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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ki Sisa, Shemos 34:6. The thirteen Middos and The Alshich's Key to Tefilla

Only speaking from how I personally feel about this discussion, and in light of the superficial and easily distracted nature of most internet reading, please allow me to suggest that you print and read it.

Rosh Hashannah 17b–
אמר רב יהודה ברית כרותה לי"ג מדות שאינן חוזרות ריקם שנאמר (שמות לד) הנה אנכי כורת ברית
Amar R Yehudah: Bris krusah le’yud gimmel middos she'einan chozros reikan. A covenant is sealed on the Thirteen Middos that they do not return empty-handed. Rashi– they never go unanswered when they are recited in the tefillah of a tainis.

The Alshich in Shlach 14:17-20 says that the question has been asked that this Chazal contradicts our experience; plenty of times we say it over and over, and it doesn't do a thing! (An interesting question! Most teachers would react to a question like this with a frask in punim--"Who are you going to trust, you sheigetz, Chazal or your lying eyes???? A more confident didact would respond with the usual "Sometimes ‘No’ is the best answer", or "They can’t overcome a gzeira that was finalized with a shevu’ah", or that "The effect of the tefilla is hidden or pending".)

The Alshich brings an answer from the Livnas Sapir: The recital of the Thirteen Middos is only effective when the person who says them fulfills the Gemara in Shabbos 121 "mah hu rachum v’channun...," just as He is merciful, you too be merciful, just as He is long tempered, etc., that the person emulates the traits of God that are enumerated in the Thirteen Middos.

Another way of putting the Alshich’s (Livnas Sapir) teretz is "It is not enough to say the yud gimmel middos. You have to be the yud gimmel middos."

Imagine a father who is an achzar with his children, who says with great kavana "Oy, Avinu, Ha'av Harachaman, racheim aleinu!" He's a father, and he has no rachmanus on his children! Or, someone who is mean and heartless, who is davenning "ki eil melech chanun verachum atta" with real kavana and dveikus. How do you think the Ribbono Shel Olam should respond to such people? What good are such tefillos? If, on the other hand, you think, as you daven, that this is a middah that one should emulate and express in one’s life, and you determine to do so, then the tefilla would certainly mean a great deal more. The great chiddush of the Alshich is that this is true even regarding the Bris of the 13 Middos.

Even farther: the Tzror HaMor in Ki Sisa (34:9) says
אבל אם הם אכזרים ועושי רשעה, כל שכן שבהזכרת י"ג מדות הם נתפסין. וזהו 'וחנותי את אשר אחון' (שמות לג, יט) - מי
שראוי לחון ולרחם עליו
that if a person is cruel and wicked, and he recites the Middos praising Hashem's kindness and piety, this will bring down punishment upon him even worse than had he not said them.

Now that the Alshich applies this concept even to the Middos, it opens a whole new perspective on what tefillah means. Everyone knows there is a mitzva of Tefilla. Everyone knows there is a mitzva of emulating Hashem's middos: (Shabbas 133b:
אבא שאול אומר ואנוהו הוי דומה לו מה הוא חנון ורחום אף אתה היה חנון ורחום
Zeh Eili ve'anveihu-- Abba Shaul omeir; mah Hu rachum vechanun.... Rashi-- Ve'anveihu-- ani ve'Hu. ani veHu. hevei domeh Lo; velashon ve'anveihu, Ani vehu, and Sotah 14a:
ואמר רבי חמא ברבי חנינא מאי דכתיב (דברים יג) אחרי ה' אלהיכם תלכו וכי אפשר לו לאדם להלך אחר שכינה והלא כבר נאמר (דברים ד) כי ה' אלהיך אש אוכלה הוא אלא להלך אחר מדותיו של הקב"ה מה הוא מלביש ערומים דכתיב (בראשית ג) ויעש ה' אלהים לאדם ולאשתו כתנות עור וילבישם אף אתה הלבש ערומים הקב"ה ביקר חולים דכתיב (בראשית יח) וירא אליו ה' באלוני ממרא אף אתה בקר חולים הקב"ה ניחם אבלים דכתיב (בראשית כה) ויהי אחרי מות אברהם ויברך אלהים את יצחק בנו אף אתה נחם אבלים הקב"ה קבר מתים דכתיב (דברים לד) ויקבר אותו בגיא אף אתה קבור מתים
Acharei Hashem Elokeichem teileichu....le'haleich achar midosav shel HKB"H. The din of "Ve'halachta Bidrachav" is codified in the Rambam Sefer Hamitzvos 8 and the Chinuch 611.) The chiddush here is that these two dinim are mutually dependent; one without the other is ineffective and incomplete. The independent mitzvah of vehlachta bidrachav has a separate application: it is also the necessary prerequisite for the tefilla of the Yud Gimmel Middos. You have to do the Middos, and you have to stand like a shliach tzibbur and ask for them from Hashem.

