The Need for Voice with Respect to the Amida Prayer (III)

  • Harav Aharon Lichtenstein

YHE-HALAKHA: TOPICS IN HALAKHA

 

*****************************************************************************

In memory of Rabbi Aaron M. Wise z"l on the occasion of his 10th yahrzeit on 21 Tamuz.
By the Etshalom and Wise families

****************************************************************************

 

 

The need for voice with respect to the Amida prayer

(III)

 

HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein

 

 

            The Gemara in Sota (32b) states: "Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon b. Yochai: Why did they enact that the [Amida] prayer [should be recited] silently? So as not to embarrass sinners; thus, Scripture did not distinguish, with respect to location, between sin-offerings and burnt-offerings."[1] On this the Be'er Sheva (ad loc.) asks:

 

This is very difficult. First, why did he say "they enacted"? Surely the verse explicitly states that one must pray silently, as it says: "But her voice was not heard" (I Shmuel 1:13). And it says at the beginning of chapter Ein omedim: From here we learn that it is forbidden to raise one's voice in prayer. That is, that at the very least, one may not make his voice audible to others. For the Tosefta implies that a person must pray silently to the point that his voice is not audible even to his own ears. And furthermore, according to this rationale - "so as not to embarrass sinners" – the implication is that a person need not pray silently when he is alone. But surely at the end of chapter Mi she-meto, it was taught: One who sounds his voice in prayer is counted among those of little faith, for he acts as if the Holy One, blessed be He, does not hear his prayer when offered silently. And furthermore, it was taught: One who raises his voice in prayer is counted among the false prophets, about whom it is written: "Cry aloud" (I Melakhim 18:27). And according to these rationales, a person must pray silently even when he is alone. The matter requires further study.

 

The Be'er Sheva seems to have understood that there is no connection between the passage in Sota and the passages in Berakhot, and, indeed, this follows from the plain sense of the text. See, however, Rashi (ad loc.) who writes: "Why did they enact – that a person should recite his prayer silently, as we find regarding Chana, 'But her voice was not heard.'" That is to say, Rashi identifies this enactment with Chana's conduct. Based on the wording of Rashi here, one might have concluded that Chana acted in accordance with an ancient enactment and did not innovate anything. In Siddur Rashi and Machzor Vitri, however, the matter is clarified:

 

Rav Hamnuna said: These great laws may be inferred from these verses concerning Chana, "Now Chana spoke in her heart, only her lips moved, etc." – from here we learn regarding one who prays that his prayer should be recited silently. And from where did she learn to act in this manner? From the Holy One, blessed be He: "In the place where the burnt-offering is slaughtered shall the sin-offering be slaughtered" (Vayikra 6:18) – because of human dignity, for a burnt-offering is brought voluntarily, and a sin-offering is brought for a sin. And were there a special place in the Temple courtyard to slaughter the sin-offering, everyone would know that it is a sin-offering, and [the person who brings it] would be embarrassed. But when the sin-offering is slaughtered in the [same] place as the burnt-offering, people think that it is a burnt-offering, and do not know of his sin. Chana said: Since the Holy One, blessed be He, was concerned about human dignity, we too must be concerned and offer the Shemoneh Esreh prayer silently, for in it a person confesses his sins, and other people should not hear. But other prayers that do not involve confession, e.g., the blessings before and after Shema, need not be recited silently."[2]

 

From here it is clear, first of all, that it was Chana who introduced silent prayer, though it would seem that this did not become actual law until the enactment was confirmed by the house of David. And thus we learn the law from Chana herself, and not only from the verses describing her prayer. Secondly, the foundation of the law is the rationale brought here in Sota, so as not to embarrass sinners, which also motivated Chana in her time.

