This translation of a non-English source text has been given the following ratings:
It is written: “The path of life is above the intelligent person, in order that he turn away from the grave below.” (Mishlei 15.24). This verse's intent requires a preface: The angels were created as part of the spiritual world on the second day, and although it is not explicitly stated in the Torah, it is stated in the Midrash and alluded to in the Psalm (‘Borchi Nafshi’ 104.4) – “Who roofs His upper chambers with water; Who makes clouds His chariot, which go on the wings of the wind. He makes winds His messengers, burning fire His ministers.” [NOTE: The psalmist is referring to the primordial water and the angels together, since both were created on the second day]. The animals were created as part of the physical world on the fifth day. Angels are intelligent, serve their creator, and do not have self-serving, physical drives. Animals, on the other hand, have such drives, but lack intelligence. The result is that angels cannot receive reward for their service, as they have no negative drives to overcome, and animals cannot be punished for their actions, as they do not have the intelligence necessary to overcome their drives.
Therefore G-d found it necessary to create man on the sixth day, and He created him with competing drives: Man possesses a spiritual soul that enables him to recognize the creator as does an angel, as the verse states: “Man’s soul is G-d’s lamp…” (Mishlei 27.20). He also possesses an animalistic nature due to his physical body, which drives him to animal behaviors, such as eating, drinking, and sleeping.
This state of affairs gives rise to a constant struggle within man all the days of his life, with his animal nature pining for physical desires, while his pure soul opposes such pursuits, inspiring man to turn to his real purpose, to serve G-d like an angel. His soul further insists that even necessary physical needs, such as eating, drinking, and sleeping, should be done with intent to better serve G-d, and on this the verse has been stated: “I have placed G-d before me constantly.” (Psalms 16.8)
After man’s death he is shown on high that all his actions were recorded, as though in a book, with his own signature. If he has followed the path of Torah and mitzvos, he inherits heaven (Lit. 'Gan Eden') which is a limitless and endless spiritual joy. Of these people the verse proclaims "They will be sated from the fat of Your house, and with the stream of Your delights You give them to drink. For with You is the source of life; in Your light we will see light. " (Psalms 36.9).
If G-d forbid his actions were the opposite, he inherits Gehenom, to which all the pains of this life are as naught in comparison. On these people the verse states: "And they shall go out and see the corpses of the people who rebelled against Me, for their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring for all flesh." (Yeshayahu, 66.24).
There are seven descriptions given to Gehenom: Nether-world (or Sheol), Destruction, Pit, Tumultuous Pit, Miry Clay, Shadow of Death and the Underworld. (Gemara Eruvin, 19.1). One who is seduced by his base inclinations falls there, and that is why it is also called 'seducer', as the verse states "For Tophteh (Heb. related to the word 'seduce') is set up from yesterday, that too has been prepared for the king (Sennacherib and his army), it deepened, it widened its pile, of fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord is like a stream of brimstone, burning therein.(Yeshayahu, 30.33). [Also from that Gemara].
Returning to the advice of King Solomon stated above, that "The path of life is above the intelligent person, in order that he turn away from the grave below." (Mishlei 15.24). The explanation can now be said to be: "Man, consider that you have two paths before you, either to raise your eyes and heart to the Creator, blessed be He, and that is the path of life, or to cast your stare downward to the base animal instincts. Therefore I command you that your life's path should only be to look upwards, in order that you remove yourself from the pit below." The point here is that if you train your stare towards your base instincts you will as consequence be led by them to fall to the pit - "Sheol", the first of the levels, and from there your path will descend lower and lower.
Anyone possessing intelligence should also consider the following: If you see a human king building a grand palace, you will notice opposites among the construction materials. There will be precious stones, such as jasper and onyx, as well as other fine materials. There will also be cement, clay, and earth. Does one think that the intent of the king is for the clay and earth? Of course not! Certainly the purpose of the building is to showcase the fine materials and precious stones, while the cement, clay, and earth only serve to strengthen the structure.
Similarly, the King of Kings the Holy One blessed be He created man from a pure spiritual soul which is a part of the divine, and she returns to G-d after death. And as for the biological material that the body is made of, which in reality is no different than clay and earth, can anyone think that the purpose of man is for that material? Anyone who thinks so can only be a fool, and not in his right mind.
This, then is what Akavia ben Mahalalel meant when he said (in Pirkei Avos 3.1) "Look to three things and you will not come to sin. Know where you came from, where you are going..." - this means the soul, which is a part of the divine and will return to its source, and it’s opposite, the body: "where you came from..." - from a fetid drop (of semen). "...and to where are you going..." - To a place of earth and the worm. Here too, the explanation is that the purpose of man is his G-dly soul. Therefore, since one's purpose is G-dliness and matters of the soul, before all else a person needs to know the foundation concepts of our holy and pure Torah.
The central principle on which the Torah and divine service rests is the knowledge that there is one singular, indivisible G-d, and He created all the worlds that exist, which he directs and attends to at every moment. If for any reason He would remove his attention from these worlds, G-d forbid, they would immediately return to non existence.
