web analytics
April 25, 2015 / 6 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Requests Or Demands? (Part II)


Cohen-Rabbi-J-Simcha

Question: When we pray, are we requesting or demanding that God fulfill our wishes?

Answer: Last week we cited a Gemara (Berachot 55a) that a person who anticipates the fulfillment of his prayers may cause great harm to himself. Rashi explains that this Gemara refers to a person who believes his kavanah is of such a lofty spiritual level that he assumes G-d will answer his prayers. Such an egocentric person causes G-d to scrutinize his character. A person should properly view his prayers as humble requests.

* * * * *

Under certain conditions teffilah may be formed as a demand. The following is culled from a taped shiur of HaRav HaGaon R. Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l, of Yeshiva University, which was recorded over 50 years ago at Congregation Moriah in Manhattan, NY:

The Gemara (Berachot 34b) reports the following: Rabban Gamliel’s son was ill. To pray for his son’s recovery, Rabban Gamliel sent two Torah scholars to Rav Chanina ben Dosa. Seeing the scholars approach, Rav Chanina went up to his attic and prayed for the son of Rabban Gamliel. When the two scholars came before Rav Chanina, he informed them that the son was already cured.

We can ask several questions about this story. First, why did Rabban Gamliel send two students? Why not one? Second, why send Torah scholars? Why not just send ordinary people? And finally, why didn’t Rav Chanina wait for the scholars to formally ask him to pray for Rabban Gamliel’s son?

The Gemara records a similar incident. Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai’s son was ill and Rabban Yochanan asked his student, Rav Chanina, to pray for him. Rav Chanina put his head down by his knees and prayed; the son got better.

This story, too, raises questions. Why, for example, did Rav Chanina put his head down by his legs?

Rav Soloveitchik offers the following analysis of these stories. He explains that Rav Chanina’s actions expressed a unique orientation towards prayer. Who walks with his head down near his feet? Not humans, but animals. Rav Chanina was symbolically beseeching G-d to sustain the sick son of Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai just as he sustains the animals in the field regardless of their nature to do good or otherwise.

In Rav Chanina’s opinion, praying for an ill person has nothing to do with the character, personality, Torah knowledge, or religious observances of that person. Rav Chanina believed that since G-d gave humans life, they deserve good health as well, just as animals are given good health. To emphasize this point, Rav Chanina put his head between his legs.

Rabban Gamliel had a different approach to prayer. He believed that people of merit have a right to make demands of G-d. For this reason he sent to Rav Chanina not one but two students who were Torah scholars. Together with Rav Chanina, they would constitute a bet din that could issue a psak that the son of Rabban Gamliel, the spiritual leader of the Jewish people, merited compassion from G-d.

When Rav Chanina saw the two scholars approaching, he understood Rabban Gamliel’s intent and hurried to pray before they arrived since he disagreed with Rabban Gamliel’s approach to prayer. He believed one should pray with great modesty and not make demands based on one’s performance of mitzvot.

(Any error or misstatement in this article should be attributed to my understanding of Rav Soloveitchik’s shiur and not to Rav Soloveitchik himself.)

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of several books on Jewish law including the recently published “Jewish Prayer The Right Way” (Urim Publications).

About the Author: Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of eight sefarim on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer the Right Way” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and select Judaica stores.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Requests Or Demands? (Part II)”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
"Killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah." That's his Jihad. What's yours? - An ad campaign sponsored by  the American Freedom Defense Initiative.
MTA Hopes to Change Rule, Ban ‘Killing Jews’ Anti-Jihad Ad
Latest Judaism Stories
Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

In her diary, Anne Frank wrote words that provided hope for a humanity faced with suffering.

Leff-042415

The Arizal taught this same approach, making the point that the Torah would never mention wicked people and their sins if there was not great depth involved from which we are to learn from.

Staum-042415

Humility is not achieved when all is well and life is peachy but rather when times are trying and challenging.

In order to be free of the negative consequences of violating a shvu’ah or a neder, the shvu’ah or neder themselves must be annulled.

“I accept the ruling,” said Mr. Broyer, “but would like to understand the reasoning.”

He feared the people would have a change of heart and support Rechavam.

Ramifications Of A Printers Error
‘The Note Holder’s Burden of Proof’
(Kesubos 83b)

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

In this case one could reason that by applying halach achar harov we could permit the forbidden bird as well.

“What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” my husband remarked. “Well, baruch Hashem we are safe, there was no accident, and I’m sure there is a good reason for everything that happened to us,” I mused.

The answer to this question is based on one of the greatest shortcomings of man – self-limiting beliefs.

Myth that niddah=dirty stopped many women from accepting laws of family purity and must be shattered

In every generation is the challenge to purge the culture of our exile from our minds and our hearts

Rabbi Fohrman connects the metzora purification process with the korban pesach.

The day after Israel was declared a State, everyone recited Hallel and people danced in the streets.

More Articles from Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen
Cohen-Rabbi-J-Simcha-NEW

Once this took place, no Beit Din could annul its practice but for an entirely different reason. A minhag accepted by klal Yisrael becomes an obligation that must be practiced.

Cohen-080814-Sign

Is God apologizing for taking away my Father? Is God telling me that He is sorry?

Question: At Birkat Kohanim, who says the phrase, “Am k’doshecha ka’amur”?

Question: How can one determine whether someone is a true disciple of a rav, Rebbe, or rosh yeshiva?

Question: Does halacha agree with the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade permitting women to have abortions?

Question: When someone puts on a talit to lead services, should he recite a berachah?

Question: A number of synagogues feature bar mitzvah celebrations for elderly Jews. Is this proper?

Hashem understood their complaint and therefore selected the ritual mitzvah of sukkah to test them.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/requests-or-demands-part-ii/2012/03/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: