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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth
Can one behave familiarly with Heaven? If he did not recite with attention at first, we hit him with a smith's hammer until he does attend.
MISHNAH. [IF ONE SAYS, LET THE GOOD BLESS THEE, THIS IS A PATH OF HERESY].1 IF ONE WAS PASSING BEFORE THE ARK AND MADE A MISTAKE, ANOTHER SHOULD PASS IN HIS PLACE, AND AT SUCH A MOMENT ONE MAY NOT REFUSE. WHERE SHOULD HE COMMENCE? AT THE BEGINNING OF THE BENEDICTION IN WHICH THE OTHER WENT WRONG. THE READER2 SHOULD NOT RESPOND AMEN AFTER [THE BENEDICTIONS OF] THE PRIESTS3 BECAUSE THIS MIGHT CONFUSE HIM. IF THERE IS NO PRIEST THERE EXCEPT HIMSELF, HE SHOULD NOT RAISE HIS HANDS [IN PRIESTLY BENEDICTION], BUT IF HE IS CONFIDENT THAT HE CAN. RAISE HIS HANDS AND GO BACK TO HIS PLACE IN HIS PRAYER,4 HE IS PERMITTED TO DO SO.
GEMARA. Our Rabbis taught: If one is asked to pass before the Ark, he ought to refuse,5 and if he does not refuse he resembles a dish without salt; but if he persists too much in refusing he resembles a dish which is over-salted. How should he act? The first time he should refuse; the second time he should hesitate; the third time he should stretch out his legs and go down.
Our Rabbis taught: There are three things of which one may easily have too much6 while a little is good, namely, yeast, salt, and refusal.
R. Huna said: If one made a mistake in the first three [of the Tefillah] blessings, he goes back to the beginning; if in the middle blessings, he goes back to 'Thou graciously grantest knowledge;7 if in the last blessings, he goes back to the 'Abodah.8 R. Assi, however, says that in the middle ones the order need not be observed.9 R. Shesheth cited in objection: 'Where should he commence? At the beginning of the benediction in which the other went wrong'.10 This is a refutation of R. Huna, is it not?11 — R. Huna can reply: The middle blessings are all one.12
Rab Judah said: A man should never petition for his requirements either in the first three benedictions or in the last three, but in the middle ones. For R. Hanina said: In the first ones he resembles a servant who is addressing a eulogy to his master; in the middle ones he resembles a servant who is requesting a largess from his master, in the last ones he resembles a servant who has received a largess from his master and takes his leave.
Our Rabbis taught: Once a certain disciple went down13 before the Ark in the presence of R. Eliezer, and he span out the prayer to a great length. His disciples said to him: Master, how longwinded this fellow is! He replied to them: Is he drawing it out any more than our Master Moses, of whom it is written: The forty days and the forty nights [that I fell down]?14 Another time it happened that a certain disciple went down before the Ark in the presence of R. Eliezer, and he cut the prayer very short. His disciples said to him: How concise this fellow is! He replied to them: Is he any more concise than our Master Moses, who prayed, as it is written: Heal her now, O God, I beseech Thee?15 R. Jacob said in the name of R. Hisda: If one prays on behalf of his fellow, he need not mention his name, since it says: Heal her now, O God, I beseech Thee', and he did not mention the name of Miriam.
Our Rabbis taught: These are the benedictions in saying which one bows [in the Tefillah]: The benediction of the patriarchs,16 beginning and end, and the thanksgiving, beginning and end.17 If one wants to bow down at the end of each benediction and at the beginning of each benediction, he is instructed not to do so. R. Simeon b. Pazzi said in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi, reporting Bar Kappara: An ordinary person bows as we have mentioned;
a high priest at the end of each benediction; a king at the beginning of each benediction and at the end of each benediction.1 R. Isaac b. Nahmani said: It was explained to me by R. Joshua b. Levi that an ordinary person does as we have mentioned; a high priest bows at the beginning of each blessing; and a king, once he has knelt down, does not rise again [until the end of the Tefillah], as it says: And it was so that when Solomon had made an end of praying, … he arose from before the Altar of the Lord, from kneeling on his knees.2
Kidah [bowing] is upon the face, as it says: Then Bath-Sheba bowed with her face to the ground.3 Keri'ah [kneeling] is upon the knees, as it says: From kneeling on his knees, prostration is spreading out of hands and feet, as it says: Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren come to prostrate ourselves before thee on the ground.4
R. Hiyya the son of R. Huna said: I have observed Abaye and Raba bending to one side.5 One [Baraitha] taught: To kneel in the thanksgiving benediction is praiseworthy, while another taught: It is reprehensible? — There is no contradiction: one speaks of the beginning,6 the other of the end. Raba knelt in the thanksgiving at the beginning and at the end. The Rabbis said to him: Why does your honour act thus? He replied to them: I have seen R. Nahman kneeling, and I have seen R. Shesheth doing thus. But it has been taught: To kneel in the thanksgiving is reprehensible — That refers to the thanksgiving in Hallel.7 But it has been taught: To kneel in the thanksgiving and in the thanksgiving of Hallel is reprehensible? — The former statement refers to the thanksgiving in the Grace after Meals.8
