Chapter: Tefila

01 – Prayer

Prayer is one of the principal expressions of belief in Hashem. People are not perfect; they are flawed and long to improve themselves. They therefore turn to the Creator of the World in prayer. Human imperfection is apparent on two … Continue reading

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02 – The Prayers of Our Ancestors and Prophets

We learn in the Tanach that whenever our ancestors and the prophets needed help, they turned to Hashem in prayer. Avraham Avinu stood in prayer and begged that Sodom not be destroyed. Hashem answered him that if there were ten … Continue reading

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3 – The Effect of Prayer

HaKadosh Baruch Hu established a law in Creation, that when we awaken in the world below to approach the Almighty and request a blessing from Him, He, in turn, is aroused from above to bring upon us an abundance of … Continue reading

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04 – Is Prayer a Biblical Obligation?

The Rishonim disagree as to whether there is a biblical commandment (mitzvah m’d’oraita) to pray every day. According to the Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvot, mitzvah 5), there is a biblical commandment to pray daily, as it says (Exodus 23:25), “Serve God … Continue reading

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05 – The Institution of Prayer by Anshei Knesset HaGedolah

Anshei Knesset HaGedolah instituted the prayers and the blessings (Berachot 33a). They established the wording of the Shemoneh Esrei and decided on the phrasing of all the berachot, including Birkot Keriat Shema and Birkot HaNehenin (blessings recited upon deriving pleasure … Continue reading

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06 – The Standardized Wording (Nusach)

Establishing a uniform wording, which repeats itself throughout the three daily prayers, created a certain disadvantage. As a result, prayer is liable to become routine and a person is apt to lose the kavanah that is aroused within him when … Continue reading

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07 – Establishing Three Prayers

In addition to the special prayers that our forefathers prayed during times of trouble, they also fixed set times when they prayed to Hashem (Berachot 26b). Avraham Avinu initiated the Shacharit morning prayer. He was the one who originally illuminated … Continue reading

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08 – Kavanah and Those Who Find It Difficult to Concentrate

Prayer is considered avodah shebalev (service of the heart); therefore its essence is dependent upon kavanah (intent). There are two kinds of kavanah in prayer: one, a general kavanah, that the person praying is standing before the King of Kings … Continue reading

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09 – Hearing the Words One Utters and the Law of Hirhur

Some mitzvot are fulfilled through dibur (speech), such as prayer, the recital of Shema, and Birkat HaMazon. The Amora’im are divided on the question of whether one can fulfill these mitzvot b’dieved (after the fact), via hirhur (thought). According to … Continue reading

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10 – The Language of Prayer

The mitzvah of prayer is ideally performed in Hebrew, for that is the language in which Anshei Knesset HaGedolah composed the wording of prayer, and it is the Holy Tongue which was used to create the world. However, b’dieved, a … Continue reading

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01 – The Virtue of a Minyan

When ten Jews are engaged in Torah or prayer, the Shechinah dwells among them, as it says (Psalms 82:1), “God is present in a Godly congregation.” Although the Shechinah dwells even with one Jew who prays or learns individually, nevertheless, … Continue reading

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02 – The Virtue of Prayer in a Minyan

Upon first glance, one might think that prayer recited individually is more intense and passionate and better expresses one’s particular character and needs. However, despite the importance of the individual experience, our main objective in this world is to sanctify … Continue reading

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03 – What Is Prayer in a Minyan?

The essence of prayer in a minyan is praying Shemoneh Esrei together with ten Jews. One who does not succeed in praying Shemoneh Esrei together with the congregation should pray with the chazan when he repeats the Amidah (Chazarat HaShatz) … Continue reading

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04 – The Extent of One’s Obligation to Pray in a Minyan

It is a rabbinic mitzvah (mitzvah mi’drabbanan) to pray in a minyan. The Chachamim obligate a person to make an effort to walk to a minyan, even if it is far from his house, approximately the walking distance of a … Continue reading

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05 – Priorities Pertaining to Prayer in a Minyan

A person who finds it difficult to have kavanah when praying in a congregation, but succeeds in retaining the basic kavanah with which he fulfills his obligation, must pray in a minyan, even if he concentrates better while praying individually. … Continue reading

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06 – Who Can Be Counted in a Minyan?

A minyan is a gathering of ten male Jews of sound mind and responsibility to join together for matters of sanctity. A minor, who is not yet of full sound mind and competence, does not count as part of the … Continue reading

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07 – Is a Person Praying the Amidah Counted as Part of the Minyan?

To comprise a minyan, it is not necessary for all ten men to be able to participate in saying the matters of sanctity. Even when a few of those participating cannot respond to the chazan, they still complete the minyan. … Continue reading

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08 – Counting a Non-Religious Jew as Part of the Minyan

A Jew who has sinned, for example, by eating forbidden foods, committing adultery, or transgressing other biblical commandments, is still counted as part of the minyan. Despite the fact that he sinned, in his inner core he surely desires to … Continue reading

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09 – How Is a Person Counted in a Minyan?

