Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: The Advantage of Communal Prayer

At the bottom of daf 7b in masechta Brachos, R' Yitzchak asked R' Nachman why he hadn't come to shul to daven ma'ariv the night before.  R' Nachman answered that he was feeling a bit shvach ("weak" for you yankee doodle dandies).  R' Yitzchak asked if R' Nachman would like him to arrange for a minyan at his home.  R' Nacham demurred as he didn't feel it was worth bothering everyone for that.  R' Yitzchak rejoined that he should at least have the shaliach tzibur come tell R' Nachman that they were about to daven so he could daven at the same time.  R' Nachman expressed some surprise that there was any advantage to davening at the same time as the tzibur/community was davening.  R' Yitzchak said, "Oh, yes!  As R' Yochanan said in the name of R' Shimon ben Yochai..."

At this point, the story continues onto 8a, so just like I was left with that cliff hanger, I'll take this opportunity while I have your rapt attention to give a bit of background from the Maharsha.  (Ok, so I wasn't left in suspense long, but I did have to turn a page because I was using an ArtScroll gemara.)  The Maharsha begins by noting that a beis medrash, even a private beis medrash (ie, the kitchen table for me) has higher k'dusha than a beis k'nessess and so it is better to daven in a beis medrash, even a private one, than a beis k'nessess.  R' Yitzchak knew that R' Nachman didn't have a beis medrash at home, otherwise the conversation would not have even started.  One more point from the Maharsha: no proof is needed that davening with a minyan is good; that's obvious.

So what did R' Yochanan say in the name of R' Shimon ben Yochai?  "v'ani t'filasi lecha, HaShem, eis ratzon" -- May my prayer to you, HaShem, be at a propitious time.  "t'filasi" -- my (singular) prayer.  What is a propitious time (for an individual to daven)?  It can only be at the time the the congregation is davening.  (See!  No proof, just assertion.)

Given that, what is the advantage of davening with a minyan?  Just daven when the congregation is davening and you should be good to go.  No, says the Maharsha (further explaining the gemara), davening alone but when the congregation is davening is better then davening alone at other times, but not as good as davening with the congregation.  Davening with the congregation comes with an additional guarantee; namely, that HaShem will never be disgusted with communal prayer.

I never really understood how great that is until I had grandchildren, because of another incident that I never really understood until I had grandchildren.  I had been told that once when I was barely a year old, my grandfather was holding my on his lap during dinner.  Someone noticed that the baby (that would be me) was drooling and it was getting on my grandfather's plate.  He responded, "So?  It's my grandson."

The fact that HaShem is never disgusted by communal prayer is not because of His amazing tolerance... it is because of His amazing love for us.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…