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Beit Midrash Series Ein Ayah

Levels of Disregard for Sanctity

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Gemara:
If one goes in filthy streets, he should not recite Kri’at Shema, and furthermore, if he was in the midst [of Kri’at Shema], he must stop. If he did not stop, how is it [considered]? [Various Amoraim attribute various p’sukim to the situation]: 1) "For I have even given them statutes that are not good and laws by which they should not live" (Yechezkel 20:25); 2) "Woe, those who pull the sin by ropes of nothingness" (Yeshaya 5:18); 3) "For he degraded the word of Hashem" (Bamidbar 15:31).


Ein Ayah: The full impact of Torah and mitzvot comes only when, while performing them, one realizes their great value and honor. If one does not give them their proper due honor, there will be deficits that will impact his spirit. We will mention three levels of such problems, from the smaller to the bigger.
One problem is that one loses the opportunity to make a positive impact on his spirit. A bigger issue stemming from the void caused by not filling the spirit with the beauty of the mitzva is that this emptiness serves as a vacuum to pull in sin. Usually the power of the Torah that dwells in one’s spirit keeps sin out. When the value of mitzvot is lowered by disgrace, sin may be pulled in. The third, most severe issue is that when one does a mitzva while, at the same time, disgracing it, he develops a tendency to, Heaven forbid, disregard the word of Hashem. This in turn can cause him to be one who hates the Torah and perhaps even remove himself from acceptance of the Divine kingdom (kabalat malchut shamayim, which is the key element of Kri’at Shema).
The three p’sukim refer to these levels. The first one refers to "statutes that are not good," representing that one missed the positive he could have attained. The second one alludes to the rope that pulls in sin. The third talks about directly degrading the word of Hashem, which places in his soul a disdain for the light and life of the world.

The Basis of Prayer
(condensed from Berachot 4:1)

Gemara:
Rabbi Yossi ben R. Chanina said: The prayers were instituted by the forefathers. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: The prayers were instituted to correspond to the temidin (the regular sacrifices in the Beit Hamikdash).


Ein Ayah: The basic level of arriving at shleimut (completeness in one’s service of Hashem) is in line with one’s nature, as he wants to cling to Hashem with all his heart and soul. However, the ultimate goal is reached when this connects back to the service of the Nation of Israel as a whole. This national improvement eventually will bring the whole world to embrace service of Hashem.
Prayer is indeed made up of natural emotions, as one yearns to spill out his soul before its Creator. This is a personal experience, but its content focuses prominently on needs for the shleimut of the nation. (Redemption, restoration of the judicial system, rebuilding of Yerushalayim, the restoration of the Davidic family, and the return of the service in the Beit Hamikdash are all themes of Shemoneh Esrei). The question, though, is whether prayer is built around the personal element or the national one. Is the basis of prayer the spilling out of the individual’s soul, with the national elements emerging from that? Alternatively, is prayer focused on the shleimut of the national service, which emerges from the purity of the many individuals?
The forefathers served Hashem before there was a nation, and thus their service was focused on them from a personal, not a national, perspective. In contrast, the temidin were the joint service for the benefit of the entire nation. The opinion that prayer corresponds to the forefathers attributes it to the personal element, whereas the opinion that it corresponds to the temidin stresses its focus on the national elements of the Jews’ service of Hashem.
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