Tefilla without incorporating into yourself what you hope to elicit from Hashem is not Tefilla at all. Tefilla is not an arm's length entreaty that, if heard and fulfilled, enables you to passively observe as your prayers are answered. Tefilla is part of a process that includes dveikus or inspired zimra and tehilla or bitachon, that enables you to become a fitting vessel for the achievement of Hashem's will. The answer to successful Tefilla is the opportunity to participate in the result. By becoming God-like, you can become a fitting conduit that allows the will of God to flow, through you, to this world. Energy can't flow through 'nothing.' There's got to be a medium that is hospitable to the energy to allow it to move. The medium is you.  The least you need to do is to be a conductor, not an insulator.

We find the same concept in Nedarim 40a--
כל שאין מבקר חולה אין מבקש עליו רחמים לא שיחיה ולא שימות
one who has not been mevaker choleh, his prayers on behalf of the sick are totally ignored. Bikkur Cholim without tefilla, good, but not good enough. Tefilla without bikkur cholim? A waste of time. You want to invoke Hashem's mercy on the sick through your prayers? Don't bother to daven unless you yourself have been mevakeir choleh. But tefilla after you were mevakeir choleh? Ah, that's something special.

This pshat is supported by the Gemara in Rosh Hashanna 17b. There, the Gemara says that Hashem was mis'atef with a tallis like a shli'ach tzibur, and said the 13 Middos, and told Moshe "Im ya'asu banai lefanai kaseder hazeh Ani mochel lahem." The word "Ya'asu" implies action, even though the context is speech, tefillah by a shli'ach tzibur. But according to the above, the two concepts are congruous: the bris of the 13 Middos involves tefilla, speech, which reflects or generates action, the act of emulating Hashem.

A Commenter pointed out that the Alshich learned in Reb Yosef Karo's yeshiva, and he had a fellow talmid named Reb Moshe Cordevero, who wrote the Tomer Devora. The entire theme of the Tomer Devora is a discussion of the obligation, and how, to emulate Hashem's 13 Middos. He ends the first chapter by saying "Just as a man behaves below, so he will merit to open himself "Middah Elyonah Mil'e'maalah." Exactly as he behaves, "kach mashpi'ach mi'le'maalah," and he causes that Middah to shine in the world." With that in mind, it seems evident that this theme, as quoted by the Alshich from the Livnas Hasapir, was, among RYK's talmidim, an important and very carefully considered hashkafas hachaim.

This approach reminds me of the Nefesh Hachaim’s idea of "Hashem Tzilchah, " (see Nefesh Hachaim 1:7 DH V’zeh she’omar Dovid Hamelech Hashem Tzilchoh and the next paragraph, and 1:9 DH Omnom ho’inyon, and the Hagoho there who says the Anaf Yosef’s vort about Tapu’ach which I bring here, which R Chaim Volozhener also says klor in his pirush on Shir Hashirim 2:3) and what I wrote in Devarim Eikev 10:17:

