Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sotah 33a - Davening in Languages other than Loshon Hakodesh

The gemara says that one may daven in any language because tefilla is rachamim, as rashi explains that it is appropriate to daven in whatever language one is able to concentrate on best. However, the gemara qualifies this to be only when one davens with a minyan, but when one davens privately and requires intervention from the mal'achim then they can only daven in Hebrew. This is based on those Rishonim (see maharsha in chidushei agados and Taz Y.D. 338:4) that all languages are like aramaic, but according to thos rishonim who hold that the issue is specific to aramaic, then even an individual can daven in any language. The Shulchan Aruch (101:4) at first says that a yachid must daven in loshon hakodesh, but then brings those who say that any established tefillah such as shemoneh esrei can be said in other languages even by a yachid. Furthermore, he cites those rishonim who limit the concern to aramaic, but other languages can be used even by a yachid. The Biur Halacha (101:4) cites advantages to the hebrew language, but acknowledges that if one davens [in a tzibur where there one is technically allowed to daven in other languages] in a language they understand for the purpose of having better kavana, it is commendable [as rashi seems to imply].
The Mishna Berura (101:13) quotes from the chasam sofer that the heter to daven in other languages is only temporarily, but it is forbidden to establish the tefillah in other languages (even and especially b'tzibur). The M.B. references the sefer habris where many gedolim wrote teshuvos bashing the movements that formally changed the language of tefillah from loshon hakodesh. He also bashes them for omitting the brachos for yerushalaim and the kibutz galiyos, and concludes (his language paraphrases the chasam sofer (C.M. 193 last paragraph) -
"וכשם שרוצים להשכיח זכרון ירושלים כן רוצים להשכיח לשון הקודש מישראל, פן יגאלו בזכות שלא שינו את לשונם, הקב"ה ישמרנו מדעות אפיקורסות כאלו". The Chasam Sofer (C.M. 192) has a teshuva to his father in law, R' akiva eiger, explaining that the tefillah was originally instituted in loshon hakodesh even at a time where most jews where not familiar with the language, therefore it denigrates Hashem to change it -
"ואם אנשים וקטנים אינם מבינים יטריחו להבינם וללמדם לשון הקודש שאפילו לשונות הגויים לומדם, ואיך לא ינהוג כבוד זה לה' אלקינו".
But, the most powerful statement is made by the Tiferes Yisroel (Boaz). He is bothered by why the Rabbonim even bothered to deal with this issue from a halachic perspective whether you can or cannot daven in other languages. The rationale is simple:
כיון שרוב חכמי ישראל שהן הן עמודי התורה חוששים שעל ידי זה יפול כבוד קדושת הישנות, אשר בכללם שמירתנו החוקים הישנים הנושנים, אפילו יהא חששתם עוד כ"כ רחוקה וחלשה, צותה התורה בלאו ד"לא תסור" לשמוע בקולם...ולא תהא המשנה הקדושה גדולה מפסוק שלם, ואפילו היה מצוה שלימה מפורשת בתורה להתפלל בלשון אשכנז יש כח ביד חכמי הדור לפי אומד דעתם לפי הזמן לעקור דבר מה"ת בשב וא"ת כשעושין כן למגדר מלתא, ואפילו היו החולקים עלינו בזה תלמידי חכמים וצדיקים, הלכה כרבים, ולכן כל המשנה ידו על התחתונה

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


The Netziv (Devarim 1:45), commenting upon the pasuk "and God did not listen to your voices nor did he pay attention to your requests," claims that there are two forms of tefila. The first category is the formal legal petition that man presents to God in an organized manner, akin to a defendant who hires a lawyer to plead his case in the royal court. This sort of tefila requires the proper decorum expected in such circumstances; proper dress, procedural rules, use of official language etc. As the lawyer arguing the case in court follows these rules and addresses the sovereign in the language of the land, so, too, is the situation of the prayer who approaches God through the medium of formal tefila.

There is, in his opinion, an official form of tefila that is regulated by rules based upon the paradigm of appearance in the Heavenly court in front of the King of Kings. These dictate the format of Shmoneh Esrei, the posture of prayer, the propriety of dress and many other details, including the need to petition the KBH in His official language.

The other avenue of tefila is the informal, impulsive flinging oneself on the KBH's mercy in which a person cries out to his Father in Heaven from the depths of an aching heart. The Netziv compares this form of prayer to the mother who breaks through the lines and throws herself at the King's feet to plead for her condemned son. It is this tefila that Chazal characterized as "Rachmana liba ba'i" (God seeks the heart) and it is only in regard to it that the Mishna legitimized the use of all languages.