 

In light of the above, the Be'er Sheva's first objection is removed. But the second objection, regarding the relationship of the Gemara in Mi she-meto to our passage, still stands. See, however, the Maharsha (ad loc.) who asks the same question and answers: "It may be answered that certainly if everybody sounded their voices in prayer, the problem of 'people of little faith' would not apply. But since they enacted silent prayer because of sinners, he who shows no concern and sounds his voice more than others, is counted among the people of little faith." It is also possible, as was proposed by one of the Acharonim, that a distinction should be made between different "soundings," for the problem of "little faith" only arises when "sounding a loud voice, but sounding a low voice is permitted… but the later authorities enacted that prayer be recited in total silence, and only be audible to one's own ears."[3]

 

However we understand the relationship between the two passages in Berakhot, the main point in Rashi's understanding is that the need for silent prayer is more or less a side issue. The primary reason is so as not to embarrass sinners. And even if we add the idea of "little faith," this, too, is a side issue: that a person should not appear as if he was raising doubts about God's greatness and might. It is not an element of the ideal fulfillment of prayer, rather, a caution regarding certain obstacles.

 

In light of this understanding, we could arrive at conclusions that expand or narrow the scope of this law. On the one hand, since we are not dealing with a special fulfillment of prayer (in the narrow sense, that is to say, Shemoneh Esreh), it is possible that the law applies to other blessings as well. In fact, this follows from the aforementioned words of Rashi, for he only excludes the blessings of Shema, because they do not contain any confession, but were this not the case they too would have to be recited silently. Furthermore, it is difficult to contend that blessings of confession are only found in the context of Shemoneh Esreh, where a person stands and confesses his sins before the king, for we find confessions in other contexts as well, e.g., on Yom Kippur, when bringing a sacrifice, or at the time of death. From the fact that Rashi only excludes the blessings of Shema because they do not include any confession, it follows that the law of "but her voice was not heard," was not said about prayer, but about confession.[4] On the other hand, it may be argued that, regarding the blessings of Shemoneh Esreh or Shema that do not include confession, it would in fact be permitted to pray out loud, unless we forbid this because of "little faith." And indeed, Rabbi Binyamin, the brother of the author of the Shibolei ha-Leket, reaches this conclusion, and, based on it, permits a person to pray out loud on Rosh ha-Shana and Yom Kippur, "because the Rabbis enacted silent prayer because of sinners, so as not to embarrass them if they confess [their sins] and beg for mercy for themselves, for here there is no concern, because a person does not petition for his needs on Yom Tov."[5]

 

            This idea finds even sharper expression in the words of the Ra’avya, who writes:

 

We learned in chapter Ein omedim: From here we learn that it is forbidden to raise one's voice in prayer. And this is only in the synagogue where he disturbs others and causes them to err. And we learned in the Yerushalmi at the beginning of chapter Tefilat ha-Shachar: R. Yona, when he prayed at home, would pray out loud until the members of his household learned prayer from him.[6]

 

According to him, the whole problem of praying out loud is based on a concern about disturbing others and causing them to make mistakes. This point is mentioned in the Gemara (Berakhot 24b), but the plain sense of the Gemara implies, and so rule most of the Rishonim, that even when a person is alone, he must pray silently because of the problem of "little faith," unless he is unable to concentrate when praying silently, in which case he may pray out loud. About this it is stated there: "And this applies when he is alone, but when with a congregation he will come to disturb the congregation." The Ra’avya seems to have understood that it was never enacted that a person praying alone must pray silently, and even though they criticized a person who sounds his voice and called him one of little faith,[7] nevertheless, there is no obligation or prohibition. All this is based on the assumption that the obligation to pray silently stems from a side factor, only that according to him the concern is about disturbing others rather than about embarrassing sinners.

 

            See, however, Rambam (Hilkhot Tefila 5:9) who brings the law that a person should not raise his voice in prayer as a detail in the framework of the rules regarding modulating the voice – that is to say, as a positive factor, for modulation of the voice, like standing, facing the Temple, bowing, and the rest of the things mentioned in chapter 5 as desired le-khatchila in prayer, is a positive fulfillment in prayer, and not only an avoidance of some negative factor. It also stands to reason that his reading of the passage was like that of MS Munich, Siddur Rav Amram Gaon, and the Rif: "From here we learn that one's prayer must be recited silently" – in positive terms, rather than the usual reading in the printed editions: "From here we learn that it is forbidden to raise one's voice (or, according to the Halakhot Gedolot, 'to sound one's voice') in prayer,"[8] with its negative emphasis. Even though the Rambam formulated the beginning of his words in a negative fashion: "One should not raise his voice during prayer, nor should he pray in his heart," the matter at hand is a positive one, as he concludes: "but rather he should pronounce the words with his lips and softly sound them to his ears." Note that in the same chapter, the Rambam brings several prohibitions in the framework of explaining fulfillments in prayer:

