Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Power of Prayer - Part III - The Best Way to Pray

Just to precede, the Ba'al HaTurim explains to us that the gematria (numerical equivalent) of the word "ואתחנן" - "Va'Eschanan" is equivalent to "שירה" - "song". Moshe said his prayer as a song in order that it would be accepted (Sifrei). I noted in the previous post the sentence from the Book of Koheles (Lamentations) which says that "the bird of the Heavens will carry the voice". (Thanks to Ariel for his copyrighted picture of the bird above.) Birds are the most spiritual of creatures; They fly over the earth, not completely bound to stay on the earth, but capable of flying over it. If one reads through פרק שירה (Perek Shirah), they may notice many interesting things. First, we must note that it is called "The Chapter of Song" and is considered (according to the MaBi"T) to have more power than reciting the entire Book of Tehillim. No wonder that Moshe prayed with song! As I note above, birds are the most spiritual of creatures. It's no surprise that birds are the most represented of all the creations, with 17 out of the 84 creations being birds! If you say birds are good, there's a reason, the gematria of "טוב" (good) is 17 . In addition to the prayers' beauty increasing, reciting a prayer as a song, slows down the prayer and allows for more concentration. In fact, the first section of the prayer is called "Pisukei D'Zimrah" as they are "verses of song" and should be recited in accordance. It is unfortunate for the one who is in a rush to pray and rushes through the prayers, including Pisukei D'Zimrah. It is worth the extra five minutes (or fifteen minutes for the entire prayer) to say the words more slowly, have more concentration, and have a much more powerful spiritual effect on the universe!

In order for one's prayers to be the most powerful, he should pray with the most concentration, at the best time, with a minyan, and at the best place. Sometimes, there are situations that arise where one's prayers would be best overall without all of these criteria. However, the above combination usually helps get the most out of one's prayer.

How can we come close to HaShem without the ability to offer korbanos (sacrifices) nowadays?

The following, taken from Sefer Olas Tamid (Chapter 13), on "The Great Importance of the Tefillah":

The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Yisrael (the Jewish People): "Be careful regarding tefillah, for there is no middah (attribute) that is nicer than it. And it is greater than all of the sacrifices, as it says, (Yeshayahu, chapter 1): "Why is there for Me, your many sacrifices... also when you increase in prayer..."; From here we see that it is greater than sacrifices (when it says, "also", we learn that it is something "in addition to" korbanos, in terms of importance). And even if a person is not fitting to be answered in his prayer and have Kindness done with him (from HaShem), [regardless], when he prays and increases in supplication, I Perform Kindness with him, for such is written regarding him (Tehillim, chapter 25): "All the Ways of HaShem are Kindness and Truth" - 'I precedeed Kindness to Truth, and Righteousness to Judgment, as it says (Tehillim, chapter 89): "Righteousness and Justice are the foundation of Your Throne, Kindness and Truth precede Your Countenance." (Taken from Tanchuma, beginning of Parshas Va'Yera)


The time of the prayer of the morning, its mitzvah begins with sunrise, as it says, "You shall be seen with the sun"... And its time extends until the end of four hours, which is a third of the day (the hours are daylight-proportional hours). And if he made a mistake, or intentionally [didn't pray until] after four hours [into the day, he may pray] until chatzos (the middle of the daylight hours). Though he does not have reward like prayer in its proper time, there is still the reward for prayer. According to the Rema, "After Chatzos it is forbidden to pray the morning prayer". (Shulchan Aruch - Siman 89, 1)


A person should strive to pray in the synagogue with the congregation. However, if one is an "anoos" (according to the Magen Avraham, an "anoos" is someone who is weak or sick - an "anoos" is not necessarily limited to the above), that he is unable to come to the synagogue, he should have in mind to pray at the time the congregation is praying. Similarly, if one was an "anoos" and he did not pray at the time the congregation prayed, and he is praying on his own, nevertheless, he should pray in the synagogue. (Shulchan Aruch, siman 90, 9)

Mishna Berura: "It is similarly written in the Book, Eliyahu Rabbah (Eliyahu HaNavi's Sefer), in the name of the "Teshuvas Beis Yosef", that [it is fitting] to fine those people who refrain from going to shul (synagogue) because they are involved in Torah or because they are profiting money..."

On praying in the synagogue after the congregation finished praying, the Mishna Berura notes that it is preferable to pray in the shul as it is a place of holiness. However, he notes that if one is a Talmid Chacham and there is a possibility that his praying late in the shul will lead to a Chillul HaShem (desecration of HaShem's Name), it is better for him to pray at home.


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