This is what the Torah has already stated (Devarim 6.4) "Hear, o Israel, G-d is the L-ord, G-d is one.", and also (Devarim 4.39): "...and you should know today...that G-d is the L-ord in heaven above and the earth below - there is no other." The meaning of these verses is that there is no other controlling force, power, or cause except G-d, who willed all the worlds into existence, and He sustains them and keeps them in existence.
At the time of the giving of the Torah we experienced this with the physical senses, as it is written(Devarim 4.35): "And now you have seen to know that G-d is the L-ord (Heb. 'Elo-him') - there is none other." Again, the meaning is that G-d created all the worlds and He supervises and directs them forever. This is the definition of the divine name 'Elo-him', it implies complete supervision and direction, with no other force or cause great or small besides The Blessed One.
This G-d we are obligated to love with a complete and unreserved love, until the love of oneself, one's wife, sons, daughters and money are completely nullified in the presence of his love for G-d, as though they did not exist.
This also has been stated in Torah (Devarim 4.5): "You should love G-d, your G-d, with all your heart, all your soul, and all your money (Heb. 'Mo-adecha'). This term 'Mo-adecha' is related to the Hebrew 'Ma-od', meaning 'very much', as if to say: "whatever is very much beloved by you should be considered null and void in the presence of your love for G-d."
"...all your heart..." - Our Rabbis have expounded on this: "with both of your inclinations, the good inclination as well as the evil." This means to say that one should not ask 'If the evil inclination only tries to seduce one to transgress the will of G-d, why was it created?' The truth is that the intent of the evil inclination is that man should overpower him and not listen to him, but G-d has nevertheless created him to test whether man will transgress G-d's will, in order that one should serve G-d through free will and not as one forced by instinct. This is the ultimate purpose of the creation of man, and through this ability he is even greater than an angel, as I have written in section 1. [It is also explained in the Zohar along these lines PERHAPS VOLUME 3, FOLIO 68.2]
In the Sifrei (Dvarim, 32) we find the following exposition:
- "Rabbi Meir said: When it states "And you should love G-d, your G-d, with all your heart..." it means to love G-d like Avraham, as it states: "Avraham, my beloved", and also "...and you found his heart faithful before you."
- "...with all your soul" (end of section 32) - like Yitzchak, who allowed himself to be brought on the altar.
- "...with all your money" (end of section 32) - admit to him how much in his debt you are, like Yaakov, who said "I have been made small by all your kindness..."
The text continues:
- "And you should love..." - Make Him be loved by all people, as Avraham you father did, as the verse states: "...the souls he made in Charan."
The meaning here is to behave like Abraham, who called on the populous to believe in G-d and engage in His service because of the great love for G-d that he had in his heart and soul.
We read further:
- "Even though the Torah proclaims 'And you should love Him...' I still do not know how. Therefore, the verse states further 'These words that I command you today should be on your heart...' - that through these words you will recognize Him who spoke and created the world."
This text is explaining that contemplation of the Torah will certainly implant love for G-d in one's heart. (Sefer haChinuch, Mitzvah 417)
We are also commanded to fear the Blessed One, as the verse states (Devarim 6.13): "The L-ord your G-d you should fear", and here are the words of the Rambam concerning this trait in Sefer haMitzvos, mitzvah 4:
- "He has commanded us to be consciously aware of His exalted presence, and to tremble before Him, and not be like the heretics who presumptuously follow their own hearts; rather we should be concerned and mindful of His corrective punishment at all times, which is a consequence of sinful behavior. This then is the meaning of "The L-ord your G-d you should fear."
That is his comment in the above source. In his great work (the Mishna Torah), in the beginning of the second chapter of the fundamentals of the Torah, he writes thus:
- "What is the path towards love and fear of G-d? When a person contemplates the wondrous actions and creations of G-d, and he sees in them wisdom without end or measure, immediately he loves, praises and glorifies Him. He also experiences a great desire to know his great name [TO KNOW HIM?], as Dovid has said: "My soul thirsts for the L-ord, the living G-d".
- When he continues to think about such matters, he has an immediate reflex to shrink away, and he experiences a fear and trembling, realizing that he is a small and inconsequential creation, with little intellect compared to the One of complete knowledge. Dovid has also stated regarding this: "When I see the heavens, the work of your fingers, I ask 'what is man that you take notice of him'?"
Until here is his language. As can be seen, in the Sefer haMitzvos the explanation of 'simple fear' is fear of punishment, while here the Rambam refers to a higher fear, which is fear from the recognition of G-d's great loftiness.
On this subject the Sifrei (Dvarim, 32) has stated: "There is no love in fear's place, nor fear in love's place, except for that of G-d alone." (see there). This means to say that fear and love are opposites, but through fear of G-d's vast loftiness they can dwell together, that through the recognition of the great, exalted stature of the Blessed One he is feared with an 'enlightened fear', and he is loved with all of one's heart and soul.
