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Chapter 18: 1-3
Laws Pertaining to Shemoneh Esreh

1.The time in which we are commanded to recite the Shemoneh Esreh* begins at the appearance of the sun, as [Psalms 72:5] states: "May they see You with the sun." Nevertheless, a person who recited the Shemoneh Esreh between dawn and the appearance of the sun is considered to have fulfilled his obligation.

* {The Hebrew -tefilloh- is generally translated as prayer. However, in halachic terminology, it specifically refers to the Shemoneh Esreh prayers. Accordingly, in this chapter (and throughout the text), when the meaning of the word is confined to that specific application, we have translated the term as "Shemoneh Esreh." When the concepts apply in particular to the Shemoneh Esreh, but can in a more total sense, be applied to the entire prayer service, we have translated the term as "prayer."}

The time for its recitation continues until a third of the day has passed. It is forbidden to delay one's prayers any longer. However, after the fact, if one transgressed and delayed one's prayers one may recite the Shemoneh Esreh until noon.* This applies even if the delay was intentional. Though a person who recites the Shemoneh Esreh at this time does not receive the reward of one who prays at the required time, he still receives reward for prayer.

* {According to the halachah noon is not necessarily exactly 12:00 AM. Rather it is the midpoint between sunrise and sunset. Thus, in daylight saving time, on the average, noon is 1:00 PM and not 12:00. Furthermore, depending on the time of year and latitude and longitude of a city, there may be certain other fluctuations of the exact hour of noon. For example, if the sun rises at 5:45 AM and sets at 5:45 PM, noon is 11:45 AM.}

If a person transgressed and intentionally did not pray until past noon, there is not way he can compensate of this act, [Ecclesiastes 1:15] refers to such a deed as: "the crookedness that cannot be made straight." The laws concerning a person who inadvertently did not recite the Shemoneh Esreh or was prevented from reciting it are explained in Chapter 21.

2. When a person reaches the words tehillos l'El elyon [in the blessing go'al Yisroel], he should rise and prepare himself for the Shemoneh Esreh prayers. He should rise and prepare himself for the Shemoneh Esreh prayers. He should remove all spittle and mucus from his mouth, and turn his attention from any matter that will disturb his thoughts.

He should take three steps backwards and recite from tehillos l'El elyon until go'al Yisroel, and then take three steps forward, as one who approaches and comes close to the king.

By no means should an interruption be made between go'al Yisroel and the Shemoneh Esreh, even for Kaddish, Kedushoh, and Borchu, so that [the blessing praising G-d for our] redemption is followed directly by the Shemoneh Esreh prayers.

One should plan the recitation of this blessing in order to conclude go'al Yisroel together with the chazon. Were a person to finish before the chazon, there would be a question whether he should respond "Amen" to the chazon's blessing or not.* However, when he also finishes the blessing at the same time as the chazon, he surely need not recite "Amen" for one does not recite "Amen" after one's own blessings. (See Chapter 6, Law 11.)

* {A person who completes his prayers before the chazon may respond "Amen" when he hears the conclusion of the blessing (Ramoh, Shulchon Oruch, Orach Chayim 66:7).}

In the evening service, since the blessing before the Shemoneh Esreh does not conclude with go'al Yisroel, one is permitted to make all the interruptions allowed "between the sections" (as described in Chapter 16) at this time.

Before the Shemoneh Esreh, one should recite the verse, "G-d, open my lips..." (Psalms 51:17). This verse is not considered an interruption since it is relevant to the prayers. However, the verse "I will call forth the name of G-d..." (Deuteronomy 32:3) is considered an interrption. Hence, it should only be recited before the Shemoneh Esreh of musaf and minchah. Then, it should be recited before "G-d, open my lips..."

3. A person who prays should picture himself as if the Divine Presence is resting before him, as [Eichah 2:19] states: "Pour out you heart like water in the presence of G-d." He should arouse his concentration and remove any thoughts that bother him,until his thoughts and his concentration are purified for prayer.

He should meditate on how, were he to be standing before a monarch of flesh and blood, he would surely order his statements and concentrate upon them so as not to err. Surely, this applies when standing before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He. In His presence, one must concentrate his thoughts, for before G-d, blessed be He, thought is the same as speech and He probes all our thoughts.

Before, prayer, one should meditate on the exaltedness of G-d, blessed be His name, and the insignificance of man, and remove the desire for all human pleasures from one's heart.


     Laws Pertaining to Shemoneh Esreh
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Halacha-Yomi, Copyright (c) 1999 Project Genesis, Inc.

 






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