In this week’s parshah Balak hires Bilam to curse the Jews. The Gemaras in Berachos 7a and Avodah Zarah 4a say that there is a very brief moment during each day when Hashem allows himself to get angry. The Gemara says that no one was ever able to exact that moment except for Bilam the rasha, as it says: “veyode’a das elyon – and he knew Hashem’s knowledge.” The Gemara explains that this pasuk teaches us that Bilam knew this moment because we cannot explain that he knew Hashem’s knowledge, when he didn’t even know his animal’s knowledge; rather, it teaches us that he knew this moment. The Gemara then quotes from the Navi Micha, explaining that Hashem did so many tzedakos for us during Bilam’s lifetime, as He did not get angry even for that moment each day. Had Hashem gotten angry, Bilam would have been able to curse the Jews.
Tosafos asks how Bilam could have cursed the Jews in such a short span of time. What could he have said? Tosafos gives two answers: 1) He could have said the word “kaleim (destroy them)”; and 2) It was only necessary, Tosafos says in the name of Rabbi Eliyahu, for Bilam to start his curse during the brief moment, and it would in effect be as if the whole curse was said at the appropriate time. He says that based on the length of the pasukim, we can see that Bilam intended to give a lengthy curse (which Hashem turned into a berachah). Therefore, he asserts, it would suffice to merely start his curse during the moment of Hashem’s anger and continue cursing even after the moment has passed.
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 110) says that in a pressing situation, e.g. a traveler who feels that he will be disturbed and thus cannot daven a full Shemoneh Esrei, the traveler may daven a shortened version. This consists of the first three berachos, followed by a berachah called havi’neinu (which comprises all of the middle berachos of Shemoneh Esrei), and concludes with the last three berachos. The Magen Avraham adds that another situation when one may daven this shortened version of Shemoneh Esrei is when the time to daven that particular tefillah is about to pass and he feels that he will not be able to complete the davening of a regular Shemoneh Esrei before time runs out.
The Aruch HaShulchan questions this opinion from the abovementioned Tosafos: It seems from the Magen Avraham that if one starts to daven during its proper time and finishes after the allotted time, his tefillah is not good. However, Tosafos (Berachos and Avodah Zarah) says that Bilam could have started his curse during the proper time and finished afterwards, making it effective. So the Aruch HaShulchan says that the same should hold true for tefillah, and one should be able to start his tefillah during the allotted time and continue to daven thereafter.
The Aruch HaShulchan, however, is very difficult to understand. How can he compare the allotted time to daven to that of the moment when Hashem gets angry as Bilam intends to curse the Jews? If one davens after the allotted time, he is not yotzei the davening. But regarding Bilam’s cursing of the Jews, there is nothing lacking if he curses after Hashem is no longer angry. It is only that he wanted the curse to be more effective, and therefore wanted to curse them while Hashem was still angry. For this, Tosafos says that it is effective if Bilam merely starts in the proper time. The entire curse, even the part after the time when Hashem is no longer angry, is all the more effective. Nonetheless, davening after the z’man is a problem as per the actual davening. So how does it help to only start the davening in the proper time?
Perhaps the p’shat in the Aruch HaShulchan is that he understands that z’man tefillah is not a time when one must daven after which the tefillah is disqualified, but rather a time when one’s tefillah will be most accepted. That is why the rabbanan established those times to daven. Therefore it is comparable to what Tosafos says regarding Bilam. Since in both scenarios the proper time for each one is only a better time for the tefillah/curse to be accepted, if one merely starts in the proper time the entire tefillah/curse will be accepted – as if it was all said in the proper time.
Many have used the Aruch HaShulchan’s logic to explain some of the chassidish customs of davening very late – even continuing to daven after the z’man tefillah. However, the Magen Avraham and the Mishnah Berurah (89:4) both opine that one must conclude davening in its proper time. We can assume that their understanding of z’man tefillah is different than the way Tosafos explains in the situation of Bilam: that the rabbanan established a time during which one must daven, and that after that time the tefillah is disqualified.
For questions or comments, e-mail RabbiRFuchs@gmail.com.Rabbi Raphael Fuchs
About the Author: For questions or comments, e-mail RabbiRFuchs@gmail.com.
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