We are further commanded to emulate His goodly and correct traits, as it says (Devarim 28.9): "...and you should go in His ways.", "After the L-ord your G-d you should go." (Devarim 13.5), and (Devarim 10.12) "...to go (emulate) in all His ways." - Just as He is gracious, you should be gracious, and just as He is merciful, you should be merciful as well. (Gemara Sota, 14.1). Therefore we should strive as much as possible to emulate His goodly works and upright traits.
It is also a positive commandment to connect oneself to Torah sages and their students in order to learn from their behavior, as the verse states: "To Him you should cling." Now is it possible for one to cling to G-d? Is He not likened to a consuming fire? Rather the meaning is that one should connect himself to the Torah sages and their students. (Gemara Kesuvos, 111.1). He should sit amid the dust of their feet and drink in their words with thirst. Additionally, consider the verses (Mishlei 13.20): "He who walks with the wise will become wise", and (Tehillim 1.1) "Praised is he who does not walk with in the advice of the wicked..."
The Sefer Mitzvos haGadol writes by the positive commandment #17:
- "It is a positive commandment to accept G-d's judgment in all occurrences, as the verse states: 'You shall know in your heart, that just as a man chastises his son, so does the L-ord, your G-d, chastise you.'"
And we, the Children of Israel, weary from the passage of time, for it has been nearly two thousand years that we live without peace and tranquility - we must all realize that this has been for our own good, to refine us, as the prophet Zechariah states: "And I will refine them as one refines silver, and I will test them as one tests gold. He shall call in My name, and I will respond to him. I said, 'He is My people'; and he shall say, 'The L-ord is my G-d.'"(Zechariah 13.9). The explanation of this verse is as follows: We should believe with a complete belief that all of our tribulations and all of our migrations are not a form of revenge, G-d forbid, but rather a means to refine us. If this was not the case we would have ceased to exist as a people already many centuries ago, and there is no greater sign than our longevity to attest to the Divine providence guiding us, for He neither turns away nor removes His attention even for a moment, like a father who supervises over his only son and reproves him for his own good.
And a further proof to this is that in every exile "He shall call in My name, and I will respond to him" - for whenever we have prayed to the Blessed One He has answered us in every time of difficulty and in every dire straight.
"'He is My people'; and he shall say, 'The L-ord is my G-d.'" - We have seen that in all these many years of exile the Children of Israel continue to travel along the path of Torah and mitzvos, and the Blessed One calls us "His nation", and we call him "the G-d of Israel".
It is one of the foundations of our religion to believe that the holy Torah as we have it today is the same Torah given to Moshe our teacher at Mount Sinai. Even the absence of one letter makes a Torah scroll invalid, and all of it is holy, there being no difference in holiness, for example, between the verses "Hear, o Israel..." - 'Shema Yisroel' (Dvarim, 6.4) and "And Timnah was his concubine." (Berashis, 36.12).
Just as the Holy One, Blessed be He, lives forever, so to the Torah is eternal, as we say in the prayer of Emes V'yatziv (after Shema) "He and His name are established forever...and His words live and are established, they are faithful and desired forever...". Similarly, Malachi, the last prophet, announced: "Remember the Torah of Moshe my servant."
It is also a fundamental principle of the religion to believe in the oral Torah, as the verse states "...according to the word (literally "mouth") of the Torah which they will teach you (in the future)..." (Dvarim, 17.11). Know that G-d only made a covenant with the Jewish People because of the oral Torah, as the verse testifies: "...for because of (literally "by the mouth") these words I have formed a covenant with you and with Israel." (Shmos, 34.27) (Gemara Gittin, 60.1). The oral Torah is what gives a living spirit to the written Torah, for there is no commandment in the written Torah that is clearly explained and defined, rather it is the oral Torah that gives them form and explains them. This is, in fact, the purpose of the mishna and talmud, to explain all the details of the commandments. Therefore, one who denies the validity of the oral Torah has no portion in the G-d of Israel.
Other basic principles of the religion include belief in the concept of reward in the world to come, punishment in gehinom, the coming of the messiah and the resurrection of the dead.
It is also considered a fundamental principle of the religion to perform all the mitzvos not because they are dictated by one's intellect (as many of the commandments between man and man would seem to be), but rather because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded us to perform them. This is why the commandment of shabbos and honoring one's parents in the second giving of the ten commandments ends with the qualifier, "as the L-ord your G-d commanded you."(Devarim 5. 12,16). After all, many nations and cultures might deem it important to rest one day of the week in order to ensure man's health and well being, and many cultures and peoples may agree to the importance of honoring one's parents. Therefore the Torah states: "Observe the shabbos and keep it holy, as the L-ord your G-d commanded you.", and "Honor your father and mother, as the L-ord your G-d commanded you." - for this reason and not because your intellect compels you. As a note, in the giving of the first tablets, before the sin of the golden calf, this qualifier was not written, since at that time the people were on the level of angels and this attitude was instinctive and did not have to be taught, as the verse states regarding that period: "I said, 'You are angelic creatures, and all of you are angels of the Most High.'" (Tehillim, 82.6).