MISHNAH. IF ONE MAKES A MISTAKE IN HIS TEFILLAH IT IS A BAD SIGN FOR HIM, AND IF HE IS A READER OF THE CONGREGATION9 IT IS A BAD SIGN FOR THOSE WHO HAVE COMMISSIONED HIM, BECAUSE A MAN'S AGENT IS EQUIVALENT TO HIMSELF. IT WAS RELATED OF R. HANINA BEN DOSA THAT HE USED TO PRAY FOR THE SICK AND SAY, THIS ONE WILL DIE, THIS ONE WILL LIVE. THEY SAID TO HIM: HOW DO YOU KNOW? HE REPLIED: IF MY PRAYER COMES OUT FLUENTLY,10 I KNOW THAT HE IS ACCEPTED, BUT IF NOT, THEN I KNOW THAT HE IS REJECTED.11
GEMARA. In which blessing [is a mistake a bad sign]? — R. Hiyya said in the name of R. Safra who had it from a member of the School of Rabbi: In the blessing of the Patriarchs.12 Some attach this statement to the following: 'When one says the Tefillah he must say all the blessings attentively, and if he cannot say all attentively he should say one attentively'. R. Hiyya said in the name of R. Safra who had it from a member of the School of Rabbi: This one should be the blessing of the Patriarchs.
IT WAS RELATED OF RABBI HANINA etc. What is the [Scriptural] basis for this? — R. Joshua b. Levi said: Because Scripture says: Peace to him that is far off and to him that is near, saith the Lord that createth the fruit of the lips, and I will heal him.13
R. Hiyya b. Abba said in the name of R. Johanan: All the prophets prophesied only on behalf of14 one who gives his daughter in marriage to a scholar and who conducts business on behalf of a scholar and who allows a scholar the use of his possessions. But as for the scholars themselves, Eye hath not seen, oh God, beside Thee what He will do for him that waiteth for Him.15
R. Hiyya b. Abba also said in the name of R. Johanan: All the prophets prophesied only for the days of the Messiah, but as for the world to come, 'Eye hath not seen, oh God, beside Thee'. These Rabbis differ from Samuel; for Samuel said: There is no difference between this world and the days of the Messiah except [that in the latter there will be no] bondage of foreign powers, as it says: For the poor shall never cease out of the land.16
R. Hiyya b. Abba also said in the name of R. Johanan: All the prophets prophesied only on behalf of penitents; but as for the wholly righteous, 'Eye hath not seen, oh God, beside Thee'. He differs in this from R. Abbahu. For R. Abbahu said: In the place where penitents stand even the wholly righteous cannot stand, as it says: Peace, peace to him that was far and to him that is near17 — to him that was far first, and then to him that is near. R. Johanan, however, said: What is meant by 'far'? One who from the beginning was far from transgression. And what is meant by 'near'? That he was once near to transgression and now has gone far from it.18 What is the meaning of 'Eye hath not seen'? R. Joshua b. Levi said: This is the wine which has been preserved in its grapes from the six days of Creation.19 R. Samuel b. Nahmani said: This is Eden,20 which has never been seen by the eye of any creature, perhaps you will say, Where then was Adam? He was in the garden. Perhaps you will say, the garden and Eden are the same? Not so! For the text says: And a river went out of Eden to water the garden21 — the garden is one thing and Eden is another.
Our Rabbis taught: Once the son of R. Gamaliel fell ill. He sent two scholars to R. Hanina b. Dosa to ask him to pray for him. When he saw them he went up to an upper chamber and prayed for him. When he came down he said to them: Go, the fever has left him; They said to him: Are you a prophet? He replied: I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I learnt this from experience. If my prayer is fluent in my mouth, I know that he is accepted: but if not, I know that he is rejected.22 They sat down and made a note of the exact moment. When they came to R. Gamaliel, he said to them: By the temple service! You have not been a moment too soon or too late, but so it happened: at that very moment the fever left him and he asked for water to drink.
On another occasion it happened that R. Hanina b. Dosa went to study Torah with R. Johanan ben Zakkai. The son of R. Johanan ben Zakkai fell ill. He said to him: Hanina my son, pray for him that he may live. He put his head between his knees and prayed for him and he lived. Said R. Johanan ben Zakkai: If Ben Zakkai had stuck his head between his knees for the whole day, no notice would have been taken of him. Said his wife to him: Is Hanina greater than you are? He replied to her: No; but he is like a servant before the king,23 and I am like a nobleman before a king.24
R. Kahana said: I consider a man impertinent who prays in a valley.27 R. Kahana also said: I consider a man impertinent who openly28 recounts his sins, since it is said, Happy is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.29
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