It was taught in a baraita that Abba Binyamin said: One’s prayer is only fully heard in a synagogue, as it is stated with regard to King Solomon’s prayer in the Temple: “Yet have You turned toward the prayer of Your servant and to his supplication, Lord my God, to listen to the song and the prayer which Your servant prays before You on this day” (I Kings 8:28). The following verse concludes: “To hear the prayer Your servant directs toward this place” (I Kings 8:29). We see that one’s prayer is heard specifically in the Temple, of which the synagogue is a microcosm (Rav Yoshiyahu Pinto). It may be inferred that in a place of song, a synagogue where God’s praises are sung, there prayer should be.
Why do you think that Abba Binyamin says that prayer is best heard in a synagogue?
רשי -במקום רנה - בבהכ"נ ששם אומרים הצבור שירות ותשבחות בנעימת קול ערב:
Rashi -"In a place of song": This means in a synagogue, which is the place where the congregation recites songs and praises in a pleasant voice.
What is Rashi's question? What is his answer?
The verses above, from King Shlomo's dedication of the Beit Hamikdash, show the verse that Abba Binyamin brought, in context. Why do you think Abba Binyamin chose to bring this verse to support his claim that prayer is best heard in a synagogue?
The Talmud uses the verse from Psalms to demonstrate that God is in the place where people congregate to worship Him -i.e., the synagogue, bolstering Abba Binyamin's statement in the Beraita. Now, it will bring an additional interpretation of that same verse to demonstrate that God is present in a quorum of ten. In doing so, it shifts focus from the synagogue as a place, to the synagogue as a gathering of people - i.e. a community. This raises an implicit question on Abba Binyamin's statement: Does synagogue refer to the synagogue specifically, or is "synagogue" shorthand for any place where a group has gathered to worship? Is prayer best heard in a synagogue because it is a place of worship, or because it happens to be where people congregate, and God is most present in a group that gathers together to worship Him?
Now that the Talmud brought one verse from Tanakh delineating the number of people engaged in religious ritual required to invoke the Divine Presence, it continues the discussion by bringing additional verses that lower the minimum number of people required. In doing so, it shifts, as follows:
- 10 people in prayer
- 3 people as judges on a rabbinic court
- 2 people studying Torah
- 1 person studying Torah
Why do you think this shift occurs? What can the fact that the rabbis brought these examples teach us about the relationship between prayer, judging on a beit din, learning Torah, and thinking about mitzvot? Why is a different number of people brought for each different activity, except for Torah study, which is the case-study for both 2 people and an individual?
Now the Talmud gets side-tracked by a question about the verse from Malachi that was just quoted:
Now back to the main topic of discussion:
To recap the argument so far:
Assertion by Abba Binyamin in the beraita that prayer is best heard in synagogue
Gemara backs up the assertion and brings an extra verse to prove it
Pivot: Verses that support the concept that it’s important to pray in a group -focus has shifted from place of prayer to number of people engaged in worship
Verses start with 10 people and work progressively down in numbers, until we have a verse from Tanakh supporting the idea that even one person engaged in worship of God is blessed.
We start off talking about prayer but wind up talking about Torah study
At one point we get side-tracked by a question about whether thinking of a mitzah but not doing it still counts.
Now the Talmud asks: Why do we need different verses about different numbers of people bringing the Divine Presence, if in the end, it only takes one person to bring the Divine Presence? In doing so, the Talmud is asks an implicit question: Even though one person is enough, does the number of people still matter in some way?
וכי מאחר דאפילו חד תרי מבעיא תרי מכתבן מלייהו בספר הזכרונות חד לא מכתבן מליה בספר הזכרונות
What are the halachik implications of our Talmudic discussion? The opening beraita of our discussion, which cites Abba Binyamin's statement that prayer is best heard in a synagogue, gets codified in the Rambam. How does Rambam's statement differ from the Beraita? How is it similar? What rationale does Rambam provide for public prayer? Do you see a connection between his rationale and our Gemara's discussion of the different verses that propose different minimum numbers of people to invoke the Divine Presence?