There is an additional principle of the religion to know, and that is that although the Rambam generalized the beliefs that comprise Judaism into 13 statements, which are printed in many prayer books and known to all, the truth is that all 613 commands of the Torah are fundamental principles in their own right. In fact, every letter of the Torah is fundamental to the religion. The proof is that even one missing letter makes a Torah scroll invalid. Even concerning the oral Torah should one accept all of it except for one law he is considered a heretic, as the Rambam himself writes in the beginning of the third chapter of Laws of Heretics, and this is his language: "One who does not admit to the veracity of the oral Torah is in the category of heretics." (see there further). There is no difference whether he denies all of it or part of it, just as by the written Torah.
At this point it is not necessary to extend this topic further, as it is well known to all who STUDY our holy Torah.
This is the language of Rabbi Aharon HaLevi in his work, Sefer haChinuch, [in the introduction]:
"There are six constant commands whose obligation does not stop even for a moment all the days of one's life. Every moment that one thinks of any of them he has fulfilled a positive commandment. They are:
1) To believe that there is one G-d in the world, and He created this whole creation. He was, is, and always will be. He is the one who took us out of Egypt, and He gave us the Torah. These are all included in the verse "I am the L-ord your G-d that took you out of Egypt..."
2) To believe there is no G-d other than He, as the verse states: "There should not be for you any other God before Me." - meaning, there is no power other than Mine.
3) To believe in His oneness, as it says: "...the G-d is one."
4) To love Him, as it says: "And you shall love the L-ord your G-d..."
5) To fear Him, as it says: "The L-ord your G-d you shall fear".
6) Not to follow after the heart and eyes, as it is written: "Do not follow after your heart and your eyes...". "...After your heart" - this refers to heresy. "...After your eyes" - this refers to immorality. (end of first chapter of Gemara Brachos)"
Until here is his language. The intent is that one should not let thoughts of apostasy arise in his mind. If they should spontaneously occur, he should banish them right away, strengthen his Torah study and fear of G-d, and turn his eyes away from immoral influences. Similarly, if he chances upon an immoral sight, he should turn his mind away and strengthen himself (in Torah and fear of G-d).
We have learnt in the fourth chapter of Ethics of the Fathers:
Rabbi Yaakov would say: "This world is comparable to an entrance way before the world to come. Prepare yourself in the entrance way so that you will be allowed in the palace."
This is an important central idea in the life of a Jew, to know that this world is the world of accomplishment, and the world to come is one of reward for one's efforts. In this way this world is the gateway to the world to come. Therefore it is critical not to waste time in this world, because time is the most valuable commodity, and a day passed does not return. The time we are force to expense on our worldly needs is enough as it is, and life is short. In addition, when one grows old he sees that all that pertained directly to this life was unimportant. About this idea King Solomon stated: "Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the bad days come, and you reach years when you say 'I have no desire in them'."(Koheles 12.1). The 'bad days' in this verse refer to the days when one is elderly. Then one might say 'I have no desire in them', meaning in all the activities of life in this world. Then the truth will be self evident to you, but your strength will have waned. Therefore the verse warns 'Remember your creator in your youth', and devote your soul to sanctifying G-d's name. This will be explained in Yoreh Deah, chapter 157 at length, with the help of heaven.
Furthermore, we have learnt in the fifth chapter of Ethics of the Fathers:
- Yehuda ben Tema would say: "Be brazen as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer and strong as a lion to do the will of your Father in heaven."
Rav Ovadiah m'Bartenura explains what Yehuda ben Tema meant by each clause in his maxim:
- "brazen as a leopard" - Not to be embarrassed to ask from your teacher what you do not know, for one easily ashamed does not learn.
- "light as an eagle" - To pursue after Torah learning without tiring [IS THIS CORRECT?], as the verse "...they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired..." (Yeshaya 40.31).
- "swift as a deer" - To run after fulfilling mitzvos.
- "strong as a lion" - To conquer your inclination to sin.
- Until here is his language.
The Tur explains this maxim's meaning thusly:
- "brazen as a leopard" - Harden your countenance against those who will mock you, and do not refrain from performing mitzvos because of those who mock.
- "light as an eagle" - Which soars in the heavens (away from activity on the ground), so you should also close your eyes to scenes that will entice you to sin, for the eyes lead to sin.
- "swift as a deer" - Your legs should run after good deeds.
- "strong as a lion" - Against the heart's natural instincts, to strengthen it to serve G-d.
(see there further).
[In my understanding it appears that each clause refers to one of the four classical elements that man is comprised of: fire, air, water, and earth.
- "brazen as a leopard" - Referring to fire, which is the most 'brazen' of these four.
- "light as an eagle" - Referring to air (wind), the 'lightest' of these four.
- "swift as a deer" - Referring to water, that flows and returns swiftly.
- "strong as a lion" - Referring to earth, which is strong and hard.
The intent of this statement is then to use all of the four classically understood qualities of the physical world that are found in a man's body only for matters pertaining to the Blessed Creator and not for matters pertaining to this world.]
