Rav Moshe Twersky zt”l Hy”d On the Parsha


moshe-twerski1By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman

ואבא היום…ואמר… (כד:מב) יפה שיחתן של עבדי אבות לפני המקום מתורתן של בנים (רש”י שם)

I once called Rebbi to ask him the following question: Why does the Torah spend so much time on the story of Eliezer’s lengthy conversation; would’t we have seen a higher level of moral instruction from a story of the conversations of the Avos themselves?  Rebbi answered me, “The Avos kept quiet; they didn’t have any light conversation.”

(From Reb Y. Schwob)

…The significance of that interchange can be appreciated through understanding how Rav Twersky felt in general about keeping one’s personal matters private.  He had a friend who would sometimes manage to enage him in conversation regarding things about which Rav Twersky normally would not be forthcoming.  With this particular individual, though, he felt a certain ease that was atypical.  However, even with this friend he was still quite reticent.  This friend wanted Rav Twersky to be more open, and once told him so.  “What’s the story with you, Reb Moshe, why are you always so cagey about telling me what’s on your mind?!”  “My grandfather,” answered Rav Twersky, “told me that a person’s heart is a Kodesh Kadashim.  In the Kodesh Kadashim, even the Kohein Gadol could enter only once a year.”

(Excerpt from the upcoming biography)


Inyanei Teffilah

(Note: This was the last Friday shiur that Rebbi gave before he died al Kiddush Hashem in the midst of davening Shmoneh Esrei).

Although it is not my usual style, I’ll ask you a riddle.  When is one at the end but really in the middle, or at the beginning and really in the middle?

The Eimek Bracha discusses the following shailoh.  Someone forgot yaaleh v’yavoh, and by the time he caught himself later, towards the end of Shmoneh Esrei, the Shaliach Tzibur was already up to Kedusha.  Can he answer Kedusha (Kadosh… and Baruch…)?  The Minsker Gadol says that he can.  Why?  He bases himself on the Gemara in Brachos that talks about someone who flatulates in the middle of Shmoneh Esrei.  Says the Gemara, if one realizes that he will absolutely not be able to restrain the gas from exiting his body, he should take steps back from where he is standing and only release the flatulation there.  After the odor passes, he recites a short teffila which is effectively a request for forgiveness from Hashem from having done so in the middle of Shmoneh Esrei.

Rashi explains that since his Shmoneh Esrei was already interrupted by having stepped back to flatulate, it is ok for him to say this brief teffilah of asking forgiveness (something that would otherwise constitute an inappropriate hefsek in the middle of Shmoneh Esrei.

Based on this, says the Minsker Gadol, one who needs to go back – for example having forgotten yaaleh v’yavoh – can answer Kedusha if he hears it when he caught himself.  All the words that were said after the point of missing yaaleh v’yavoh are anyway an interruption in the Shmoneh Esrei since they don’t count, so his Shmoneh Esrei is already interrupted.  Therefore, he is allowed to answer Kedusha.

The Eimek Bracha argues on this and says that the two cases are not comparable.  When one says words in the middle of Shmoneh Esrei that do not belong – as in the case of all the words said after the point of forgetting yaaleh v’yavoh – it is just that, an interruption of words.  However, it does not interrupt the essential state of teffilah of being omeid lifnei Hashem, standing before the Almighty.  He still is in the midst of teffilah, albeit he inserted words that do not belong.  Answering Kedusha, though, is not merely inserting words that do not belong (hefsek dibur), it is a completely different activity, and by so doing one is stopping teffilah – interrupting the state of being omeid lifnei Hashem – and engaging in something else.  In the case of the Gemara of one who cannot hold back the flatulation in the middle of his Shmoneh Esrei, the taking those steps back and releasing the flatulation is inherently a break in the state of teffilah of being omeid lifnei Hashem.  That is what Rashi means when he says that since the teffilah is already interrupted, he is allowed to insert the request for forgiveness which would otherwise constitute a hefsek.  But in this case of someone who caught the fact that he forgot yaaleh v’yavoh and has to go back, he has not thereby interrupted the basic state of teffilah and there therefore is no precident for allowing him to answer Kedusha.  So, he cannot.

L’maaseh, this shailoh is argued about even amongst contemparory Poskim.  The Sheivet Ha’Levi paskens like the Eimek Bracha that one cannot answer Kedusha in such a situation, whereas the Igros Moshe says that one can, like the Minsker Gadol.