(א) תְּפִלַּת הַצִּבּוּר נִשְׁמַעַת תָּמִיד וַאֲפִלּוּ הָיוּ בָּהֶן חוֹטְאִים אֵין הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מוֹאֵס בִּתְפִלָּתָן שֶׁל רַבִּים. לְפִיכָךְ צָרִיךְ אָדָם לְשַׁתֵּף עַצְמוֹ עִם הַצִּבּוּר. וְלֹא יִתְפַּלֵּל בְּיָחִיד כָּל זְמַן שֶׁיָּכוֹל לְהִתְפַּלֵּל עִם הַצִּבּוּר. וּלְעוֹלָם יַשְׁכִּים אָדָם וְיַעֲרִיב לְבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת שֶׁאֵין תְּפִלָּתוֹ נִשְׁמַעַת בְּכָל עֵת אֶלָּא בְּבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת. וְכָל מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ בֵּית הַכְּנֶסֶת בְּעִירוֹ וְאֵינוֹ מִתְפַּלֵּל בּוֹ עִם הַצִּבּוּר נִקְרָא שָׁכֵן רַע:
(1) Congregational prayer is always heard [by the Almighty]. Even if there are sinners among them, the Holy One, blessed be He, does not reject the prayer of a multitude. Hence, a person should associate himself with the congregation, and never recite his prayers in private when he is able to pray with the congregation. One should always attend Synagogue, morning and evening; for only if recited in a synagogue, are one's prayers heard at all times. Whoever has a synagogue in his town and does not worship there is called a bad neighbour.
This ruling gets carried over to the Shulkhan Aruch. How is the Shulkhan Aruch similar to Rambam? How is it different? Do you think that the Shulkhan Aruch and Rambam agree or disagree about the reason it's best to pray in a synagogue? Does one of them consider the obligation to pray in synagogue a stronger requirement than the other?
(ט) ישתדל אדם להתפלל בב"ה עם הציבור ואם הוא אנוס שאינו יכול לבא לב"ה יכוין להתפלל בשעה שהציבו' מתפללין [וה"ה בני אדם הדרים בישובים ואין להם מנין מ"מ יתפללו שחרית וערבית בזמן שהצבור מתפללים סמ"ג] וכן אם נאנס ולא התפלל בשעה שהתפללו הציבו' והוא מתפלל ביחיד אעפ"כ יתפלל בב"ה:
(9) A person should try to pray in the synagogue with a congregation, and if they are unable (lit. "anus", coerced) to come, they should intend to pray while the congregation is praying [This applies to people living in small setttlements, unable to pray in a minyan -- they nevertheless, should pray shaharit and arbit during the time of congregational prayer -Sma"g] If they (the person) could not pray at the time when the community pray, and is praying alone, nevertheless they should pray alone in the synagogue.
משנה ברורה: כז) להתפלל בבהכ"נ - ואפילו אם יש לו עשרה בביתו ישתדל בבהכ"נ ועיין בסי"ח במ"ב ס"ק נ"ד:
(כח) עם הצבור - מפני שאין הקב"ה מואס בתפלת הצבור ואפילו היה בהם חוטאים לא ימנע מלהתפלל עמהם. אם יש לו שתי בתי כנסיות ואחד יש בו ברוב עם מצוה להתפלל בו יותר. כתבו האחרונים דאם יש בבהכ"נ של רוב עם רוב בלבול ואין אדם שומע לא תפלה ולא קה"ת מוטב להתפלל בביתו בעשרה.
27) To pray in a synagogue - and even if he has a quorum of ten men at his home, he should try to go to the synagogue.
28) With the congregation - because the Holy One, Blessed Be He never grows tired of public prayer and even if there are sinners among the congregation, he should not prevent himself from praying with them. If he has two synagogues, and one has more people, then it is a mitzvah to pray in the one with more people. The ahronim wrote that if there is a synagogue with many people where there is a great distraction, and a person can't hear the prayer or Torah reading, then it's better for him to pray at home with a minyan.
Why do you think the Mishna Berura felt it was necessary to tell us that the Shulkhan Aruch's ruling about the importance of going to synagogue applies even if someone has a minyan at home? What might we have thought otherwise?
The Mishnah Berura provides a rationale for the halacha in the Shulkhan Aruch. What is his rationale? How is Mishnah Berura similar to the Rambam?
Getting back to our page of Talmud, which has been discussing aggadic statements about God’s presence, it continues with another statement in the same vein. Like the Gemara's previous discussion about the Beraita, this discussion also opens with a statement of Rabbi Avin bar Rav Adda. Sometimes, once the Talmud cites opinions by a certain rabbi, it will use the opportunity to bring additional teachings by that same rabbi.