 

Adjustment of dress – how so? The dress should first be adjusted and the personal appearance made trim and neat, as it is stated: 'Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness' (Tehilim 96:9). One should not stand in prayer wearing a money-belt, nor bareheaded, nor barefoot, where the local custom is not to stand in the presence of the great without shoes" (halakha 5);

Adjustment of the place – how so? He should stand in a low place and turn his face to the wall… Prayer should not be recited in a ruin or at the rear of a synagogue, unless the worshipper turns his face toward the synagogue (halakha 6).

 

As for the reason, the requirement of silent prayer seems to be connected to the relationship toward God that is necessary when standing before Him – it must demonstrate humility and stem from modesty and self-effacement. The law governing modulation of voice should be seen as similar to the law governing adjustment of the body brought in halakha 4:

 

Adjustment of body – how so? When standing in prayer, the feet should be in line; the eyes lowered as if one were looking toward the ground… The worshipper should stand, like a servant in the master's presence, in awe, fear and dread. He should not place his hands on his loins.

 

Silence in prayer parallels lowering the eyes to the ground, for the law that "when praying a person must direct his eyes downward and his heart upward" (Yevamot 105b) follows, according to the Rambam, from the nature of prayer as standing before the king. Even though Rashi (Yevamot 102b) explains: "His eyes downward – toward Eretz Israel, because the Shekhina is found there, as it is written: 'And My eyes and My heart shall be there' (I Melakhim 9:3)" – the Rambam does not constrict this law to Eretz Israel, but rather he brings it in connection with the general adjustment of one's posture, which is certainly connected to the basic character of prayer. The same is true regarding modulation of voice.

 

According to this, the prohibition of raising one's voice can only apply to actual prayer, and, indeed, the Rambam cites the law in this framework. On the other hand, it stands to reason that it applies to all prayer, and not only to a prayer of confession. While there is room to narrow the law to prayers of petition – assuming that the necessary attitude stems not from the idea of standing before the king, but from "the poor speaks entreaties" (Mishlei 18:23), which may apply only to requests, and not to praise and thanksgiving - it should certainly not be limited to prayers of confession. The Rambam certainly makes no such distinction, and it would seem that, according to him, the law applies to all prayer because the prohibition to raise one's voice stems from the essence of prayer, and not from some side factor.

 

            This understanding is already found in the words of some of the Geonim, and in a far reaching manner. Whereas the Rambam includes modulation of voice among those elements of prayer that are desirable but not indispensable, some of the Geonim seem to have been of the opinion that this requirement is indispensable – perhaps because they maintain that whatever is learned from the verses relating to Chana is indispensable.[9] They ruled that a prayer leader who prays out loud without having first prayed silently discharges the obligation of the congregation, and, by rabbinic enactment, he discharges the obligation of those who are not fluent in prayer, but he must pray once again in order to fulfill his own obligation, because a person can only fulfill his obligation with silent prayer.[10] Now, if we assume that prayer in itself must be offered silently, we can easily understand – though, of course, this is not necessary, as is evident from the position of the Rambam – that even bedi'eved one does not fulfill one's obligation when praying out loud. But if we assume, like Rashi, that silent prayer was instituted only so as not to embarrass sinners, it is very difficult to say that the Sages enacted that even bedi'eved he must pray a second time.[11]

 

Rav Hai Gaon apparently understood that this position can be based on the factor of "men of little faith," for he writes:

 

This is your answer. He is not required to pray again in silence, for he already fulfilled his obligation with the prayer that he offered for the congregation, if it was his intention to do so. If he discharges the obligation of others, he certainly discharges his own obligation. And if you say: One who sounds his voice in prayer is counted among those of little faith – since he does so out of dire necessity and out of communal need, there is no problem of “little faith."[12]

 