Ha’eil hagadol hagibor vehanorah. Yoma 69— the Anshei Knesses Hagdolah were called that because ‘hecheziru atara liyoshna’. Yirmiah took off ‘nora’, and Daniel took off ‘gibor’. But they said that aderabba— his gevura is his arichus appaiyim to the resha’im, and his morah is what keeps us in existence interspersed among the nations. The idea here is that we cannot describe the actual character of Hashem, but instead only describe the characteristics that we think underlie what we observe to be his actions in our world. This is what is stated in ‘anim zemiros’, that ‘Himshilucho velo kefi yeshcha, vayashvucha lefi ma’asecha.’ What we say about Hashem is, first of all, only a mashal, and second of all, only what we perceive through His behavior. The Rambam says "Kol hato’arim she’anu omrim al Hashem Yisbarach ein hakavana al to’arim atzmi’im chas veshalom rak al to’arei hape’ulos."
An example of this: the Gemora in Shabbos 88a says, "Amar R’ Chamma bar Chanina, ‘ketapuach be’atzei hayaar...’, lama nimsh’lu Yisrael l’Tapuach?" etc. Rabbeinu Tam asks there, that in that passuk, it is not Klal Yisroel being compared to a Tapuach, but rather Hashem? The Anaf Yosef in the Ein Yakov brings down the Nefesh Hachaim that answers that if Klal Yisroel perceived and compared Hashem to ‘tapuach’, this is definitely because Klal Yisroel are comparable and the behavior is similar to ‘tapuach’, because "kederech she’anachnu misro’im lefonov yisborach, kach hu yisborach shemo bo lei’ra’os el ha’olamos al zeh ha’hadraga vehashiur mamash." From this vort you see that not only does Hashem appear in a fashion that reflects our behavior, but that what we call His semblance is just one of the ways that He communicates with us through His behavior.

Back to the Alshich.

The Panim Yafos (written by the Ba’al Hafla’ah) disagrees with the Alshich, because how can we possibly emulate "Hashem Hashem", which is also part of the thirteen middos. So he holds that it has nothing to do with the Gemara in Shabbos, and the guarantee applies to simple recital, to saying it alone.

See the Rosh at the end of the first perek of Rosh Hashannah, where he brings two shittos, the Geonim and Rabbeinu Tam, about the first two sheimos in the Middos and whether both or only one is a Middah, and the Korban Neshanel there in #10 who brings the Arizal and the Sefer Chassidim. The Arizal in Shaar Hakavonos Drush "Vayaavor" 3 holds the Middos begin with "Keil." But the Sefer Chassidim (250) holds it begins with "Rachum." If the Alshich/Livnas Sapir hold like the Sefer Chasidim, the Hafla'ah's question would not begin.
Furthermore, the in the Ramak's Tomer Devora, he describes how to emulate, or reflect, the Middos of, for example, Malchus. Obviously, then, the Hafla'ah's kashe would not be shver.
Reb Chaim B. pointed out to me that the Bnei Yisaschar says that the machlokes between the Alshich and the Hafla'ah was something that Esther Hamalka thought about, and she decided that the Bris was for Amira alone, based on the midda of "Eil," as the Hafla'ah says. See comments for the Mareh Makom and discussion.
Reb David Guttmann pointed out a fascinating thing:
The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim is very similar to the Alshich, and yet very, very different. The Rambam also agrees that mere tefilla is inadequate. What, says the Rambam, makes the recitation of the Middos effective? Understanding what they mean! This is what the Rambam says in the Moreh 1:54, when he discusses what it was the Moshe sought from Hashem, and what Hashem taught him about the Middos: (Kafach translation)

