Geula and Tefilla (Part 2)

  • Rav Moshe Taragin


            The previous shiur outlined two distinct approaches towards the required juxtaposition of geula and tefilla.  Rashi viewed geula as an appropriate preface to tefilla, whereas the Talmidei Rabbenu Yonah suggested that prayer would reinforce the lessons of geula. 


            This difference of opinion may underly an interesting debate cited by the gemara in Berakhot (30a).  Should a traveler recite shemoneh esrei prior to beginning his journey and before the proper time for the recitation of shema if he will be unable to recite shemoneh esrei during his journey while standing?  The advantage of an early shemoneh esrei is that it can be recited while standing.  The disadvantage would be that such a recitation will not be juxtaposed to shema and the ensuing berakhot, which describe geula.  These sections of geula will be recited later - during the journey (while sitting).  Should we prioritize the value of standing during shemoneh esrei or that of twinning geula and tefilla.  The Tanna Kamma instructs that standing is primary, and that shemoneh esrei should therefore be recited earlier than the recitation of shema, while Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar prefers to maintain the contiguity of geula and tefilla, even at the cost of a sedentary shemoneh esrei. 


            This debate may be mirrored in the Rashi - Talmidei Rabbenu Yonah disagreement.  If pairing geula and tefilla enhances prayer, as Rashi suggests, the need for the juxtaposition may be suspended if its implementation will actually HAMPER tefilla.  The Tanna Kamma was willing to prioritize standing, itself an enhancement of prayer, for the pairing of geula and tefilla. 


In contrast, Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar may have sided with the Talmidei Rabbenu Yonah; the pairing highlights important moral lessons about geula.  The mandate to review those themes should not be suspended merely in order to enhance the tefilla. 


            An interesting Teshuvot Ha-Rashba (adopted by the Shulchan Arukh in siman 236:2) greatly expands the ability to suspend the pairing of geula to tefilla for the sake of broader tefilla benefit.  The Rashba allows various tefilla related announcements, such as reminding people to recite mashiv ha-ruach or ya'aleh ve-yavo, to be issued between the geula sections and shemoneh esrei (we allow verbal announcements at night but ban them during shacharit, preferring instead a non-verbal indication, such as knocking a table to remind people of important additions to tefilla).  This type of suspension of the juxtaposition of geula and tefilla does not increase the INHERENT caliber of the prayer per se but rather ensures correct execution of tefilla in general.  Yet even this secondary benefit warrants a partial suspension of geula's pairing with tefilla. 


Again, if the pairing is a tefilla enhancement, this prioritization would be extremely logical.  Under normal conditions, tefilla is best prefaced by immediate discussion of geula.  Under extenuating circumstances, however, we suspend the geula preface to facilitate better tefilla - standing or correct insertion of added sections. 


            How far does this latitude extend? What would be considered tefilla - related benefit that may warrant the suspension of the geula-tefilla pairing?


Tosafot in Berakhot (4b) question the custom during ma'ariv (commonly practiced in chutz la-aretz but not in Israel) of reciting two intervening sections between the final blessing of geula (hashkiveinu) and the actual shemoneh esrei.  Doesn't this constitute a violation of the juxtaposition of geula and tefilla? Tosafot endeavor to solve this issue by asserting that these sections also address various themes of geula and consequently do not disrupt the discussion of geula. Rather, these paragraphs elaborate the concept in what Tosafot refer to as "geula arichta" – an extended treatment of geula that immediately transitions UNINTERRUPTEDLY into shemoneh esrei. 


            Perhaps a different answer may be suggested. These additional sections were implemented on behalf of latecomers - to "occupy" the regular prayers with extra passages so that latecomers could "catch up" and depart simultaneously.  As synagogues were often positioned in isolated areas, those who would depart individually would often be in great peril.  These sections assured joint conclusion of prayer and collective departure time. Without this insurance, latecomers would abstain from tefilla be-tzibur.  Can this "agenda" be considered tefilla related, thereby overriding the geula-tefilla pairing?  Perhaps the juxtaposition can always be overridden to facilitate superior tefilla be-tzibur under trying conditions.  As public prayer attendance became dangerous, the geula-tefilla compound was entirely suspended every evening in order to facilitate tefilla be-tzibur.  The stridency of this position may have encouraged Tosafot to search for alternative solutions which would retain geula-tefilla pairing even in the presence of the intervening passages. 


            Our premise so far assumed that the Talmidei Rabbenu Yonah, who viewed the geula-tefilla pairing as serving a broader non-tefilla related interest, would be averse to suspending the pairing for tefilla concerns.  Though this assumption certainly seems logical, the Talmidei Rabbenu Yonah themselves embrace a tefilla induced suspension of the pairing. 