One general point that can be made about this discussion is that the whole shailoh is predicated on the assumption that all the brachos recited after one forgot yaaleh v’yavoh (or the like, for which one must go back) constitute a hefsek, an interruption.  This stems from the assumption that all those brachos cannot be considered a valid continuation of the Shmoneh Esrei; they are l’vatalah.  However, we pointed out in the previous discussion about inyanei teffilah (see Vayigdal Moshe on parshas Lech Lecha) that this is not at all a simple fact.  There are shitos that hold that even if one finished the whole Shmoneh Esrei and has to re-daven because of forgetting yaaleh v’yavoh, v’sein tal u’matar, etc. the brachos that he said in the first Shmoneh Esrei are not l’vatalah.  According to that opinion, the whole shailoh would not be able to get off the ground, because if what he said up until the point that he caught himself was not l’vatalah, then there would be no reason to consider it a hefsek.

Now, according to the shitah of the Eimek Bracha that one is not allowed to answer Kedusha – and he holds that that is true even if the davener is currently holding after finishing ha’mevareich es amo yisrael ba’shalom, because since he has to go back, he is still considered to be in the middle of the Shmoneh Esrei – one could ponder the following question.  What if he does?  What if he did answer to Kedusha?  Can he still go back to R’tzei (or Bareich Aleinu, etc.) or did he thereby ruin it, and will not have to start all over again?  Perhaps, according to the Eimek Bracha, the whole reason he is able to go back to R’tzei is that he is essentially still holding in the middle of Shmoneh Esrei, since his Shmoneh Esrei is as yet incomplete.  Therefore, if he answered Kedusha and thus was mafsik and made a break in the essential state of being omeid lifnei Hashem, perhaps that should be considered a complete interruption to the extent that he can no longer go back and resume his Shmoneh Esrei from where he effectively left off, but must now daven all over again.  Yeish l’ayein.

So far we have the answer to the first part of the riddle.  One has already gotten to the end of Shmoneh Esrei, but is really still in the middle because of the requirement to go back since he forgot yaaleh v’yavoh.

Here is another shailoh.  If someone forgot mashiv ha’ruach (and did not say morid ha’tal), the halacha is that if he finished the bracha he has to back to the beginning of Shmoneh Esrei since the first three brachos are considered to be one unit.  Does he have to repeat “Hashem sefasai tiftach…”?  The Ritva says that he does not.

The Gemara in Brachos says that “Hashem sefasai tiftach…” is an elongated teffilah.  Some say, though, based on this Ritva, that even though it is considered and extension of the teffilah, it is nonetheless not part of the essential body of the Shmoneh Esrei.

However, there is reason to question this assertion.  When a Shaliach Tzibbur recites chazaras ha’shatz, it is an explicit halacha that he must begin with “Hashem sefasai tiftach…”.  The only question is whether he should say it out loud or quietly, but say it he must.

The truth is that there is no proof from the Ritva that “Hashem sefasai tiftach…” is not part of the essential body of the Shmoneh Esrei.  Those that say it is a proof seem to be assuming that when one goes back to the beginning for having forgotten mashiv ha’ruach, it is considered that his first attempt at Shmoneh Esrei was aborted, and this is a brand new Shmoneh Esrei.  But that is just not so.  It is not a brand new Shmoneh Esrei, it is a continuation of the same one as before.  Whenever someone forgets something for which he has to go back, the halacha requires that he go back to where it is possible to go back.  So, for example, when one forgot yaaleh v’yavoh, he cannot go back to Modim, he has to go back to R’tzei.  It just so happens the first three brachos are all considered one, overall unit and one who forgot mashiv ha’ruach therefore must go back to the beginning of that unit.  But that does not mean that he is beginning a new Shmoneh Esrei.  Not at all.  It just happens to be that that is the spot to where he is able to go back.  Therefore, the fact that he does not need to repeat “Hashem sefasai tiftach…” is not a proof at all that it is not part and parcel of the essential body of the Shmoneh Esrei.

So now we have the answer to the second half of the riddle.  He is at the beginning, but he is really still holding in the “middle”.

(Audio Recording, available here http://nermichoel.org/index/shiur/category/sefer-beraishis/subcategory/chayei-sarah/speaker/rabbi-twersky)

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