הודעני נא את דרכיך ואדעך וכו' ,
והתבונן במה שנכלל בלשון זה מן המופלאות, אמרו 'הודעני נא את דרכיך ואדעך', מלמד על היותו יתעלה נודע בתאריו, שאם ידע הדרכים ידעהו. ואמרו 'למען אמצא חן בעיניך', מלמד כי מי שידע את ה', הוא אשר ימצא חן בעיניו. לא מי שצם והתפלל בלבד , אלא כל מי שידעו הוא הרצוי המקורב, ומי שסכל ידיעתו, הוא הזעום המרוחק. ולפי ערך הידיעה והסכלות יהיה הרצון והזעם והקרבה והריחוק.
"Not one who only fasts and prays, but instead one who knows Him, he is the desired one who is drawn near. The senseless one is distanced and draws anger. Exactly proportionate to one’s wisdom or foolishness is one’s closeness or separation."
So, the Alshich says, talk is cheap; mere tefilla is not enough. You have to live the Middos. The Rambam says, mere tefilla is not enough. You have to understand, to know, the Middos. The Panim Yafos says "amira," and maybe he really means simple recital. More likely he would agree with the Rambam, that it requires at least an awareness and understanding of the Middos.
Now please don't go telling me that they agree, because you can't live them unless you understand them, and once you know them, you will live them. That may be true, but it is irrelevant. The Rambam and the Alshich are saying totally different things, Period.
And don't go looking at the Tomer Dvorah for help in determining how the Tzefas people defined the Middos, because he only works with the passuk of "mi keil komocho," which alludes to the Middos. He very carefully does not mention even once exactly which words in the passuk in Ki Sisa the Middos comprise.
Also, note that after the chet hameraglim, Moshe used an incomplete set of the middos, and see the meforshim there, including the Ramban.
I’ve used the Alshich to explain the din in Yoreh Dei'ah 265 about Sande’ka’us being like bringing ketores, and Rabbeinu Peretz’s shittah that one should not be sandek for more than one of a person’s children, because the Gemara says that bringing the Ketores made the Kohen wealthy, and in order to distribute the segula as widely as possible, no Kohen was allowed to be maktir the Ketores twice. Since Sande'ka'us is like bringing Ketores, he says, one should not be a sandek twice for children from one family. The Gaon says not to worry about it, because he hasn't seen anyone becoming rich from being a sandek. I said that can answer the Gaon's kashe the same way the Alshich answered his kashe: It's not enough to be the sandek or to be maktir the ketores-- you have to become the ketores. It's a great line, and it has the smell of a truth, but it's hard to know what exactly it means. Maybe having a good smell, i.e., a good reputation. Maybe it means being m’kareiv avaryanim, like the chelb’nah, as the Rambam stresses in 8 Tefilla 1. The connection to Bris Millah is that there is one thing that distinguishes us from Gentiles, and also engenders within us a great kedusha, and that is the Bris Millah, the sign of the covenant with God. One must be aware of the potential for kedusha it represents, and also that every single Jew, every Mahul, is part of the Covenant; Kol Yisrael yeish lahem cheilek; and so our sense of arvus, our loyalties and empathies, should actively extend to every Ben Bris, of all stripes, from Meretz to Neturei Karta to normal people like me... and you. Distasteful as it can be, we are all Guf Echad and we all have the potential to add something important to Klal Yisrael. But it certainly doesn’t mean the mere ma'aseh kof of haktarah/sandeka'us.
By the way: I said in the beginning that the Alshich's question is surprising, and that if a student asked it, we would be disturbed at his apparent lack of faith. The truth is that the Alshich wouldn't have written the kashe in the sefer unless he had a teretz that he thought adequately answered it, as the Ra'avad says in Deios on Yedi'ah Ube'chira.

Rav Moshe Alshich (1508 - 1593, Tzfas), known as the Alshich Hakadosh, was a student of Rav Yoseph Caro in Tzefas. Among the Alshich's students was Rav Chaim Vital. The Livnas Hasapir is, as you can tell from the name, a Kabbalah Sefer, from, I'm told, the twelve hundreds.


Chaim B. said...

You are missing a Bnei Yisaschar! The B"Y asks: when the gemara speaks of the 13 midos, does it mean to say the 13 midos or that we have to act like the 13 middos? It must be, he says, that saying is sufficient, because how can one personify the midah of Keil? This was what Esther haMalkah held, but despite saying the 13 middos Haman's decree was not lifted. Therefore, she cried out Keili Keili lamah azavtani.... Why is my lomdus wrong?

(There is more that he says -- I think it appears 2x in the sefer, once by Purim and once by Slichos.)

Barzilai said...

Great mareh makom, but I'm not sure you shouldn't tayneh on the BY that he missed the Hafla'ah, or on Esther for missing the Alshich.

Now I have to scrounge up a Bnei Yesaschar and see it inside.

Anonymous said...

Barzilai said...

First of all, it's, not .com. Second of all, can you please have rachmonus on a Litvak and not make me go through all the maftei'ach in the Bnei Yissaschar! Please, somebody, give me a volume and page number!! i really would like to see how he treats the inyan, though I'm coming with a chip on my shoulder, armed with the Alshich and the Hafla'ah.

