Wednesday, November 06, 2013

tefilas arvis reshus

There are two fundamental disputes in hil tefilah that seem to go hand in hand:

1) There is a machlokes Rambam and Ramban whether tefilah is a mitzvah d’oraysa once a day every day (Rambam) or whether tefilah is a takakah derabbanan to be fulfilled multiple times a day (Ramban). 

2) The gemara has a machlokes whether tefilas arvis is reshus or not, i.e. whether the obligation to daven ma’ariv carries the same weight as the obligation to daven the other tefilos. 

Putting two and two together: According to the Rambam, who holds that tefilah is d’oraysa, the first opportunity in the day to fulfill that chiyuv is ma’ariv. It doesn’t seem to make sense to say that ma’ariv, which is potentially a kiyum d’oraysa, would be only a reshus, but other tefilos would be chovah!  The view that holds ma’ariv is reshus seems to only work if you hold tefilah is derabbanan; the view that holds ma’ariv is chovah fits nicely if you holdstefilah is d’oraysa.

In one of his recent Motzei Shabbos shiurim, R’ Yitzchak Yosef pointed out that while the lomdus sounds nice in theory, it's dead wrong. As noted, the Rambam paskens that tefilah is d’oraysa (hil tefilah 1:1):

מצות עשה להתפלל בכל יום

Yet the Rambam also holds that tefilas arvis is reshus (hil tefilah ch3):

  תפילת הערב--אף על פי שאינה חובה--המתפלל אותה, יש לו להתפלל מתחילת הלילה עד שיעלה עמוד השחר.

 Somehow you need to explain how to fit the two together. That’s a homework question.

Why is it that tefilas arvis is reshus as opposed to the other tefilos?

According to one view in Chazal, our tefilos correspond to the avodah done in the Mikdash: shacharis corresponds to the korban tamid done in the morning; mincha corresponds to the tamid in the afternoon; ma’ariv corresponds to the fats and flesh left burning on the altar during the night. I think we can agree that it makes sense for there to be a distinction between teflios that correspond to the korbanos tamid, where there was a mitzvah to offer a korban and sprinkle the blood on the mizbeiach, and ma’ariv, where there was nothing to do other than leave the remaining fats and meats on the altar to burn. 

But Chazal also tell us that tefilos were instituted by the Avos. Avraham instituted shacharis; Yitzchak instituted mincha; Chazal darshen from the pasuk “Vayifga ba’makom” in this week’s parsha that Ya’akov instituted tefilas arvis. According to this view, why is ma’ariv different than the other tefilos?

The Shem M'Shmuel answers by quoting the Midrash on "Tzamah lecha nafshi, kameh lecha besari” that explains that just as Ya’akov’s nefesh thirsted for G-d, so too did the 248 limbs of his physical body. Ya’akov succeeded in obliterating the divide between guf and nefesh. There was no longer within him a dichotomy, a struggle, between physical self and spiritual self – it was all one unit dedicated to avodas Hashem.

This level of avodah is one that only the elite can reach; it cannot be a chovah incumbent upon all.

Rather than see these as two different approaches -- tefilos as representative of avodah in the Mikdash vs. tefilah as an institution of the Avos -- the Shem m’Shmuel suggests that there is an underlying harmony between the views. Avraham and Yitzchak succeeded in worshipping G-d with all their soul; Ya’akov succeeded in worshipping with his entire being. The most essential avodah of all korbanos, including the twice daily tamid, was the zerikas ha’dam, splashing the blood on the mizbeiach. “Ki ha’dam hu hanefesh,” blood represents the soul, spiritual self-sacrifice.   At night, however, it was the flesh and fats, even the physical elements of the animal, that were able to be consecrated and burned on the mizbeiach.   This is tefilas ma'ariv, the avodah of Ya'akov, who was able to unify body with soul in his worship.


  1. > According to the Rambam, who holds that tefilah is d’oraysa, the first opportunity in the day to fulfill that chiyuv is ma’ariv.
    > As noted, the Rambam paskens that tefilah is d’oraysa (hil tefilah 1:1)
    > Yet the Rambam also holds that tefilas arvis is reshus (hil tefilah ch3)
    > Somehow you need to explain how to fit the two together. That’s a homework question.

    Very clever putting these together!

    It happens that for other reasons, I have wanted for some time to argue that according to Rambam, the first opportunity each day to fulfill the chiyuv d'oraysa of tefila is in the morning. That is, mitvas tefila on the d'oraysa level (aka "avodah she-b'lev") is like avodah she-b'mikdash in this respect, where for various purposes the night follows the day. The hekter eimurim at night (to which Ma'ariv corresponds, as you note), after all, involves the tamid of the preceding day. Likewise, I suggest, according to Rambam, the daily obligation d'oraysa of avodah she-b'lev begins anew each morning -- not evening.

    The reason I have wanted to say this in Rambam is to explain hilchos tefila 3:1. According to Rambam, davening shacharis after the 4th hour fulfills "chovas tefila" but not "chovas tefila bizmana"; and he then explains, in 3:1, that while there is d'oraysa obligation of tefila, the obligation of "tefila bizmana" is d'rabanan. This is quite different than the formulation of other rishonim. Truly ein kan makom l'ha'arich -- this is a much longer subject, and I can send you my write-up/analysis if you are interested -- but I believe the Rambam is saying in 3:1 that if you haven't davened shacharis yet at the end of the 4th hour, you still have an outstanding chiyuv d'oraysa which you can fulfill by saying shmoneh esrei, however it is already too late to daven "shacharis" even b'dieved since the gemara says we pasken like R. Yehuda on z'man shacharis.

    So bottom line, I am grateful for your question because it indirectly supports the premise I need for this other theory. (Although of course I realize you may disagree completely with my theory about Rambam and shacharis!)

  2. I hear what you are saying, but I am not sure you can define the parameters of the d'oraysa chiyuv of tefilah based on korbanos when the torah itself never makes any connection between the two - it's only chazal that give tie the two together to explain the times or number of tefilos, which are derabbanan inventions. if you have proof, then ain hachi nami, that would answer this question nicely.
    (Maybe your sevara explains why the issur of eating before davening applies in the morning but not at night.)

  3. Chaim,

    RMayer Twersky in a yahrzeit shiur for his grandfather developed exactly the idea that Steven is suggesting ba-arichus, with rayahs not only from the sugyos in tefilas ha-shachar but also from elsewhere -- that the halachic day for tefila is the same as the halachis day for avodas hakorbanos, which begins in the morning and not at night.

  4. can you share one or two of the ra'ayos? thanks