As we have learned, a minyan is a gathering of ten Jewish males who are of sound mind. In order for them to join as a minyan, they must be together in one place. If nine of them are in … Continue reading

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10 – A Diminished Minyan

When the recital of Kaddish in a minyan has begun, and a few men leave in the middle, if most of the minyan remains (at least six including the chazan) the Kaddish may be completed. This rule applies to all … Continue reading

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01 – The Mitzvah to Pray in a Synagogue

When a person prays in a synagogue with a congregation, his prayer is heard (see Berachot 6a). Even someone who missed praying in a minyan has a mitzvah to pray in the synagogue, since it is a permanent and special … Continue reading

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02 – Establishing a Regular Place to Pray

It is a mitzvah to choose a synagogue and pray there regularly. One should not change his place of prayer needlessly. This was the custom of Avraham Avinu who designated a place to pray, as it is written (Genesis 19:27), … Continue reading

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03 – In Which Synagogue Is It Preferable to Pray?

When a person chooses a permanent synagogue, he must take into consideration several factors. If the choice is between a beit midrash (study hall) and a synagogue, it is better that he establish his place in a beit midrash, for … Continue reading

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04 – One May Not Pray in a High Place

A person who stands before HaKadosh Baruch Hu in prayer should know that his life is dependent on Hashem’s kindness, and should therefore stand before Him humbly. That is what the Chachamim meant when they said (Berachot 10b), “A person … Continue reading

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05 – One Should Enter Two “Doorways”

The Chachamim teach, “A person should always enter through two doorways in the synagogue… and then pray” (Berachot 8a). There are three interpretations of this statement and all were accepted as halachah (Shulchan Aruch 90:20). The first explanation of Chazal’s … Continue reading

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06 – Nothing Should Separate a Person from the Wall While Praying

Ideally there should be nothing standing between a person praying the Amidah and the wall, so that nothing distracts him from praying. Permanent furniture standing against the wall, such as a cupboard, is not considered to be a partition, and … Continue reading

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07 – One May Not Pray Near His Primary Rabbi

A person may not recite the Amidah prayer too close to his primary rabbi, for if he prays alongside him, he presents himself as his rabbi’s equal. An even greater prohibition exists against praying in front of one’s rabbi, so … Continue reading

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08 – A Proper Place to Pray

One should pray in a room with windows, and l’chatchilah it is good that a window facing Jerusalem be open (Shulchan Aruch 90:4). When someone is in a place with no windows, he should pray in a well-lit place, since … Continue reading

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09 – Areas Free from Excrement and Foul Odors

It is forbidden to say or think matters of sanctity in a place that contains feces or other foul smells, as it is written (Deuteronomy 23:14-15), “You will return and cover your excrement. This is because God your Lord walks … Continue reading

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10 – Additional Laws

A person is permitted to pray facing the bathroom, as long as the door is closed and no foul odor reaches him. However, if the door is open, he is prohibited from praying there (Mishnah Berurah 83:5). Feces of young … Continue reading

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11 – The Prohibition of Reciting Matters of Sanctity in Front of “Ervah”

It is prohibited to recite matters of sanctity in front of ervah (nakedness), as it says (Deuteronomy 23:15), “Your camp must be holy. Let Him not see any ervah among you and turn away from you.” Regarding a man who … Continue reading

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01 – An Appropriate Prayer Leader

The chazan leads the prayer service. Sometimes, the whole congregation says the prayers together with him while he sets the pace; other times, he recites the prayers and the congregation responds Amen, such as in Chazarat HaShatz (repetition of the … Continue reading

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02 – Chazanut for the Sake of Heaven

While singing, the chazanim must have kavanah for the sake of Heaven, but if they prolong their chazanut (cantillation) and their only intention is to show off their beautiful voices, the Torah writes about them, “It raises its voice against … Continue reading

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03 – Appointing a Chazan

The chazan is the emissary of the congregation, and therefore a person is prohibited from taking hold of the chazanut unless he is asked to do so by the congregation or by the gabbai as its representative. Hence, one may … Continue reading

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04 – Indecent Attire and the Importance of a Beard

The Chachamim say (Megillah 24a) that a poche’ach, a person whose clothes do not cover his body in a respectable manner, may not read from the Torah nor lead the prayer service. Therefore, a person wearing a sleeveless shirt or … Continue reading

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05 – The Mourner’s Prayer

A person mourning the death of one of his parents says Kaddish during the first year. Saying Kaddish is of great value to the deceased; it saves him from the judgment of Gehinnom, for since his son, whom he left … Continue reading

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06 – The Duration of the Kaddish Recital and the Yahrtzeit Day

According to Ashkenazic custom, a mourner leads the services and says Kaddish for eleven months after a parent’s death. This is because the judgment of evil people in Gehinnom is twelve months, and if a mourner recites Kaddish for the … Continue reading

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07 – Order of Precedence

In the past, it was customary in Ashkenaz that only one person recited Kaddish. When there were several mourners who needed to say Kaddish, it became necessary to establish an order of precedence. However, today most Ashkenazim and all Sephardim … Continue reading

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08 – Saying Kaddish for a Person Who Does Not Have an Adult Son

A minor whose mother or father died says Kaddish for his parent though he has not yet reached the age of mitzvot (bar mitzvah).  Mourner’s Kaddish was instituted for that purpose, since a child cannot lead the prayer service in … Continue reading

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01 – Emotional Preparation

Prayer is intended to elevate and strengthen people. Therefore, knowing that one is about to be uplifted and brought closer to Hashem, a person must approach prayer out of joy and not while in a state of sadness or apathy. … Continue reading

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