Anonymous said...

You can search for the KEYWORD ?

Chaim B. said...

>>>you please have rachmonus on a Litvak

Is this the same Litvak who is trying to pass off a Panim Yafos on us just because it happens to be written by the same author as the Hafla'ah? That would be like trying to pass off a Moreg Nevuchim is a loimdish shiur just because it happens to be written by the same "guy" who wrote the Yad : )

Barzilai said...

Chaim, I am adamantly resisting the siren call of Reb Tzadok et al, despite the evidence from you and your BIL RYGB that one can remain a rational lamdan while making a serious limud of such topics. The terms are so ambiguous, the contradictions are so serious and inadmissive of reconciliation, and the fundamentals are so speculative and so rarely agreed upon by any two individuals, that it seems like a futile attempt. I mean, can you really see the Ketzos or the Netziv doing this? So all I do is graze around until something rational jumps out. For example: the Arvei Nachal is around 25% accessible to me, Reb Tzadok around 5%. The rest, to me, and I'm not necessarily proud of this, is kind of reminiscent of the Neturei Karta's shittos vis a vis Iran, or Harav Ahron Shechter's shittos vis a vis Rav Hirsch.

Barzilai said...

OK, I went to, I used the keyword search, and I found the Bnei Yisaschar. Unbelievable resource!

Chaim, you're right. The Bnei Yisaschar is exactly on target, and apt for the parsha and for the Megilah. But it's not like he didn't see the Hafla'ah, he himself is quoting the Panim Yafos and expanding on it.

And of course, I should have realized that the shailah stems from the Gemora in RH 17b "Im ya'asu Banai lifanai ke'seider hazeh...." which implies asi'ah, not just dibbur. Of course you need dibur also, but that you need a dibbur that brings or speaks of asiyah.

Again, thank you for the mareh makom. I got around 70% use from that Ma'amar.

Anonymous said...

It is a great resource in general I am happy you figured out how to use it now every time you want to check my Drush you don't even need the sefer you just search for the Keywords and you can see them and add subtract and mock(;

Barzilai said...

Challila, I haven't mocked you. I don't mock sincere people.

Anonymous said...

This is the core thesis of the RaMaK's Tomer Devorah, and seems to have been flourished in Tzfat at that time.

Chaim B. said...

>>>The Gaon says not to worry about it, because he hasn't seen anyone becoming rich from being a sandek.

In the sefer Pninei haGRI"Z it has a story that a Rosh Yeshiva once asked the Brisker Rav whether he has to accept being a sandek whenever asked or not. On the one hand the promise of ashirus cited by the Rama would benefit the yeshiva so how could he say no, OTOH there is the GR"A. The Brisker Rav (acc to one report) responded that the Rama's check is also good ...

(I figured you would like that line.)

Barzilai said...

Anonymous 8:18, that's a very good point. I mention the Tomer Devora in the post, but I didn't shtell zach on how closely related the idea is to his theme, especially since they were both talmidim of Reb Yosef Karo. I'm going to edit the post to include this.

Chaim, yes indeed, I certainly do like that story. Thank you. I think what we need is a blog titled "Torah that Makes Yeshivaleit Smile." We have plenty of very very sincere and treacly holy stuff, we have more than enough hashkafa. We need something like "Asur le'malei schok piv be'olam hazeh, but for this, even Reb Zeira would smile."

David Guttmann said...

It fits with Rambam's understanding of the Midos in MN 1:54.

I wonder if the meaning of Hil Tefilah 8:1 goes along similar lines.

תפילת הציבור, נשמעת תמיד

David Guttmann said...

oh and most important I share your feeling about BY and RZ and my background is far from the Litte!

I once said over a BY to R. Simcha Wasserman A'H and he liked the idea but commented "why can he not say it simply - poshut?"

Barzilai said...

Thank you, David. The Yad, I think, really sheds no light on it. But the Moreh is fascinating, and I editted the post to put it in. Of course, now it's too long for the butterfly attention span internet readers, but I sure enjoy it.
Yasher kochacha.