Our teacher the Rema writes:
- "I place G-d before me always."(Tehillim 16.8) - This is a central principle in Torah and character development for those that journey in the path of G-d. For the manner in which one behaves when he is alone in his home is not the same as the manner in which he behaves when he is before a great king. He does not speak in the same casual and easy manner that he uses with his relatives and friends. How much more so when a man realizes in his heart that the 'king' is G-d Almighty, Blessed be He, who fills the entire world with his glory, and who is watching all of man's actions and behaviors, (as the verse states: " Can a man hide in secret places that I should not see him? says the L-ord..." (Yirmiyahu 23.24)) - immediately he should feel trepidation and humility before G-d, Blessed be He, and should be shamed before Him continually. Even when one is taking care of his own needs by himself, or laying down on his bed, he should realize before whom he is, and immediately upon awakening he should rise with zealousness to do the service of the Creator, Blessed and Lofty is He. Moreover, he should not be embarrassed to serve G-d before people who may mock him because they have different values. "
Until here is the quote. There are two points here: First of all, once one realizes that the Holy One, Blessed be He 'stands' above him at all times, even when he is by himself, with his wife or with his children - he should comport himself with fear and humility as if he stands before a human king. This idea is also explained in Moreh Nevuchim (Guide for the Perplexed III 52), which in fact is the source for the Rema's words. (see there further)
The second point is that one should have trepidation and shame before G-d continually. Therefore, even when he is among people - he should perform what is incumbent upon him of the mitzvos of G-d, and not be embarrassed if he is ridiculed, for his embarrassment before G-d should overpower his embarrassment before people. It is also important to note that he should not quarrel with these people (Magen Avraham) [MAGEN AVRAHAM? BE'ER HETEV 4], as this is a repugnant trait and causes a person to become brazen and harsh. It is always wise to avoid quarreling, even for the purpose of a mitzvah. Rather, one's actions should be for G-d's sake, and he should simply ignore those who may ridicule him.
[And on this that Dovid said: "With those who rise up against You, I quarrel." (Tehillim 139.21), he was speaking of debating those who would honestly debate him on religion, or situations when people would forcefully prevent him from carrying out mitzvos, and he was left with no choice. However, when merely ridicule is involved there is no religious imperative to engage in quarrels.]
Regarding the maxim of Ben Tema quoted above to be 'as strong as a lion": Every morning when one rises from his bed he should strengthen himself 'as a lion' to serve the Creator. Even if one's base inclinations should complain in the winter saying "How can you get up now when it is so bitterly cold?!" or in the summer saying "How can you get up now when you are still unsatisfied with the little sleep you have had?" - you still should strengthen yourself over his arguments to rise, so that you should rise before the morning and the morning should not be found to have risen before you. This is what Dovid has stated: "Awaken, my honor; awaken [me], lyre and harp; I will awaken the dawn." (Tehilim 57.9) - I wake the dawn, and the dawn does not wake me. Certainly if one wakes up before the light of day, to pray for G-d's grace, how good and how beautiful is he! (Tur).
However, if one is unable to wake before the light of day, at least the prayers that are established for all to say should not be delayed (to pray with a quorum -'minyan'). He should think in his heart: 'If I was appointed to serve a king of flesh and blood, and he commanded me to rise in the morning and attend to my responsibilities - wouldn't I be careful to rise in the morning quickly and get to work, as he had commanded? Certainly then, for the King of kings, The Holy One, Blessed be He. (see there in Tur). This then is the sense of what the Rema wrote, that one should not delay praying with a minyan in the right time. (See there).
David has said "But, as for me, may my prayer to You, O L-ord, be in an acceptable time..."(Tehillim 69.14) and so to Yeshaya (49.8) has said: "In a time of favor I answered you...", which proves that there is such a thing as a more preferable time for prayer to be accepted by G-d (Gemara Yevamos, 72.1). The Gemara goes on to explain "When is this preferable time? When the community is praying together, in a minyan. (Gemara Brachos, 8.1). Similarly, the Zohar in Parshas Terumah (156.1) states: "We learnt: When is the 'acceptable time' to pray? When the community prays together, in a minyan. (See there).
On the other hand, it is true that the Gemara Yevamos 72.1 explains that this 'acceptable time' also occurs at halachic midnight (See there). Furthermore, Gemara Yoma (69.2) also explains that there is an 'acceptable time' that is not at a set time or with a minyan, as does Gemara Taanis (24.2), which records an account of Rava having a dream in which he was told 'Today is an acceptable time to pray' (See there further). All these point to the fact that there are special 'acceptable times' that are not set or regular, all according to the decree of the King of the World.
- "Those who wish to supplicate for the grace of the Creator in the pre-dawn hours should pray when the 'watches of the night' change, which is at the end of the first third of the night, as well as after 2/3rds of the night and at the end of the night. At these times a prayer uttered over the destruction of the temple and the exile is most acceptable."
