Shabbos Parashas Shemini – The Dubno Maggid on Prayer, Part 4

Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar HaTefillah, Chapter 2 (end)
The Anshei Knessess HaGedolah (Men of the Great Assembly) established for us a daily prayer order. In addition, we are obligated to recite no less that 100 berachos each day. Most of these are built into a person’s daily routine, but if someone misses one such berachah, he must make it up in some other way. As we noted earlier, the berachos were composed by our Sages and we are not allowed to compose new ones. Likewise, we are not allowed to alter the existing berachos; the ones that are short must be kept short, and the ones that are long must be kept long. The Sages, with their great depth and breadth of understanding, incorporated into the daily prayers and berachos a vast amount of hidden meaning, deeper and wider than the sea. Who are we, and what capacity do we have, to comprehend and evaluate what they prepared and arranged before us, let alone set our hands upon it and make changes? We must employ the prayers and berachos only as our Sages, in their pure wisdom, specified.
When we complete planting here on earth below the roots that the daily prayer order comprises, they bear fruit in the upper worlds. And when we omit one of the prayers, the remainder is like a body that is missing an organ. Now, not all the organs of the body are equally important. When certain organs are missing or altered, the body can still function, albeit imperfectly. Other organs, on the other hand, such as the brain and the heart, are so central that if they are missing the body cannot function at all. It is similar with the daily prayer order. With certain prayers, such as the Shema and the berachos associated with it, every word is critical, and if even a single word is missing, the prayer fails to produce the intended effect. There are other prayers that the halachah instructs us to omit or shorten under specified pressing circumstances, in which case the overall prayer service remains effectual, but to an incomplete degree. We must therefore be very careful not to omit any part of the prayer order, except when we are required to do so according to halachah.
Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar HaTefillah, Chapter 3 (beginning)
We now delve into the purpose of prayer. Hashem, in His kindness, created us and provides us innumerable blessings. Accordingly, our intellect tells us that it is fitting for us to thank Hashem and praise His honored Name. In this vein, the Hallel prayer concludes with the following blessing:
All Your works shall laud You, O Hashem our God. And Your devout ones, the righteous ones who do Your will, and Your entire people the House of Yisrael shall songfully thank, bless, praise, glorify, exalt, extol, sanctify, and ascribe sovereignty to Your Name, our King. For to You it is proper to give thanks, and to Your Name it is fitting to sing praise, for You are God forever and ever. Blessed are You, Hashem, the King who is lauded with praises.
On the other hand, it is beyond the power of our intellect to grasp why Hashem Himself would be particular about being thanked and praised, and would, as the Gemara in Yevamos 64a teaches, cherish and yearn for the prayers of the righteous. What can a man possibly provide Hashem through the praises he offers? And who can really praise Hashem properly? In regard to Hashem, awed silence is the most fitting praise. Indeed, our Sages forbade modifying the established prayers to make the praises more expansive. Thus, the Gemara in Berachos 33b records an episode where a chazzan expanded the phrase “the great, mighty, and awesome God” to “the God who is great, mighty, awesome, grand, powerful, fearsome, strong, stalwart, sure, honored ….” When he finished, R. Chanina rebuked him, saying: “Have you finished reciting all the praises of your Master?” Nonetheless, when we offer prayers that conform to the guidelines that our Sages set, our prayers are precious in Hashem’s eyes, and He considers pleasing every praise and supplication that we direct toward Him.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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