Parshas Vayera.


The laws of the morning prayer.


1. There are many laws regarding different parts of the morning prayers, and we divided them into three sections. The laws of Pesuke Dezimra – psalms pronounced in the beginning, will be discussed in Parshas Beshalach. The laws of Shema are in Parshas Vaeschanan. In this Parsha we will discuss the laws pertaining to the main prayer – Shemone Esre – eighteen blessings.  This prayer is very deep, it was composed by 120 elders many of whom were Biblical prophets. However, for many people it is difficult to concentrate when pronouncing the entire prayer. We will translate here only the first blessing, understanding it – is the minimal requirement, the one who prayed without concentration even on this blessing did not fully fulfill his obligation.


“Blessed are You, our Eternal God and the God of our forefathers, God of Avraham, God of Yitzchak, and God of Yakov, Great, Mighty and Awesome God, Exalted God Giver of goodness and Master of all, Who remembers the love of the fathers, and brings a redeemer to their children’s children, for His Name’s sake, with love. King, Helper, Savior and Shield. Blessed are You God, the Shield of Avraham.


The last part of the blessing is the most crucial. As Rabbi Arye Kaplan explains, one has to concentrate on the four descriptions of the Creator feeling Him closer and closer. He is the King, sitting on His great throne; but His is the Helper – on His help we can rely; but He is the Savior – even when we do not call Him, He constantly rescues us; and at last, He is the Shield – He is absolutely close – directly before us, protecting us from danger.


2. The best time for the morning prayer is to begin Shemone Esre with sunrise. Nevertheless, one can pray it from dawn and up to a third of the day (approximately till ten in the morning, in many Jewish calendars the latest time of this prayer is published for each day of the year). If one did not pray till this time, he can still pray till the midday.


3. Shemone Esre is said standing in one place, not leaning on anything. It is preferable to face the wall while praying, so that one will not be distracted. One should try to face Jerusalem during the prayers. The words of Shemone Esre are whispered quietly – this is our most intimate prayer to the Creator.


4. Four times during the prayer we bow down to the Creator – in the beginning and at the end of the first and pre-last blessings. After the end of the prayer we walk three steps back while bended. The detailed laws of bowing down are described in the Sidurs.


5. It is forbidden to pray or to pronounce any blessings when one needs to go to the bathroom. It is forbidden to even think about Torah in places where it smells badly, and in the toilet or bathroom even if there is no smell there. If there is an immodestly dressed woman in front of a man, he cannot say any blessings. A woman is allowed to pray even if there are immodestly dressed women or men in front of her, as long as they are not completely undressed.


6. A drunken person cannot pray Shemone Esre until he becomes sober to such a degree that he could speak before a king.


7. There are various additions to Shemone Esre during different seasons. For example, in the summer we mention, that the Creator gives dew, and in the winter – that He sends rain. In days of Rosh Chodesh (new moon) we add a special prayer in honor of this day in the seventeenth blessing. During the ten days of repentance (between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) we mention, that the Creator is the Holy King, judging the world, and so on. All additional prays are printed in the Sidurs as well as what to do if one mistakenly forgot to mention what is necessary.


8. When the person prays in a synagogue, after the end Shemone Esre he waits and listens as the leader of the congregation repeats this prayer. Before the third blessing he says Kedusha – the sanctification of the Creator. The Sidurs describe what the leader of the congregation has to say and what the people answer. It is most important to answer three verses:


“KADOSH, KADOSH, KADOSH ADONOY TZEVAOS, MELO CHOL HOORETZ KEVODO” – “Holy, Holy, Holy is the God of Hosts, the whole Earth is full of His glory”.


“BORUCH KEVOD ADONOY MIMKOMO” – “Blessed is the Glory of God from His place”.


“YIMLOCH ADONOY LEOLOM, ELOHAICH TZIYON, LEDOR VADOR, HALELUYO” – “The God will rule forever, your God, O Zion, from generation to generation, Halleluyo.”


9. When the leader of the congregation reaches the pre-last blessing everybody bows down together with him and pronounce a special prayer of thanksgiving “Modim Derabonan”.


10. It is a special mitzvah to pray with a congregation. The one who prays at home is not able to pronounce neither Kedusha nor Modim Derabonan. Moreover, the prayer of a congregation is accepted by the Creator favorably. With all that, one is not allowed to break any prohibitions in order to pray in a congregation. For example, it is strictly forbidden to ride in a car or a bus to the synagogue on Shabbos or Yom Tov, if there is no synagogue nearby, one should pray at home.