Halacha for Monday 8 Iyar 5779 May 13 2019

The Way to Have One’s Prayers Accepted

Question: What does it mean that one should “not make one’s prayer established”-our prayer services are established three times daily? Also, is there any special advice for how one can have one’s prayers accepted?

Answer: Regarding the first question, let us quote the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (Chapter 2, Mishnah 18): “Rabbi Shimon says: Be cautious with Keri’at Shema and prayer and when you pray do not make your prayer established; rather, let it be a request for mercy and supplication before Hashem.”

Explanation of the Phrase, “Do Not Make Your Prayer Established”
Our Sages (Berachot 29b) explain the meaning of the phrase in the Mishnah, “Do not make your prayer established.” Rabbi Oshaya states that “making one’s prayer established” means when one’s prayer is like a burden on him (meaning when one feels like there is an established law that one must pray and one must do so forcefully in order to fulfill his obligation). The Sages explain this phrase somewhat differently and explain that this refers to one does not recite his prayer in the form of supplication (meaning that the style of one’s prayer must be one of supplication before Hashem, with subservience and with one’s entire heart).

The Rambam (Chapter 4 of Hilchot Tefillah, Halacha 16) rules in accordance with the opinion of the Sages. The Gemara in Masechet Sotah (5a) states that one’s prayer is not accepted unless one makes his heart that of flesh (which is soft, and not of stone), i.e. that one must pray with subordination.

Know Before Whom You Are Standing
The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (28b) states that Rabbi Elazar once told his students, “When you pray, know before Whom you are standing.” Similarly, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 22a) states that when one prays, one must envision that he is facing the holy presence of Hashem, as the verse states, “I place Hashem before me constantly.” Similarly, our Sages tell us (Berachot 31a) that the verse “And Chana spoke upon her heart” teaches us that one must concentrate with all one’s heart. The Rambam rules likewise that without concentration of the heart, one does not fulfill one’s obligation to pray and this means that one must rid one’s heart of all foreign thoughts and think only that one is standing before the King of All Kings.

One Who Incorporates Hashem During a Time of Distress
Regarding our second question, we have already discussed (in a Halacha pertaining to requesting one’s needs while praying) that one may request one’s personal needs from Hashem while praying during the “Shema Kolenu” blessing. We concluded that Halacha by saying that it is proper that when requesting one’s personal needs, one should intend for this to assist one in his service of Hashem and not just for one’s personal benefit.

The Gemara (Berachot 63a) states that if one includes Hashem during one’s time of distress, one’s livelihood will be doubled, as the verse states, “And Hashem shall be in your distress and you shall have abundant monies.” The Meharsha explains this to mean that one should pray that Hashem should save him in the merit of Hashem’s great name which is with us in every tragedy, as the verse states, “I am with him in his distress.”

The Sefer Ma’yana Shel Torah (end of Parashat Shemot) states: “The Chozeh of Lublin and the Magid of Koznitz would say that when one prays during a time of distress, one should primarily request salvation because of Hashem’s distress and not for one’s personal distress, for if one concentrates only one’s own personal distress, there is room to prosecute him. However, if one concentrates on Hashem’s distress (or at least both of them together) because Hashem participates in the distress of every Jew (see Sanhedrin 46a), the prosecution is forced to shut its mouth.

Hagaon Rabbeinu Chaim of Volozhin writes in his Sefer Nefesh Ha’Chaim that when one prays, one should not have in mind solely for one’s personal benefit, for this is not the correct path for those who are straight of heart; rather, one’s intention should be focused on the sake of Heaven, for when one is distressed in this world, the Upper Worlds are in distress as well. The Sefer Yalkut Sofer writes in the name of the Rambam that if one mentions Hashem in his distress, about such an individual does the verse state, “I am with him in his distress; I shall rescue him and I shall honor him,” and he shall be saved from his distress.

Thus, when one prays for his children to follow the correct path, one should focus his intentions on the sake of Heaven and that one’s children should fear Hashem and walk in His path. Similarly, if one prays for children, one should intend that this should be for the sake of Heaven and that one merit to fulfill the Mitzvot of the Torah through them and they should grow up in the ways of Hashem. Likewise, if one prays to get married, one should intend that the primary mission of a person comes about through marriage and one must get married in order to complete one’s service of Hashem. Similarly, when one prays for livelihood, one should have in mind that when one has an easy and abundant livelihood, one will have more spare time for the service of Hashem and one will be able to perform many kind and charitable acts and so on and so forth regarding all of one’s prayers. May our prayers be accepted favorably by Hashem, Amen.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Making Toast on a Hotplate on Shabbat

Question: May one place a pita or a slice of bread on a hotplate on Shabbat in order to turn it into hard and crunchy toast? Answer: There are two prohibitions we must discuss with regards to our question of making toast on Shabbat out of bread that was already baked before Shabbat. The first ......

Read Halacha

Sitting on Food Items

Question: Is it correct that one may not sit on top of a box containing food or beverages? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (50b) states that it is forbidden to act in a degrading manner towards food. Thus, one may not, for instance, use a piece of cake to wipe up a drink that spilled on t......

Read Halacha

Salting Cucumbers on Shabbat

Question: Is it correct that one may not put salt on cucumbers on Shabbat? Answer: The root of this question lies in the fact that with regards to many Torah laws, we rule that “pickling is tantamount to cooking” meaning that a pickled food is considered like a cooked food. Thus, just......

Read Halacha

The Law Regarding a Woman Who Forgets to Recite the Blessings of the Torah

We have explained in the previous Halacha that if one forgets to recites the Blessings of the Torah and only realizes this after one has concluded Shacharit prayers, one may no longer recite these blessings, for one has already fulfilled his obligation with the “Ahavat Olam” blessing rec......

Read Halacha


The Order for Lighting Shabbat and Chanukah Candles

There is a disagreement among the Rishonim as to the order of lighting Shabbat and Chanukah candles on Erev Shabbat Chanukah. The Ba’al Halachot Gedolot (commonly referred to as “Behag”) is of the opinion that Chanukah candles must be lit before Shabbat candles because women cu......

Read Halacha

Question: May one recite the Amida prayer in front of a curtain (covering the Aron Kodesh) which is adorned with various designs?

Answer: The Rambam writes in one of his responses (Freiman edition, Chapter 20): “It is incorrect to pray in front of garments with designs on them, even if the designs are not protruding. We usually close our eyes when it happens that we must pray in front of a wall or garment adorned with de......

Read Halacha

Washing Dishes on Shabbat Night and Pouring Water on Dirty Dishes

Question: Upon the conclusion of the Shabbat night meal, may one immediately wash the dishes for the Shabbat day meal or should this only be done during the day closer to the start of the meal? Also, is it permissible to pour water onto soiled dishes (which one no longer needs for Shabbat) so that i......

Read Halacha

The Law Regarding One Who Forgets to Recite the Morning Blessings

The Morning Blessings (“Birkot Ha’Shachar”) are the blessings recited every morning beginning from the “Elohai Neshama” blessing until the end of the Blessings of the Torah. Both men and women must recite these blessings, as we have discussed in the laws of the Morning ......

Read Halacha