Barzilai said...

Thank you, Readers, for your very valuable remarks. My heightened awareness and more careful reading of the Tomer Devorah, the Bnei Yisaschar, the Rambam in the Moreh, are all very important parts of the Dvar Torah.

Without them, this would be a nice mussar haskeil, a nice drasha for a Rav. With them, it has, I think, real shleimus, hekef, and lomdushe structure.

Hmmmm, maybe I'll delete you all and keep the atarah for myself......

Barzilai said...

David-- I can use the Rambam in 8 Tefilla 1 for the last thing I have. I say that being maktir ketores is not good enough, you have to be the ketores, and I said I wasn't sure exactly what I meant. The Rambam takkeh uses the Ketores as a paradigm of being "meshatef tefillaso im hatzibur," using the chelbenah as the symbolic focus. So maybe we can say that being maktir requires a sense of responsibility for and intimate involvement with those who cannot make it on their own. I don't know how to work it into Sandeka'us, though. How do you 'become' the bris millah?

David Guttmann said...

You say -
What, says the Rambam, makes the recitation of the Middos effective? Understanding what they mean!

But Rambam says in MN 3:54

אבל הוא אמר: יש להתפאר בהשׂגתי ובידיעת תארַי, והכוונה למעשׂיו, כמו שהבהרנו41 באשר לדברו: הודִעני נא את דרכיך [ואדעך למען אמצא חן בעיניך] (שמות ל"ג, 13). והוא הבהיר לנו בפסוק זה שהמעשׂים שאתה חייב לדעת ולחקות הם חסד, משפט וצדקה

and therefore

ן ואמר: כי באלה חפצתי נאֻם ה' (שם), כלומר, מטרתי שיהיו מכם חסד משפט וצדקה בארץ באופן שהבהרנו46 באשר לשלוש-עשֹרה מידות שהכוונה היא להידמות אליהן ושזאת תהיה התנהגותנו4

So the Alshich really is quoting Rambam.

David Guttmann said...

BTW, this is a major issue. Most people argue that to rambam the tachlis is yediah. I am convinced they are wrong and the yediah is to know how to emulate and not just an intellectual exercise.

Barzilai said...

Ok, David, so you gave me the first mareh makom to the Moreh, which, to me, clearly refers to Yediah, and makes no mention of "lechakos", and then you hit me with the later statements in the Moreh. I cannot understand why the Rambam would have left it out in his first, essential, mention of the whole "har'eini na" episode. I assume you checked Kappach, and the problem is not resolved there. But you say that there are those that say that the first reference outweighs the second and third? How can they ignore them, when, as quoted, it seems pretty clear that he means both yediah and the attempt to emulate in action?

David Guttmann said...

Rambam is a teacher and he leads you to his point of view. See the fifth contradiction in his hakdamah -

הסיבה החמישית היא הכרח שעשׂוי להיווצר בשעה שמלמדים ומביאים לידי הבנה. והוא שיש עניין עמוק כלשהו אשר קשה לציירו87. המחבר נאלץ להזכירו או להניחו כהנחה מוקדמת להסברת עניין אשר קל לציירו ואשר מן הראוי להקדימו בהוראה לפני זה הראשון88, שכן לעולם יש להתחיל בקל יותר. המורה ייאלץ אפוא לוותר על דיוק העניין הראשון88 ולהסבירו בכל דרך שתזדמן לו ובעיון שטחי. הוא לא יתחיל לדקדק באמיתתו אלא יניח אותו בהתאם לדמיונו של השומע, כדי שהוא יבין מה שנדרש עכשיו להבין. מאוחר יותר יפורט אותו עניין עמוק ותובהר אמיתתו במקום הראוי לה

David Guttmann said...

I hope to write about it on my blog, though I touched on it. Vehalachta Bidrachav is a Mitzvat Asseh according to Rambam (#8). To be mekayem it correctly one has to have correct opinions about God. That is only possible after Yediah thus he discusses at the end of the Moreh when the talmid supposedly learned how to acquire the correct opinions.

Just a synopsis - there is much more.

Barzilai said...

I'm looking forward to reading it.