This proves that in a case where there is a problem of little faith, he must indeed pray a second time, even though it is a side factor. But it is possible that, according to him, "little faith" should not be understood as it was understood by Rashi, "as if the Holy One, blessed be He, does not hear silent prayer," or by the Eshkol (ed. Albeck, p. 32), "as if he does not believe that his whisper is heard before his Creator," or in even sharper form, as it was understood by the Meiri (Berakhot 24b), "for it seems that he maintains that in this way he is better heard" (even if he recognizes that even silent prayer is heard). Rather, what this means is that the person lacks the basic attitude of a believer who sees himself as standing in prayer like a servant before his master, praying in a soft voice.[13]

 

            Assuming that this was the prevalent view among the Geonim – something which of course cannot be proven – we can easily understand what is brought in the name of a Geonic responsum by the Shibolei ha-Leket that even on Rosh ha-Shana and Yom Kippur one is forbidden to pray with a loud voice. For the requirement of silent prayer is learned from Chana and is connected to the basic nature of prayer, something that needs nurturing no less on the High Holidays than throughout the year. So too, the responsum cited in Orchot Chayim (Hilkhot Tefila, no. 79) is certainly reasonable:

 

And Rabbenu Sherira, z"l, was asked about people who do not fulfill their obligation to pray in the proper manner, what is the law regarding another person sounding [the prayer] before them, so that they can follow and not make a mistake. And he answered that a person may not sound his voice when he prays for himself until he goes down before the ark. And he is forbidden to do so because of the verses regarding Chana.

 

Since the essence of prayer demands that it be offered silently, one must not diminish its value in order to guide others.

 

            In light of this understanding, it is also easier to understand a novel ruling of the Rambam. See what he writes in Hilkhot Tefila 5:9: "He should not sound his voice unless he is sick, or is unable to focus his heart without reading aloud." The Kesef Mishneh and the Lechem Mishneh (ad loc.) note the words of Rav Huna in Berakhot (24b) - "They only taught this where he can concentrate his heart when praying silently. But if he cannot concentrate his heart when praying silently, he is permitted [to raise his voice]" – as the source of the Rambam's ruling. Based on this, the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chayim 101:2) omits the sick person, for the Gemara only mentions a person who is unable to concentrate, but says nothing about a sick person, and the difference between the two is clear.[14] Now, if we understand like Rashi that the basis of the enactment to pray in silence is so as not to embarrass sinners, we are forced to say that we are dealing here with something that sets aside the enactment: in light of the circumstances, permission is granted, and while the reason for the prohibition remains in full force, the Sages were lenient in a case of sickness. But if we assume that the prohibition relates to the nature of prayer itself, there is an internal consideration and balance between two factors that fashion the form and content of prayer, greater concentration on the one hand and a soft voice on the other, and the scales were tipped in favor of greater concentration.

 

This understanding is also reflected in the passage from the Zohar cited in the previous shiur: "That prayer rises and is heard by all those who are called 'the eared ones.' And if that prayer is overheard by another man, no one will accept it above."[15] This statement emphasizes the intimacy and privacy of prayer, in the absence of which prayer is impaired and not heard above. But, according to Rashi, since the prayer considered on its own is not impaired, it stands to reason that the prayer should be accepted. It is more difficult to assume – though of course not impossible – that the very fact that the person violated the rabbinic enactment should prevent the prayer's being accepted. The explanation of the idea of "ears" there - "They are called 'ears,' since they listen to all those who whisper their prayers, in silence, with devotion of the heart, so that the prayer is not heard by anyone else" – also reflects this emphasis, for the point of "devotion of the heart" is also connected to the need for silence.

 

In light of this position, it is also easier to understand the view of the Tosefta, according to the reading of the Rashba, that a person praying should not even sound the words to his own ears. It is difficult to imagine that the Sages enacted such a far-reaching enactment merely so as not to embarrass sinners. But even according to Rashi, it can be argued that the sinners' embarrassment is the reason for the enactment, but its content and essence is absolute silence, and this includes that it should not be audible to the prayer's own ears; but this would still be very novel. If, however, the nature of prayer itself requires silence, it is very possible – though, again, this is not necessary, and once again the words of the Rambam bear this out – that the petitioner should reach ultimate silence and modesty to the point that his prayers are not even audible to himself.