The first mishna in Berakhot legislates the starting time of the recitation of keriyat shema as sunset.  This law leads to a famous debate regarding the practice of ma'ariv minyanim that are held before sunset.  In northern latitudes faced with late-starting Shabbatot during the summer, various communities introduced the now-common practice of "early minyanim" for Shabbat.  Although this shift greatly enhanced Shabbat family life, it complicated tefilla patterns.  Various Rishonim adopted different positions regarding communities that davened at times which were suitable for tefilla but less than ideal for keriyat shema recital.  The Talmidei Rabbenu Yonah cite a position of Rav Hai Ga'on that one should pray with the tzibur but recite keriyat shema and its associated berakhot without intention to fulfill the mitzva, since, prior to sunset is an improper time for its recital.  After sunset, these sections should be repeated with proper intent (without a subsequent shemoneh esrei, since it has already been recited). 


Effectively, this policy prioritizes both tefilla be-tzibur as well as the proper timing of shema and its berakhot, while it neglects the geula-tefilla pairing.  Tefilla here precedes sunset, while the official shema recitation follows it.  This position would indicate readiness - even on the part of Talmidei Rabbenu Yonah – to suspend the pairing for tefilla related purposes.


            Perhaps this model can be explained in a different manner.  Even though the geula sections recited prior to sunset and immediately prior to tefilla were not official recitals of shema since they were preformed during an unsuitable time and without intent to fulfill the mitzva of shema, they still address the themes of geula.  Although they are recited out of CONTEXT, their CONTENT still touches upon the idea of redemption.  By reciting the shmoneh esrei prior to sunset immediately after reviewing redemptive history, we have fulfilled the geula-tefilla ideal – even though that ideal was realized outside the framework of "official" geula.  This arrangement, then, is not a suspension of geula-tefilla pairing for the purposes of superior tefilla, but rather a reworking of this pairing in an unorthodox manner. 


            A structurally similar "unorthodox" geula and tefilla pairing emerges form the comments of the Rosh.  The gemara in Berakhot (30a) describes Rav Ashi praying with the tzibur while sitting and davening a second time at home while standing.  If Rav Ashi recited shemoneh esrei at home while standing, why did he recite it earlier with the minyan as well?  The Rosh explains Rav Ashi's schedule as follows: though his public prayer was invalid (since he was sitting) and unnecessary (since he would daven at home), he would still recite a shemoneh esrei proximate to his publicly recited shema in order to achieve the geula-tefilla  pairing.


This description presents a valid pairing even though the shemoneh esrei recited after the geula description is halakhically invalid, since it was performed while sitting! Does the Rosh acknowledge geula-tefilla pairing even with invalid prayer? If so, this would certainly indicate that the pairing serves non-tefilla purposes of reinforcing geula related themes.  If geula-tefilla pairing enhances tefilla, there would be no purpose in juxtaposing them for halakhically unacceptable forms of prayer. 


            A second statement of the Talmidei Rabbenu Yonah may more powerfully indicate that they, too, recognized geula-tefilla  pairing as a tefilla enhancer.  They quote another solution of Rav Hai Ga'on to the dilemma of an early ma'ariv. Rav Hai Ga'on instructs that one should pray fully with the tzibur prior to sunset and repeat both shema and shemoneh esrei after sunset, during the appropriate time for shema.  Although we may not needlessly repeat shemoneh esrei without introducing novel elements (chiddush davar), this second shemoneh esrei needs no insertion of additional themes.  The very fact that the second shemoneh esrei involves a valid geula-tefilla pairing with the official recital of shema constitutes "chiddush davar," a new contour to tefilla, and relieves us of inserting additional components.  Clearly, viewing geula-tefilla pairing as a chiddush davar in shemoneh esrei indicates that the juxtaposition serves tefilla.


It is difficult to know whether the Talmidei Rabbenu Yonah agree with this position, as they quote Rav Hai Gaon without dissenting.  If they do endorse this position, it may indicate that they viewed geula-tefilla pairing as BOTH a tefilla enhancer and a reinforcement of the redemptive messages of geula. 


            Finally, we might inspect the very language of the geula-tefilla halakha in an attempt to detect its true nature.  Rabbi Yochanan announced that whoever juxtaposes geula and tefilla is assured entry to Olam Ha-ba.  This dramatic (and some would claim hyperbolic) language would certainly suggest that this practice is more than just a tefilla enhancer.  It seems as though geula-tefilla pairing adopts crucial theological significance, in line with Rabbenu Yonah's previously stated model of highlighting the essential themes of geula. 


In fact, bothered by this very language, the Ritva reinterprets Rabbi Yochanan's assurance.  By juxtaposing geula and tefilla and demonstrating fidelity to Chazal's wishes – even in something as ordinary as this pairing - a person earns his place in the next world.  Pairing per se does not advance Olam Ha-ba but rather signals general commitment, which in turns aids entry into Olam Ha-ba.  However, the simple reading of the gemara remains as a testament to the importance of this pairing, again suggesting a non-tefilla dynamic to this juxtaposition.