Until here is the quote. This statement is explained based on the Gemara in the beginning of Brachos, where it reveals that at every third of the night G-d 'roars like a lion', so to speak, as the verse states: "And you prophesy to them all these words, and you shall say to them: The L-ord shall roar from above, and from His Holy Habitation He shall give forth His voice; He shall roar over His habitation; "Hedad!" He shall call out like those who tread grapes, to all the inhabitants of the earth." (Yirmiyahu 25.30). (those engaged in hard work cry out aloud to urge each other on - Rashi).
In that Gemara (3.1) there are two views on these 'watches': According to the first the times are a) the end of the first third, b) the middle of the second, and c) the beginning of the third. This fits nicely with the idea that midnight is also an auspicious time to pray. According to the second view, that the auspicious times are at the end of each third, the meaning is that these times are fitting to pray over the destruction of the Temple, whereas midnight is a separate, acceptable time to pray for all matters. Therefore, when the kabbalists write at length above about how fitting it is to ask for mercy over the Temple and the Jewish people at midnight, it makes sense even according to the Gemara's second view, as midnight is an auspicious time for prayer over all matters.
[And therefore the commentators have labored over this question for naught. For example, see the Magen Avraham (4) who concludes that the Kabbalists are in conflict with the second view in the Gemara. As far as I can see that does not appear to be the case.]
Our teacher, the Beis Yosef, writes in sif (section) three:
- "It is appropriate for all who fear heaven to be pained and worry over the destruction of the Temple."
It appears that he is alluding to the previous discussion of the '3 watches', and is also quoting the Rosh, who writes about the '3 watches':
- "It is appropriate for all who fear heaven to be pained and worry at that time of day, and pour out his supplication on the destruction of the Temple, as the verse states: 'Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the L-ord.' (Eicah, 2.19)."
Even the Beis Yosef's comment in sif four of "a small amount of prayer with conscious attention is better than much prayer without attention" is referring to this topic of praying over the destruction of the temple at the '3 watches', and it likewise a quote of the Tur, who writes:
- " A prayer at that time is particularly acceptable...and whether one prays much or little, he should make sure his heart is attending to what he is saying, since a small amount with intent is better than a large amount without intent."
These statements are pointing out that since the window of opportunity is limited in time, one should rather say a little with attention than a lot without, and this is indeed true in all areas, such as in studying Torah and reciting Tehillim, where it too is better to cover a little with attention rather than a lot without.
Finally, the Kabbalists stress that the main portion of efficacy in praying for the temple is accomplished only at midnight, and this fact is printed in many prayer books, as well as in concert with the opinion of the Talmud, as was seen in the previous section. For purposes of calculation, 'midnight' is defined as 12 hours after midday is reached (when the sun has reached its highest point), whether in the summer or winter. Most authorities agree with that calculation, and it is the standard opinion.
[Regarding the beginning of this section, it is clear that the Beis Yosef is writing about praying at the 3 watches of the night, since it does not make sense that he would be exhorting people to remember the destruction of the Temple generally, as there are many times its memory is mentioned throughout the day, such as in the blessings before 'Shema', in 'Shemona Esray' in 'V'Lirushalayim' - 'es Tzemach' and Retzay'; in grace after meals, in the Tehilim 'By the waters of Babylon' said before grace, in the extra Tehilim of Shabbos and festivals, as well as during the Three Weeks of Mourning, among other examples. Therefore the reference must be to the '3 watches'.]
- "It is a good practice to read the Torah portion of the binding of Yitzchak, the portion about the manna, the ten commandments, and the sections dealing with the olah (burnt offering), chatas (sin offering), shelamim (peace offering) and asahm (doubtful guilt offering) sacrifices."
In sif nine the Beis Yosef writes:
- "There are those who have the custom to read the sections of the kiyor (the laver, which was a utensil used to wash the hands and feet of the kohanim), the trumas hadeshen (removal of the ashes from the altar), the tamid (daily offering), the kitores (incense offering), and the list of the spices in the kitores and its mixture."
In sif eight he writes "that when one is saying the portion of the sacrifices he should attach the verse 'He shall slaughter it on the north side of the altar before the L-ord.'" (Vayikrah 1.11), since the Midrash notes that at the time when the Jewish people say this verse G-d remembers the binding of Yitzchak (a source of substantial merit). We, however, say this verse after we read the section of the Tamid (daily offering).
Note that out current custom, and that which is published in siddurim (prayer books) , is as follows: The section of the binding of Yitzchak is said, followed by the sections of kiyor (laver) and the terumas hadeshen (removal of ashes from the altar), the section of the tamid (daily offering) and the Kitores (incense), including the verses in the Torah and the exposition in Gemara Krisus 6.1 “There are eleven spices in the incense and these are they: Tzari, Tziporen …etc”, and the rest of its laws. Afterwards the Gemara in the third chapter of Yoma (33.1) is recited: “Abaye recounted the order of temple’s daily service…etc” (see there).
We do not, however, say the section of the manna, nor the ten commandments, nor the sections of the olah, mincha, shlamim, chatas and asham sacrifices.
