is not required min haTorah (Maggid Mishnah, Hilchos Shabbos 29:18), Chazal did not create a takkanah whose only reason would be to make sure that one fulfills a mitzvah that is miderabbanan (Marei Kohen, Pesachim 117b).

Reciting Mei’ein Sheva when Yom Tov falls on Friday

Do we recite the bracha Mei’ein Sheva when Yom Tov falls on Friday? The reason for reciting Mei’ein Sheva on a regular Shabbos was because people would work late on Friday afternoon, and therefore arrive late to shul Friday evening. However, when Friday was Yom Tov, there would be no reason for someone to be delayed. Nevertheless, the poskim rule that we should recite Mei’ein Sheva even when Yom Tov falls on Friday, notwithstanding the fact that the reason for the takkanah does not apply (Kolbo #52).

Thirteenth century zeal

Actually, the question regarding recital of Mei’ein Sheva when Yom Tov falls on Friday resulted in a very heated dispute during the era of the Rishonim. In the time of the Rivash, Rabbi Amram ben Meroam, a frequent correspondent of the Rivash, sent him the following shaylah:

Reuven was the chazzan for the Friday night davening on a Shabbos that immediately followed Yom Tov. He began reciting Mei’ein Sheva, when Shimon reprimanded him, contending that one should not recite this bracha when Shabbos follows Yom Tov; since no one was working on Friday, the reason for the takkanah did not apply. Levi then got involved, saying that it is accepted that one does recite Mei’ein Sheva on Friday night following a Yom Tov. The shul then burst into a cacophony of voices, with Shimon’s and Reuven’s backers screaming at one another. Finally, Shimon shouted that Reuven was desecrating Hashem’s holy Name since he was willing to recite a bracha in vain, and that if he did, Shimon would declare him to be in cherem, excommunicated! Reuven did recite the bracha Mei’ein Sheva and a day later opened his door to find Shimon and twenty of his backers there to notify him that he had been excommunicated! The Rivash was asked to rule on whether Reuven was indeed in cherem because of Shimon’s declaration that he had recited a bracha in vain, or, perhaps, Shimon should be placed in cherem for excommunicating someone without proper cause.

The Rivash ruled that Shimon was mistaken and that one should recite Mei’ein Sheva when Shabbos follows Yom Tov. Therefore, he concluded that Reuven, who followed the correct halachah, could completely ignore the cherem placed on him. However, he also concluded that since Shimon thought he was acting correctly, it is inappropriate to excommunicate him for his actions (Shu’t HaRivash #34).

Yom Tov falls on Shabbos

When Yom Tov falls on Shabbos, do we mention Yom Tov in the bracha Mei’ein Sheva?

The Gemara rules that when Yom Tov falls on Shabbos, the chazzan makes no mention of Yom Tov since on Yom Tov we do not recite this bracha (Shabbos 24b).

Reciting Mei’ein Sheva on Shabbos Yom Kippur

Do we recite Mei’ein Sheva when Shabbos falls on Yom Kippur? Logically, there is a strong reason that we should not, since no one arrives that late to shul on Kol Nidrei night. Furthermore, the many piyutim recited allow ample time for someone to finish davening and not be left behind. Nevertheless, the poskim rule that we recite Mei’ein Sheva when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos (Kolbo #70).

Conclusion

The entire law of the bracha Magen Avos teaches a lesson of paramount importance in the powers of our traditions and the respect we show Chazal. The establishment of this bracha takes us back to a period of time thousands of years ago, and a set of circumstances when shullen were all located outside a town’s boundaries. Yet, we continue to observe this mitzvah every Friday night, notwithstanding the fact that the reason for its establishment no longer exists and especially in a world where change has become a constant phenomenon, and opinions become obsolete almost more quickly than they come into style. Chazal’s wisdom is timeless and eternal, giving the Jewish people a stability that the nations, as a whole, and every individual crave.  One way of fulfilling our mission to be “a light unto the nations” is through following the words of Chazal, knowing that they are relevant in all times and all places.