Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Daf Yomi - Rosh Hashana 29 - Power of Tefillah

The Mishna states that whenever Moshe held up his hand, Israel prevailed [against Amalek]…'. The Mishna asks, do Moshe's hands make or break the battle? Rather, this teaches you that so long as Israel were looking upwards and subjugating their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they were victorious; if not, they would fall.

The Netziv in Merumei Sadeh asks on the Mishna's question. What was so strange about Moshe's hands making the battle? Didn't Moshe's hands split the sea and perform other miracles as well through his hand?

He answers that the fight against Amalek had to be won in a natural way and not through a miracle. Perhaps we can add that fighting Amalek is in essense the fight that we have daily with our evil inclination. This fight could not be left to miracles. This is what is bothering the Mishna. Could the battle have been won through Moshe's hands like the other miracles? The Mishna's answer is no, it could not have been since this battle required a victory through natural means.

Let us examine the answer of the Mishna. Rather, this teaches you that so long as Israel were looking upwards and subjugating their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they were victorious; if not, they would fall. Isn't the Mishna stating that they relied on a miracle from Above. They looked upwards and they were victorious. How can this be explained?

The Gemora in Kiddushin (29b) relates an incident with Abaye and Rav Acha bar Yaakov. There was a certain demon that haunted Abaye's Beis Medrash, so that when two people entered, even by day, they were injured. Abaye instructed the community not to provide Rav Acha shelter when he would arrive in the city, thus forcing the father to spend the night at the Beis Medrash; perhaps a miracle will happen [in his merit]. Rav Acha entered the city and spent the night in that Beis Medrash, during which the demon appeared to him in the guise of a seven-headed dragon. Every time Rav Acha fell on his knees in prayer one head fell off. The next day he reproached them: ‘Had not a miracle occurred, you would have endangered my life.'

The Maharsha in his commentary to Kiddushin asks that how did Abaye have permission to place Rav Acha in such a precarious position. One is forbidden to rely on a miracle? He answers that Abaye understood the potency of Rav Acha's prayer. Abaye was certain that Rav Acha's prayers to the Almighty would be answered and that this is not a miracle. Hashem has instilled in this world the power of prayer and incorporated it into the natural order of the world.

This is what our Mishna is answering. Amalek has to be defeated through natural means and that is what Klal Yisroel did at that time. They cried out to Hashem and subjugated their hearts towards Him and were answered.


Anonymous said...

I believe applying the Maharsha to the war between Klal Yisroel and Amalek is not justified. There is no mention of any Teffila at that time. Perhaps more simply we can answer the question as follows. Rashi quotes Chazal which say that Hashem allowed Amalek to attack Klal Yisroel because of their wavering faith in Hashem-"Is Hashem in our midst?". It therefore follows that when Klal Yisroel commits and completely subjugates themselves to Hashem then Amalek poses no longer as a threat.

Anonymous said...

Ben - what's this?

The Sages explain that the defeat of Amalek required extreme devotion and tefilla prayer. Hashem demanded His people to totally subject themselves to Him before responding to their dangerous predicament. Moshe's hands did not fight the war but they did propel the Jewish people into devoting every fiber of their heart and soul to Hashem. As long as their hearts were totally focused on Hashem's salvation He responded accordingly. But, the moment they deviated from total devotion Hashem no longer assisted them. Moshe Rabbeinu's hand was a perfect catalyst for this devotion. His totally raised hand reflected their total subjection to Hashem and the slightest lowering of it indicated their lack of focus on Him and predicted inevitable defeat.

Anonymous said...

Once Ben is taking it on the chin, how about this one?

This is the html version of the file

It would seem that the redactor of the Mishna, Rabbi Yehuda Ha-nasi (known as "Rabbeinu Ha-
gadol" or simply "Rebbi"), provides the essential answer through his arrangement of the mishnayot in
the third chapter of Tractate Rosh Hashana, thus setting our uneasy minds at rest. This chapter includes
several laws relevant to shofar blowing. Sandwiched in between the law requiring intention for the
fulfillment of the mitzva and the disqualification of certain individuals from blowing, a seemingly
unrelated mishna suddenly catches our attention:
"'Whenever Moshe held up his hand, Israel prevailed [against Amalek]…' (Shemot 17). Do
Moshe's hands make or break the battle? Rather, this teaches you that so long as Israel were
looking upwards and subjugating their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they were victorious; if
not, they would fall. Similarly, we find, 'Make a seraph figure and mount it on a standard;
anyone who is bitten should look at it and shall recover' (Bamidbar 21). Does the brass snake
kill or cure? Rather, when Israel looked upwards and subjugated their hearts to their Father in
Heaven, they were cured. If not, they would wither."
Why did Rabbi Yehuda insert this mishna right in the middle of the chapter, amidst the
complex, detailed laws concerning the blowing of the shofar? Perhaps he should have placed this
mishna towards the beginning of the second chapter of Berakhot, where the mishna discusses the
requirement of "kavana" (intention to fulfill the mitzva) while reciting Shema. Would that not be a
more fitting location for a discussion of the great power of one's thoughts and subjugation of the heart?
Why did Rebbi wait until Tractate Rosh Hashana?
Sensing this difficulty, the Rambam writes in his commentary to our mishna,
"All this is clear in light of what requires mention in our context, and in accordance with the
book's purpose."
What does the Rambam mean? How is Moshe's lifting his hands relevant to the laws of blowing
Page 3
shofar? Furthermore, what does the Rambam view as "the book's purpose?"
The answer is that Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi saw Jews who viewed the blast of the shofar as laden
with some mystical power, a spiritual force beyond our comprehension that arouses Divine
compassion. There were those who thought that the shofar blast itself, through some magical power,
triggered the Almighty's mercy and led to His favorable judgment of us. Rebbi opposed this view and
equated the shofar with Moshe's hands and the brass serpent. The shofar possesses no power beyond
that lying within Moshe's hands. Only when Benei Yisrael look upwards and subjugate their hearts to
their Father in Heaven do the gates of Heaven open and welcome their prayers. It is THE
SUBJUGATION OF OUR HEARTS, which accompanies the fulfillment of the mitzva of shofar, that
arouses Divine mercy in our favor.
Appropriately, then, the very next mishna teaches us a fundamental precept regarding shofar:
"Whoever is not obligated in this matter may not fulfill the obligation on behalf of the public (i.e. he
may not blow for others)." The mitzva of shofar is one of subjugation of the heart, and total subjugation
requires a sense of absolute obligation and the unwavering acceptance of the yoke of mitzvot upon
oneself. Only an individual bound by the mitzva can fulfill the obligation on behalf of others. A
subjugation of the heart which does not derive from acceptance of the burden of mitzvot can never be
considered complete subjugation of the heart. As such, it cannot represent others who do possess this
full measure of subjugation. The mishna thus teaches us a critical lesson: with regard to shofar,
intention to fulfill the mitzva (kavana latzet yedei chova) must entail more than a formal, technical
awareness; it demands nothing less than absolute acceptance of the yoke of Heaven.