 

            Thus far, we have dealt with an analysis of two fundamental approaches to the law of silence in prayer. But the Be'er Sheva's question – the relationship between the various passages and the various different reasons that they offer – still requires discussion. Logically, of course, there is no contradiction between them, and they may complement each another, but let us summarize the views of the Rishonim on this matter and outline several possibilities about how to integrate the passages.

 

1)            Rashi, as was explained above, focuses on the law of not embarrassing sinners, and sees in it the foundation of Chana's enactment, whereas the passage regarding "little faith" he does not mention. He may understand that the Gemara's statement was not meant as a halakhic determination, but rather as criticism of one who prays out loud: Not only does he violate the rabbinic enactment, but he even reveals himself as having blemished faith. And the fact that the Gemara explains that silent prayer was enacted so as not to embarrass sinners, implying that were it not for this factor they would not have made the enactment – it can be argued that even though praying out loud is liable to reflect a lack of faith, it could also flow from other sources, e.g., the effort to increase concentration. In any event, for this reason alone the Rabbis would not have enacted that prayer must be recited silently. The general obligation to pray silently was only enacted because of the shame caused to sinners.

 

2)            The Rambam, on the other hand, emphasizes silent prayer as a separate fulfillment in prayer, apparently based on the verses relating to Chana. As for the other passages, it is possible that, even according to him, even though silent prayer is preferable in itself, and this is way prayer should have been offered even without the enactment, nevertheless, what drove the Rabbis to enact silent prayer as a general obligation is the dimension of shame, and not the additional fulfillment. For they didn't make an enactment with respect to every factor that contributes to perfect prayer. As for the passage regarding those of little faith, upon which the Rambam certainly relied, for he took from it the allowance to pray out loud that is granted to a person who cannot concentrate in proper manner when praying silently, either 1) it was only after the Rabbis instituted silent prayer that one who deviates from this course and raises his voice is considered a person of little faith, as argued by the Maharsha cited above; or else 2) "little faith" is to be understood as a deficiency in the required attitude toward God, as was proposed above according to the Geonim, and thus we can identify this passage with the passage dealing with the verses regarding Chana.

 

3)            In the Geonic responsum cited in the Shibolei ha-Leket, and so, too, in the words of the Shibolei ha-Leket himself at the beginning of his discussion, the three sources are brought together, though the implication is that the source from Chana, which appears first, is the main source. According to them, there may in fact be only one law, and the various sources merely add to and expand its foundation, and so there is no question to begin with. Alternatively, it is possible that the various reasons do, in fact, imply different laws that only partially overlap. For example, based on the reason of sinners, we should require silent prayer only in prayers of confession, and perhaps also, as argued by the "Be'er Sheva," only in congregational prayer. And as noted by the Chida (Birkei Yosef, Orach Chayim, 101, 3), we would only forbid making the prayer audible to other people's ears, but making it audible to one's own ears would be permissible. Whereas according to the reasons of little faith, or the fundamental character of prayer, we should require silent prayer at all times, even when praying as an individual; and there is also reason to forbid sounding the prayer even to one's own ears. On the other hand, these reasons are limited to the Amida prayer, whereas according to the reason of not embarrassing sinners, there is reason to forbid praying out loud in every confessional, even if it is outside the framework of the Amida prayer. It could also be suggested that, based solely on the idea of "little faith" or the source from Chana, there is room to allow praying out loud if the person is unable to properly concentrate when praying silently. But based on the reason of not embarrassing sinners, this should be forbidden in all situations. It is true that the Gemara (Berakhot 24b) only forbids this when praying with a congregation, because of the fear that this may cause a disturbance – "but with a congregation, he may come to disturb the congregation." This is also the ruling of the Rambam: "He may not, however, do so at public worship, so that the congregants shall not be disturbed by his loud praying." It is, however, possible that this is only because there we are dealing even with prayers that do not involve confessions, but in the case of prayers that involve confessions, it is forbidden in all circumstances. Therefore, when there is no concern about disturbing the congregation – e.g., on the High Holidays, when everybody prays from a machzor, as is explained by the Posekim – it should be concluded that in the case of prayers that involve confessions, praying out loud remains forbidden, for the reason of not embarrassing sinners remains in place. According to this, there is room to distinguish between praying out loud on Rosh ha-Shana, which should be permitted, because there is no confession, and praying out loud on Yom Kippur, which should be forbidden because of the reason of embarrassing sinners. This is implied by the Ra’avya, who explains the allowance of praying out loud on the High Holidays. He writes as follows:

 

Even though all year long a person must pray silently, as we say in chapter Ein omedim, from "But her voice was not heard," on Rosh ha-Shana and Yom Kippur, we pray out loud, so that people will learn from each other. We are not concerned that they will cause each other to make mistakes, for they have machzorim in their hands. As it is said in the Yerushalmi, chapter Tefilat ha-Shachar: "When R. Yona prayed in his house, he prayed out loud, so that the members of his household would learn prayer from him. But when he prayed in a synagogue, he prayed silently, i.e., so as not to cause others to make mistakes." And this was during the rest of the year. And even though we said in chapter Ve-Elu Ne'emarim that a person should pray in silence so as not to embarrass sinners, for Scripture does not assign different places for a sin-offering and a burnt-offering, for both are slaughtered on the north side [of the Temple courtyard] – we today all recite the same confession, and so there is no embarrassment.[16]

 

We see, then, that were the confession not uniform, we would forbid praying out loud on Yom Kippur, even when done for a purpose – e.g., to teach others – that ordinarily permits praying out loud.

 

As for the Halakha regarding the entire issue of voice in prayer, it seems that we should conclude as follows:

 

1)            Le-khatchila, one should pray by way of actual speech and enunciation of the words. However, if in light of the circumstances, whatever they may be, this is impossible, one should silently meditate upon the text of the prayer, for according to the Rambam, one fulfills one's obligation thereby. In such a case, one should relate to such meditation, to the degree possible, as actual prayer with all that this involves – clean hands, a clean place, and the like – and not just as a substitute that comes in place of prayer.[17] If a person meditated upon the prayer and then it became possible, during the time period of that prayer, to recite it with his mouth, he should recite it, in order to fulfill his obligation according to those who disagree with the Rambam. He should, however, stipulate that he is reciting the prayer either as an obligation or as optional prayer, and it is preferable that he add something to his prayer that had not been included in his meditation.

 

2)            As for sounding the words to his own ears, logically speaking, prayer should be treated like all the other mitzvot involving speech, which le-khatchila, according to the plain understanding of the Gemara, must be made audible to the speaker's own ears, even according to R. Yehuda. The burden of proof falls upon those who wish to exclude prayer from this rule. This follows clearly even from the words of the Rashba, head of the camp of those who forbid this, for he was inclined toward requiring a person to sound his prayers to his own ears, only that he ruled otherwise owing to his reading in the Tosefta. With respect to the sources, most of the manuscripts of the Tosefta only forbid sounding the words to other people, and so too the Bavli and the Yerushalmi. And, as the Vilna Gaon explained, this is also the way to understand the words of the Zohar. As for the Rishonim, surely the Rambam requires that a person sound the words of prayer to his own ears, and several Rishonim followed in his footsteps – Orchot Chayim (Hilkhot Tefila, no. 53), Kol-Bo (Hilkhot Tefila), Meiri (Berakhot 31), Sefer ha-Mikhtam (Berakhot 24b), and Shiltei ha-Giborim (Berakhot 15a in Alfasi). According to the Ra’avya and the Tur (and according to my understanding, also the Rif), even though regarding all mitzvot in the Torah, it is not necessary to sound the words to one's ears, nevertheless, one is permitted to do so. It turns out then that the Rashba is almost a sole dissenting opinion. And surely the Shulchan Arukh (101:1) rules in accordance with the Rambam, as does the Vilna Gaon (ad loc.). Clearly then, le-khatchila, a person reciting the Amida prayer must sound the words to his own ears.