We do continue with the 5th chapter of Mishnayos Zvachim: “Where is the place where the offering are sacrificed…etc”. This is not in conflict with the Beis Yosef’s recitation that I wrote in section 9 (“There are those who have the custom…etc”), for his meaning there is: “There are those who do not have the custom I mentioned in section 5, rather they have the custom that they recite the section of the kiyor (laver)…etc”.
The reason for the custom just mentioned seems to me to be that since prayer was established as a communal activity, it should only contain communal matters. Therefore, why should one recite the sections of olah, mincha, shlamim, chatas and asham since these are not communal offerings, and not even regular obligations of the individual?
As for the 5th chapter of Gemara Zvachim, that is said so that all might learn at least one chapter of mishnayos every day, which is a portion of the oral Torah. The reason this chapter was chosen is because it speaks about the sacrifices, and the laws it lists are unanimous, and not subject to Tannaic disputes. However, to set the recitation of the sacrifices from the Torah itself was not deemed necessary, for if there was a need for one to learn a portion of the written Torah every day, that is already covered in many places in the liturgy, such as the parshas of Shema and Oz Yashir (the song at the sea), as well as the tamid (daily offering) portion.
The binding of Yitzchak is recounted, as it is a source of great merit for the Jewish People, as well as a remembrance of the merit of our holy forefathers. After that is recounted the prayer of “Master of the world” was inserted, and its text is taken largely from the Midrash of the section of the Binding of Yitzchak. (see there). The ten commandments did not end up being set as part of the congregational prayers, because heretics might read it and proclaim that that is the whole Torah and there is nothing more (as is stated at the end of the first chapter of Gemara Brachos). In fact, this question has been asked on the Beis Yosef’s mention of the ten commandments in sif (section) five, and the answer given is that only an individual may say them. This is what the Rema writes in his glosses: “Only as an individual one may recite the ten commandments every day. However, it is prohibited for them to be recited by a congregation.” As this is his position, it became impossible to set them as part of the daily liturgy.
As far as a reason for the absence of the section of the manna in our liturgy, I have not seen one in my research, although it is true that we do not find the idea of the recitation of this section in the Talmud. There are those who seem to quote a source for this in the Talmud Yirushalmi of Brachos (Drisha 14), but I myself have not found this reference in the Yirushalmi. However, I can offer the following possible explanation: It’s absence is due to the fact that this parsha in the Torah is largely taken up with the people’s complaints against G-d. There are numerous examples: “Because I have heard your complaints…”(Shmos 16) , “I have heard the complaints of the Children of Israel…”, as well as others (see there). Also, the people murmured against the manna itself, as it says: “But now, our bodies are dried out, for there is nothing at all; we have nothing but manna to look at." (Bamidbar 11.6). In addition, the Midrash of Shmos (chapter 25) states: “ ‘I allowed Myself to be sought by those who did not ask’ (Yeshaya 65.1) - They should have asked mercy from me, yet instead they stood and poured out complaints against heaven.” It further states in the Medrash “Why was a song not sung on the manna? …On account of the foolish words they uttered over the manna. Therefore the Holy One Blessed be He said: ‘I do not want from you your complaints or your praises.” (See there). Since there is so much negative behavior surrounding this section the manna was not established to be recited by the congregation (so it appears to me).
The sections of the Tamid and the Kitores are not recited at night, as they were only offered in the daytime. However, the sections of the kiyor and terumas hadeshen can be said before daybreak, and actually the preferable time to recite them is before daybreak, since that is when these activities took place, as is written in Gemara Yoma (2.1): “Every day the ashes were removed at the time when the ‘Temple caller’ announced (at or about first light) or a bit earlier. On Yom Kippur this was done at midnight. On the festivals this was done at the ‘first watch’…” (See there). Also, the burning of the sacrificial parts of an animal could continue throughout the night, and perforce the kohanim needed to wash their hands and feet from the kiyor before performing any of these actions. Therefore, the section of the kiyor should be said before the terumas hadeshen.
After they had washed there was no longer any need to wash for the Tamid offering. This is true even though we rule according to the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi in Gemara Zevachim (19.2), that night time invalidates the holiness of the hands and feet achieved by washing, since we also rule according to Rabbi Yochanan there (20.1) that the holiness achieved by washing at night specifically for the Terumas HaDeshen is valid for it and the rest of the coming day, since this is the first Temple Service of the new day. The Rambam rules this way as well (Chapter 5 of the Laws of the Temple -'Beis Hamikdash', see there.)
According to this, it would appear that one can say the sections of the kiyor and terumas hadeshen before midnight, since they were allowed to be performed at that time during festivals. Still in all, this is not the accepted custom. The reason for that may be because its time during the majority of the year was at or about the time of the Temple ‘caller’, so we keep to the same schedule of before first light, but after midnight.
There is an opinion that stresses that these sections should be said while standing, since in the Temple sitting invalidated the service (Magen Avraham, beginning of Chapter 48). Many others dispute this (Sharrei Teshuva in the name of the Tevuas HaShor, as well as the Chacham Tzvi and Mor u’Kitzeyah). Realistically though, did any Jew actually perform the Temple service (that he had to stand)? The kohanim performed these services, and this term we commonly use – ‘It’s like we offered the sacrifice’ – simply means that the sacrifice is on behalf of the Jewish People, from the funds of the Temple treasury, with the Kohanim as our agents, as well as agents of Heaven. And if one might think that the command to stand might also apply to the Ma’amados (The non-kohanim chosen to be present at the Tamid offering to represent the community-at-large), who we learn about in the 4th chapter of Gemara Taanis, have we found a source that they were required to stand?
