Simanim 107-108:8 Doubt if One Prayed

  • Rav Asher Meir
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion


SHIUR #58: Simanim 107 - 108:8

Pages 268-271


by Rav Asher Meir






And R. Elazar said: if in doubt if you read Keriat Shema - go back and read; if in doubt if you prayed - do not go back and pray.  But R. Yochanan said, would that a man  prayed all day long!

And R. Yehuda said in the name of Shemuel: if you are in the middle of praying and you remember that you already prayed - stop, even in the middle of a blessing. ...  And R. Yehuda said in the name of Shemuel, if you already prayed and you enter a Beit Knesset and find the congregation praying, if you can originate something, go back and pray again, and if not, don't pray again. (Berakhot 21a)


            R. Yochanan's comment is certainly reasonable of itself - if only a person could stand before God in prayer all day long!  In "Fiddler on the Roof," Tevye dreams that if he were a rich man, the sweetest thing of all would be to spend all day in prayer.  Actually, in the original Shalom Aleichem story Tevye dreams that he would learn Torah all day, but the very fact that the Broadway popularization modified his ideal to that of day-long prayer underscores the extent to which everyone can identify with this ideal.


            However, the comment seems out of context.  Certainly, R. Yochanan must be referring to spontaneous prayer - not to the Amida!  Only a few pages ahead on 26b, the gemara will explain that the three different prayers in the morning, afternoon and evening were instituted by the Patriarchs, and that the morning and afternoon prayers correspond to the morning and afternoon Temidim in the Temple!  "Only three are called Avot" (Berakhot 16b), and likewise we should say "Only three prayers are called 'Prayer' - the Amida;" temidim are brought only once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and bringing others would be a severe transgression.  Furthermore, on 31a we learn, in a near-echo of R. Yochanan's statement: "Could it be that one may pray all day - is it not already explicitly stated in Daniel (6:11) 'Three times a day [he would kneel down and pray]?!.'"


            Different explanations are brought by the Rishonim to explain this inconsistency:


            Rashi and Tosafot explain that R. Yochanan is relating specifically to the scenario of R. Elazar - one who is in doubt if he prayed.  Whenever one is in doubt, says R. Yochanan, just go right ahead and pray.


            The Rif explains that just as the fixed communal prayers are based on the fixed communal "tamid" sacrifices, likewise voluntary private prayers correspond to voluntary private sacrifices - "nedavot," and this is what R. Yochanan refers to.  It follows that the congregation can not make voluntary additional prayers since the community can not bring a nedava, and also that one may not pray Musaf as a nedava since an individual can not bring a Musaf offering, nor may one pray as a nedava on Shabbat or Yom Tov.  The SA rules accordingly.


            R. Hai Gaon and Rabbenu Yona connect R. Yochanan's statement with that of Shemuel in the following paragraph, which permits making an additional prayer with the congregation only if one originates something in the prayer.


            It follows that according to ALL opinions one who is in doubt if he prayed may pray again as a nedava if he originates something in his prayer, and so may one who has already prayed but now wants to join the congregation in Beit Knesset.


            It would seem to follow from Rashi's explanation that one who is in doubt does not need to originate anything in his prayers.  The SA rules this way - does that mean that he rejects R. Hai Gaon's inference?  See MB s.k. 2, and BH d.h. "al da'at."


            According to the Rif, there is a big difference between an ordinary nedava prayer which is definitely voluntary and one which comes due to a doubt, which may possibly be obligatory.  Since according to the Rif a nedava prayer MAY NOT be brought if one thinks it is obligatory - and in such a case one must stop even in the middle of a blessing, as mentioned in Shemuel's first statement - how can one use a nedava to resolve one's doubt?  See MB at the beginning of s.k. 2.


            Another difference is that a prayer brought to resolve a doubt can only be brought during the time period when the doubtful prayer is still due.




            What does it mean to "originate" - "le-chadesh" - something in his prayer?  The Rambam writes that it is necessary to add new private requests in the intermediate blessings - those in which personal requests are permitted.  One should ideally innovate something in each of these blessings, though an innovation in even one is enough to demonstrate that this is a new and voluntary Amida.


            The Tur brings in the name of his father, the Rosh, that the Rambam's explanation doesn't accord with Shemuel's condition that "one CAN originate something" - anyone is capable of adding a new request!  Therefore, he explains that one can originate something if he really has something new to pray for since he last prayed.




            The first BH on our siman seems to drastically modify the rule explicated in the SA and the MB.  This is another example of a generalization I believe I have already mentioned: the purpose of the MB is to summarize the main Acharonim on the SA; the purpose of the BH is not to summarize but rather to contemplate this summary and possibly modify it in the light of the Gemara and Rishonim on the one hand, or of later Acharonim on the other.





