Tefila in Times of Trouble
Did you ever wonder while reciting selihot what Avraham, Moshe, Shmuel, David, and others of our spiritual forefathers were praying for when they were answered by God? Why they were successful? What about Tachanun or certain parts of the Shemona Esrei? Join Rabbi Yitzchak Zuriel as he examines the background and content of those prayers which we say in times of distress and how to relate to them today.
Tefila in Times of Trouble: Introduction: Does the Torah require us to pray?
In this first shiur of the series, we will begin by discussing the basic view of the Torah regarding prayer and whether it is something expected of us, or an act based on our own initiation as humans in relationship with G-d. To do this we will study the views of the Rambam and the Ramban on this subject. I have posted the sources here.
Tefila in Times of Trouble: For what did Avraham Avinu and Yitzhak Avinu pray at Har HaMoriah?
The Torah does not explicitly tell us what were the prayers of Avraham and Yitzhak at Har HaMoriah. Yet in selichot we make a clear reference to the fact that their prayers at the time of the Akeidah were answered. What were their prayers? And how were they answered? We will do some sleuthing and thinking to try to find out.
Tefila in Times of Trouble: Yosef; the People of Israel at Yam Suf
In this shiur we will try from the verses in Beresheet to understand what would have been Yosef’s prayer from his prison cell. Then we will move on to the account of the entire nation of Israel with their backs to Yam Suf and seeing Par’o and his army approaching. Who prayed, and what did they pray?
Tefila in Times of Trouble: Moshe Rabeinu at Horev
In our previous shiurim we saw that for many of the spiritual heroes whose names appear in the piyut in selihot (and about their prayers at times of distress we have speculated), the Torah does not explicitly document the text of their prayers to G-d.
This is definitely not the case with Moshe Rabeinu! The Torah contains several texts of prayers of Moshe at various times.
But when we come to the prayer of Moshe at Horev (Har Sinai), it’s a little confusing. To which prayer exactly are we referring? And what is Moshe really asking for?
We will delve into the verses in Shemot and Devarim, and with the help of a couple of the classical commentators, we will try to answer these questions.
Tefila in Times of Trouble: Moshe at Horev (cont.); Aharon with the firepan
In the previous shiur, we discussed at length the verses that tell us about the prayer of Moshe at Har Sinai following חטא העגל, but we did not finish seeing the comments of Rashi and Ramban, that can very much clarify what was actually happening.
We will then move on to the next prayer mentioned in the piyut of selihot: that of Aharon with the firepan of incense. No prayer is explicitly mentioned in the account brought in Parshat Korach. We will discuss the verses that tell the story, and try to understand what exactly might have been his prayer with the help of the perspectives of the classical commentators.
Tefila in Times of Trouble: Aharon with the firepan, Pinhas when he rose up from the assembly
In this shiur, we will examine in depth selected comments of the classical meforshim to answer the questions:
Did Aharon and Pinhas actually pray, in the accounts referred to by the piyut in selihot?
What might have been the actual prayers of Aharon and Pinhas in their respective moments of crisis? What exactly were they wishing for?
This shiur is dedicated by Charles Neuman in memory of his father Monroe Neuman – Menahem ben Mordechai z”l.
Tefila in Times of Trouble: Yehoshua at Gilgal
In this shiur, our last of the summer series, we will attempt to find the prayer of Yehoshua at Gilgal: what was it?
We will also zoom out and sum up what we have learned in this series of shiurim, and see how it can apply to our own prayers today.
Rabbi Yitzhak Zuriel has been enjoying guiding students in how to learn and understand Talmud at WebYeshiva.org since its founding. He began his teaching career as a teacher and educational director at Michlelet Bruria in the 1980s. For over 20 years, he has been working as a software engineer in Jerusalem, and during that time has been an editor and contributor to the company NDS's Torah journal, Chiddushei Torah@NDS, that was published annually from 1996-2014 . He and his wife reside in Ma'ale Adumim and are parents to five children and have many grandchildren.