Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Berachos 34

Today's daf has so many interesting topics that (to quote R' Effie G.) you can write a Shma Koleinu article about. Among the topics are halachic discourses about when a Chazan should be replaced, whether a Chazan can do Birchas Kohanim and whether he can be the Makri -- the one who calls the words for the Kohanim. More aggadic topics include the meaty topic of how a ba'al teshuva occupies a level that even a tzaddik cannot attain as well as the story of how R' Chanina Ben Dosa davened for R' Yochanan Ben Zakkai's son and R' Yochanan remarked that R' Yochanan could not receive the same answer to his prayers.

The topic that I would like to touch on involves two prayers which took place before R' Eliezer and are discussed on the bottom of Berachos 34a. The first story involved a student Chazzan who added many personal requests to his Shemoneh Esreh. The other students complained to R' Eliezer about this and he responded to them that Moshe prayed for 40 days and 40 nights, so this was not too long a prayer. The gemara then tells a story about another student who was serving as Chazzan and added almost no personal prayers. For some reason, the kehilla was upset about this as well and again complained to R' Eliezer. He responded to them, was there anyone who prayed as short as Moshe who only uttered five words of prayer for the healing of his sister Miriam?

As noted by the Maharsha, the problem with these two stories is that they don't instruct when it is proper to add or shorten the personal requests in Shemoneh Esreh. The sefer Shearim Hamitzuyanim B'Halacha offers the following suggested answer to the problem. He notes that Moshe was shorter when he davened for his sister, because this has a physical world component, since a doctor is given permission to heal the sick. For this reason, the prayer should be shorter and assistance given to the doctor to heal. However, the longer prayer was for the Jews to be forgiven for the golden calf. As this related to a defect in the Neshama, the prayers could be longer as the only thing that can be done is to daven to Hashem for His help and forgiveness.

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Yaakov said...

very nice and thanks again for doing this again

Neil T said...

Thanks so much.