 

3)            Regarding raising one's voice and making it audible to others, le-khatchila a person should not raise his voice, unless he is ill or he has difficulty concentrating when praying quietly, or he comes to teach others how to pray. In all these cases, praying out loud is only permitted when praying alone, but when praying with others,[18] this is only permitted when people have siddurim in their hands. And then too only when there is no concern about embarrassing sinners, e.g., in a prayer that has no confession or where the confession is uniform. A person who is unable to concentrate without raising his voice should try as hard as possible to concentrate; if, despite all his efforts, he is unable to concentrate, it would seem obvious that as long as he fails to reach the required concentration, it is preferable that he pray alone with a raised voice. This follows from the words of the Perisha (101). But see Tanya Rabbati (9b) who writes: "But when a person prays with a congregation he is forbidden to raise his voice, so that he not disturb the congregation, and it is preferable that his own prayer be confused, and that the entire congregation's prayer not be confused." It stands to reason that we must distinguish between levels of non-concentration. If a person does not even reach the minimal concentration without which he does not fulfill his obligation to pray, it is certainly better to pray alone. But if he can concentrate a little, only that his concentration would be higher if he raised his voice, it is better that he pray with the congregation, and this is the case discussed by the Tanya Rabbati.[19] This must, however, be examined in light of the Rema's ruling (101:1) that today a person who prays without proper concentration does not repeat his prayer.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)        



[1] That is to say, had it not been for the enactment to pray silently, either 1) the Rabbis would have enacted that one should pray out loud, for that, too, has significance (see Ramban, Shemot 13:16, and in his derasha, "Torat HaShem Temima," in Kitvei ha-Ramban, vol. 1, p. 153; Orchot Chayim, Hilkhot Tefila, 72) – and then the sinner would be embarrassed when his confessions would become public knowledge; or 2) they would not have enacted anything, but since the sinner would pray silently, his silence would be interpreted as coming to conceal his confessions. In any event, the main point is the caution regarding the sinner's situation, and the attempt to avoid his embarrassment. See Siddur Rashi (p. 18), as cited below, which speaks explicitly of human dignity. See, however, Responsa ha-Rambam, no. 258 (ed. Blau, II, p. 480), where the inquirer writes "that they enacted that prayer should be recited silently as an enactment for repentant sinners." According to this explanation, the main idea here is to leave the gates of repentance open to sinners, and were it clear that his embarrassment would not deter a sinner from repenting, Chazal would not have instituted that prayer be recited silently.

[2] Siddur Rashi, p. 18; Machzor Vitri, p. 14. Compare to Tanya Rabbati, ed. Horowitz, 9b.

[3] Etz Yosef on Kohelet Rabba, 1:20.

[4] It should be noted that, apart from the problem of embarrassment, silent confession is a desirable element of repentance, in the sense of "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered" (Tehilim 32:1). But there are qualifications regarding this matter; see Yoma 86b; Rambam and Ra'avad, Hilkhot Teshuva 2:5.

[5] Shibolei ha-Leket, no. 17.

[6] Vol. I, no. 151, p. 155.

[7] The Ravyah himself brings the passage regarding people of little faith (vol. I, no. 71, p. 49), and there he writes that if a person cannot concentrate while praying silently or if he wishes to teach the members of his household, he is permitted to raise his voice. It is clearly implied that otherwise this is forbidden, against what he says here. Perhaps when he writes there "he is permitted to raise his voice," he is not being precise, and what he means to say is that there is no problem of "little faith," because there was no enactment regarding an individual, which is not the case regarding a congregation, where an explicit enactment was made.

[8] See Dikdukei Soferim (ad loc), and notes there.

[9] This goes against my assumption in the first part of this series that praying silently is certainly not indispensable for fulfilling one's obligation.

[10] This position stands in opposition to what is repeated several times in the Rambam's responsa, that be-di'avad a prayer leader who prayed only once and out loud has fulfilled his obligation. Moreover, in certain circumstances, it is preferable to institute such a practice le-khatchila. See (ed. Blau) nos. 256 an 258, and Blau's notes, vol. II, p. 475.

[11] It should be noted, however, that, according to the responder in Sha'arei Teshuva, no. 334, it would seem that a person who prays out loud in a congregational context because he is unable to concentrate when praying silently, does not fulfill his obligation to pray, even be-di'avad, because of the disturbance that he causes the congregation. According to this, we see that even in a place where the essence of the prayer does not demand silence, the very fact that a person violated the enactment disqualifies his prayer, and this is true even if the enactment is based on an outside factor. This position, however, truly requires further examination.