            It was asked: may one who erroneously omitted Mincha, pray Ma'ariv twice?  If you acknowledge that one who erroneously omitted Ma'ariv may pray Shacharit twice, perhaps that's because it is all one day, as it is written "And it was even and it was morning, one day," but [not] in this case [since] prayers [tefilla] are in place of sacrifices which can not be brought once their day has passed?  Or perhaps since praying [tzeluta] is a petition for mercy, as long as he wants he can go ahead and pray?  Hear what R. Huna bar Yehuda said in the name of R. Yitzchak in the name of R. Yochanan: one who erroneously omitted Mincha should pray Ma'ariv twice, and there is no problem of bringing a sacrifice whose day has passed.


            They responded [with a beraita]: (Kohelet 1:15)


"The crooked can not be repaired, and the deficiency can not be fulfilled."  "The crooked can not be repaired" - this refers to one who omitted Keriat Shema of the evening of the morning, or the prayers [Tefilla] of the evening or of the morning.  "And the deficiency can not be fulfilled" - this refers to one whose colleagues joined together to perform a mitzva and he was not numbered with them!

R. Yitzchak in the name of R. Yochanan replied, that refers to someone who omitted intentionally.  R. Ashi said, this can be inferred [from the beraita itself] which says "omitted" and not "erroneously omitted."  And so it is proven.


            The Rabbis taught [in a beraita]:


One who erroneously omitted Mincha on Erev Shabbat, should pray twice on Shabbat night. If he erroneously omitted Mincha on Shabbat, on Motzaei Shabbat he should pray two weekday Amida prayers.  In the first one he mentions Havdala but not in the second, and if he mentions in the second one but not in the first, then only the second prayer is counted. (Berakhot 26a-b).




            The reason that Havdala must be mentioned in the FIRST prayer is that the OBLIGATORY prayer must precede the COMPENSATORY prayer.  If one mentions Havdala in the SECOND prayer, it is obvious that he intends THIS prayer to be the OBLIGATORY Saturday night Ma'ariv, and so the previous prayer can not be counted.  The SA in seif 1 makes this generalization.




            The need to say Ashrei between the obligatory and compensatory prayer is cited in the Beit Yosef in the name of the Semak and in the Darkhei Moshe in the name of the Ribash.  The Terumat HaDeshen seems to disagree, though the Darkhei Moshe suggests a reconciliation.




            The halakha mentioned in se'if 3 points out a very important aspect of "tashlumin:" a compensatory prayer invariably duplicates an obligatory one.  The tashlumin prayer follows the time and exact formulation of the CURRENT prayer, not the one which was missed.


            What about a nedava?  Regarding the formulation (nusach), it is logical that the prayer must be said as an obligatory one would be said at that time.  But what about the time?  Can a nedava prayer be brought even during the time period when NO regular Amida may be said, in the half hour following halakhic noon, when the time for Shacharit has passed and the time for mincha has not yet arrived?




            The ruling mentioned here is not unanimous, as mentioned in MB s.k. 19.  According to the Behag (Ba'al Halakhot Gedolot), one may compensate for even two missed prayers, so that at one standing one says three Amida prayers in reverse order: Mincha (obligatory), Shacharit (compensatory), Ma'ariv (compensatory).  But halakha is like the Rashba that one can only recoup a missed prayer in the obligatory prayer immediately following - otherwise, it is like "compensation for the compensation," since even the compensatory prayer was omitted.




            The gemara cited above ties the ability to recoup a missing prayer is dependent on prayer's status as "rachamei" - a petition for mercy.  If prayer were ONLY in place of sacrifice, it would be impossible to make recompense.  If we assume that Musaf is solely in place of a sacrifice, this would explain why a missed Musaf can not be made up.  If, on the other hand, Musaf also involves a petition for mercy, a missed musaf could be made up by repeating Maariv.  (At the time of Mincha there would be no need for tashlumin since Musaf may be recited then.)


            The MB in s.k. 20 brings a different reason.  His reasoning (based on Tosafot Berakhot 26a) seems very surprising.  If he assumes that Musaf has a "mercy aspect," then, according to the regular rules of Tashlumin there is no need to mention sacrifices in the compensatory prayer, just as one does not mention Shabbat in the second Ma'ariv intended to recover a missed Shabbat Mincha.  If the MB assumes that Musaf is SOLELY recited in place of a sacrifice, his reasoning is not needed, since according to the gemara such a prayer can not be made up after the time for the corresponding sacrifice has passed.


            Perhaps the reason brought in the MB is the EXPLANATION for the reasoning of the gemara.  Even the original prayer is not actually a sacrifice, only a mention, so the time should not be critical.  But a prayer based solely on sacrifice could only be made up by mentioning this sacrifice, and it would be incongruous to mention a sacrifice at a time when its time has passed.




            In shiur 54 I cited a story about R. Gustman.  A reader pointed out that this story is told regarding R. Moshe Feinstein, and I could not find the story in the extensive material I have on R. Gustman.  It seems that the shiur should be amended accordingly.


            I am always delighted to receive responses from readers, regarding content, style, or political correctness (secular or religious).