Therefore it seems to me that only a kohen should stand when he recites these sections, so that he should think that if it were the times of the Temple he would have to stand while offering the sacrifices and Kitores himself. However, there should be no requirement for a levi or yisroel (ordinary Jew) to stand.
[There is a need to research why the ‘Song of the Day’ –“Shir Shel Yom” is not said after the tamid, as in the Temple it was sang by the Levites during the pouring of the wine –“Nisuch haYayin”, as we learn in Mishnayos tamid. In fact, in the section of the tamid itself the pouring of wine is mentioned: “…and the pouring of the wine…”, so that one can ask why it was placed at the end of the morning prayers? Perhaps the answer is based on the ruling that the mincha offering and its wine can be brought even at night (unlike the sacrifice it is paired with), so that we are also not overly concerned with linking the two in prayer. Furthermore, the kohanim in the Temple itself recited the Shema and the Shemona Esrei immediately after the slaughtering of the tamid, as is mentioned the fifth chapter of Mishnayos Tamid, while the Song of the Day was actually sung quite a bit later. Therefore we conduct ourselves likewise. This answer seems satisfactory.]
The Tur writes:
- "When the section of the olah offering is completed, one says: ‘Master of the World! It should be your will that this is worthy and acceptable before you as though I have brought an olah in its proper time.’ So too should one say the appropriate version after the mincha, shelamim and asham. However, this is not said after the chatas, as that is not a voluntary offering.”
It is interesting that our teacher the Beis Yosef does not mention the asham as well, since that offering is also not voluntary in nature (as he has written in his great work). However, it would appear that the Tur considers one type of asham, the ‘asham tuloy’ –(lit. ‘hanging asham’ – a doubt offering brought when there is a doubt if a chatas is required) as a kind of voluntary offering, as can be discerned from his words in Yoreh Deah, chapter 5 (that he rules as Rabbi Eliezer in Gemara Krisus 25.1, that an asham tuloy can be volunteered on any day). It is clear, in contrast, that the Rambam does not rule this way.
To explain more clearly: Even though the Tur does not mention the ‘tuloy’ type of asham, that is what he is referring to, since the default and most common asham brought is always the asham tuloy. There is an alternate explanation, which is that since he can pronounce himself a nazir, and a nazir must bring an asham, he therefore can ‘willingly’ offer an asham, and it is considered as such (see Magen Avraham, 11). I do not understand this reason, chiefly because of the many questions that the Magen Avraham asks on this explanation (see in 11). Therefore, the first answer is preferable, relating the Tur to the asham tuloy.
At this point in the prayers we recite on the olah and shelamim the supplication ‘May it be His will…’ that is recorded in the Mishnayos of 'Eizehu Mikomon' – (Lit. ‘Where is the place…’) .
The Maharshal has advanced that one might conditionally say the same supplication on a chatas, in such a fashion: “If I am obligated to bring a chatas – it should be as if I brought a chatas”, and similarly for an asham. The conditional implication is that if I am not obligated then it is like I am merely reading verses in the Torah [this would answer the question of the Taz at the end of his comment #7].
There are those who express wonder about this ruling, as it is known that in order to be obligated to bring a chatas one must have known that his sinful action will require a chatas before he commits the act (Magen Avraham 11). In truth this is not the question it appears to be, because when he states “as if I brought a chatas”, his intent is “if I had knowledge beforehand as is required” (see there). Similarly, according to the Rambam even an asham requires knowledge beforehand, and let that suffice, as this is not the proper place to engage in a long exposition on this topic.
In the Yirushalmi (chapter 4, law 1), in the first chapter entitled ‘The Morning Prayers…”, the following is stated:
- From where do we know the obligation for three daily prayers? Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmeini said: ‘It is to parallel the three periods in the day when the creation seems to change:
- In the morning we need to say: ‘I owe You recognition…that You took me out of darkness to light’.
- In the afternoon we need to say: ‘I owe You recognition…that as I merited to see the sun in the east today, so I should merit to see it in the west.’
- In the evening we need to say: ‘It should be Your will…as I had seen the darkness before, and you took me out into the light, so should you take me out of this darkness into the light.’
See there for the full source, though note that not one of the halachic authorities mention saying these formulations.
[Perhaps this is because while Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmeimi offered this as the reason for the three prayer times in the day, Rabbi Yehoshu ben Levi and Rabbi Yosi argued and based the prayers on the forefathers and the daily offerings, (see there further). Therefore, since our Babylonian Talmud only records the statement of Rabbi Yehoshu ben Levi and Rabbi Yosi, and fails to mention that of Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmeini, the halachic authorities took that as a sign that his position is not to be followed.]