[12] Sha'arei Teshuva, no. 120.

[13] The geonic responsum cited in Shibolei ha-Leket reads: "he is arrogant (mi-gasei ru'ach)," rather than "of little faith." According to the explanation of "little faith" proposed here, it is clear that the expressions (perhaps the one is an explanation of the other, and not necessarily an alternative reading) are much closer in meaning. See also Roke'ach (no. 322): "One who sounds his voice [in prayer] – it is a bad sign for him. And some say: It is evident that he is unbecoming and that he is counted among those of little faith."

[14] The Yerushalmi (Berakhot 4:1) mentions that R. Yona would pray in his home with a loud voice "so that the members of his household would learn from him." This factor of teaching prayer to the members of one's household is certainly not indispensable, nor is it related in any way to the prayer itself. We seem to have here a source for expanding the list of factors that permit praying in a loud voice, and even a segue into the words of the Rambam (though this allowance is not mentioned by the Rambam or by the Shulchan Arukh, but it is mentioned by the Rema in the name of the Tur). The Posekim, however, disagree about how to understand this Yerushalmi. Some understand that he prayed out loud in order to teach the members of his household, this being his objective from the very outset; whereas the Rosh (Berakhot, 3:40) – and, in his wake, the Abudraham ("Seder Shacharit shel Chol u-Perusha") write: "This means that he prayed so loudly in order to stir up his concentration that the members of his household would hear him and learn about praying from him." Talmidei Rabbenu Yona (Berakhot, 15b in Alfasi) wrote similarly. See Tur and Shulchan Arukh 101, and commentaries in both places. According to the second understanding, there is no source here to permit raising one's voice in order to increase one's concentration in a place where it is possible to reach minimal concentration with silent prayer, unless we assume that R. Yona was able to reach such concentration even when he prayed silently and that he prayed out loud in order to increase his concentration. There is no difficulty explaining that he required a loud voice even to achieve minimal concentration, for several Amoraim speak about the great difficulties they had achieving proper concentration in prayer; see Eruvin 65a. All this is true according to our reading of the Yerushalmi "ad (until) de-yalfun." But the Ra’avya (II, p. 190) reads "begin (in order that) de-yalfei mineh," and therefore he writes (vol. 1, p. 49): "For a person is permitted to raise his voice in prayer so that the members of his household will learn from him." Elsewhere (vol. I, p. 155), however, he reads "ad de-yalfin," but there he abridges the wording of the Yerushalmi, and so it might not be a precise citation. It should also be noted that according to the Orchot Chayim, in order to teach the members of one's household, one is not only permitted, but also obligated to pray out loud; see Hilkhot Tefila, no. 53. And see also "Chilukei Minhagim she-bein Benei Bavel u-Venei Yisrael" (no. 43), where it says that "the people of Babylonia say that one should recite the Shemoneh Esreh prayer silently, whereas the people of Eretz Israel [pray] with a loud voice in order to train the congregation."

[15] Parashat Vayakhel, ed. Margaliyot, 202; and see sources cited there.

[16] Vol. II, no. 529, p. 190. The Ra’avya permits a raised voice even on Yom Kippur, because the confession recited then is uniform. See, however, Piskei Tosafot, end of Rosh Ha-shana, who mentions only Rosh Ha-shana, but of course the reason may be that the ruling is found in that tractate.

[17] This is not the way the Magen Avraham (101, no. 2) understands the ruling of the Rema in 94:6; see there.

[18] The wording here is intentionally vague. It is not clear whether the concern about disturbance was said only in the context of a congregation, for those who would be disturbed have a right to stay there so that they can pray with the congregation, but if there are less than ten people praying there, perhaps the person who is having difficulty concentrating may raise his voice, and the others must distance themselves from him; or perhaps there is no difference.

[19] See Sefer ha-Manhig, no. 67, who writes: "And if he is unable, he is permitted to do so, when praying alone, but in a congregation it is not proper behavior, for he will come to disturb the congregation." It is clear that he understands that we are dealing with a person who can concentrate well enough to fulfill his obligation of prayer, for otherwise raising his voice would not be something that is merely permitted, but nevertheless his concentration would improve if he prayed out loud.