What do you think it means that God wears tefillin? How do you think that this discussion relates to the Talmud’s discussion about prayer in the synagogue and prayer/Torah study in a congregation from earlier on in the same page?
The Talmud just brought a verse from Psalms to demonstrate that God wears tefillin. However, that verse doesn't mention tefillin directly. In order to make the verse from Psalms work as a proof that God wears tefillin, the Talmud will now offer a new interpretation of it: The phrase "right hand"means Torah, and the phrase "the arm of his strength" means tefillin. The Talmud supports its new interpretation of these phrases by bringing other verses from Tanakh in which similar words are used.
Implicit in this discussion lies a deeper question: What is the nature of tefillin?
The Talmud now focuses on the term "strength to His nation": How do we know that this term refers to tefillin?
How do tefillin act as "strength for Israel", according to the Talmud?
The Talmud is essentially filling in the blanks of the verse: "And all the nations of the world shall see that the name of the Lord is called upon you" -when you wear tefillin, which are physical symbols of the relationship between God and the Jewish people - "and they will fear you", which will give you strength.
The Talmud now asks what is written in God’s tefillin: The tefillin that we wear refer to our special relationships with God, so presumably, God’s tefillin, in an act of reciprocity, discuss His special relationship with us. The Talmud uses the discussion of the text of God’s tefillin as a segway into a larger discussion of the relationship between God and the Jewish people.
Now the Talmud explores this last sentence, by “filling in the blanks” and providing verses from Tanakh that demonstrate which exact actions God means when He says that Israel “made me a single entity” and which exact actions God means when He says, “I will make you a single entity”.
The Talmud now returns to the discussion of what is written on God’s tefillin:
According to Rav Ashi, there are the 5 verses in God’s tefillin:
For who is a great nation, to whom God is close, like the Lord our God whenever we call upon Him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7)
“And who is a great nation, who has righteous statutes and laws, like this entire Torah which I set before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:8);
“Happy are you, Israel, who is like you? A people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help, and that is the sword of your excellence. And your enemies shall dwindle away before you, and you shall tread upon their high places” (Deuteronomy 33:29);
“Or has God attempted to go and take for Himself a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs and by wonders” (Deuteronomy 4:34);
“And to elevate you above all nations that He has made, in praise, in name and in glory; that you may be a holy people to the Lord, your God, as He has spoken” (Deuteronomy 26:19).
Why do you think these five verses were chosen? What does each verse say about the relationship between God and Israel? What is Rav Aha, son of Rava’s objection to Rav Ashi’s list? What is his solution? Why do you think that “For who is a great nation” and “And who is a great nation” can be in one compartment? If they are both similar, why is it necessary to have both verses -is there something we learn from one that we can’t learn from the other?
Below are the four parshiot of tefillin worn by humans.What do you think is the relationship between those verses and the verses in God's tefillin?
What do tefillin mean? Below are a few commentaries that offer different interpretations. Which ones speak to you, and why? What do tefillin mean to you?
נצח ישראל כד:ט:כי התפילין הם מורים על שיש באדם גם כן מדריגת השכל שהוא נבדל, ולכך ראוי אל האדם התפילין, דבר שיש בו קדושה אלקית.. ולכך התפילין הם על הראש, ששם הנשמה הנבדלת והשכל, וכן התפילין של יד הם נגד הלב, ששם הנפש.
Netzach Yisrael 24:9: Because the tefillin symbolize that the human being has an extra level of wisdom that sets him apart; therefore, the human being is worthy of tefillin, which contain Godly sanctity...therefore the tefillin are on the head, which has the neshama and the wisdom, and the tefillin of the arm are against the heart, which has the nefesh.
מלבים על יחזקאל יג-יח-א: שבקדושה מניחים תפילין על היד כנגד הלב לשעבד תאות ומחשבת הלב לה', ומניחים על הראש כנגד המוח לשעבד כח השכל והמחשבה אליו יתברך
Malbim on Yechezkeil 13:18:1: That in holiness we put tefillin on the arm, against the heart, in order to make desires and the thoughts of the heart subservient to God, and we put tefillin on the head against the brain, to make the power of wisdom and thought subservient to God.