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By Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom | Series: | Level:

9. Regarding the [mandated daily] T’fillot, we do not diminish their number (i.e. say less than the mandate) but we may add to them. If a person wishes to say T’fillah all day, he is so permitted. All of those T’fillot which he adds are considered similar to offering N’davot (voluntary offerings), therefore he must y’Hadesh Bah Davar (include a new idea) within each of the middle B’rakhot (i.e. requests) which is similar to the [theme of the] B’rakhah. If he only included a new idea in one of the B’rakhot, this is sufficient, in order to notify that this is a N’davah and not an obligatory T’fillah. [RABD: Even if he did not include a new idea.] Regarding the first three [B’rakhot] and the final three [B’rakhot] we never add, diminish or change anything.

This shiur is dedicated to the memory of the seven eighth grade girls who were brutally murdered on 4 Adar II, 5757 at the “Island of Peace”. As we prepare to celebrate Purim, let us never forget that Haman lives and that we must be ever vigilant for the welfare of our people. May haKadosh Barukh bless us with the greatest gift of all – peace. May the bereaved families be comforted among those who mourn for Tziyyon and Yerushalayim and may the memories of young daughters and sisters be a blessing. Tih’yenah Nishmoteihen Tz’rurot biTz’ror haChayim et Hashem.



The issue of voluntary T’fillah is not a simple one – there are both Halakhic and philosophic considerations to address. In this shiur, I hope to address some of the Halakhic concerns; the philosophic issues, including Man’s “right” to address God at will (or even at all), are beyond the scope of this shiur. I would like to direct the Haverim to the famous comments of Ibn Ezra on Kohelet [Ecclestiases] 5:1, the Ritba on Berakhot 21a and, at much greater length, the Rav’s zt”l comments in Shiurim l’Zekher Aba Mari, vol II, p 41 ff.

One prefatory note: Although the Torah obligates the community to offer two daily T’midin – corresponding to which the Rabbis established the two daytime T’fillot (Shacharit and Minchah), an individual may offer a voluntary offering, known as a Korban N’davah. (which is the subject of the first part of this week’s Parashah – Vayyikra). Any scheme which strictly aligns our daily T’fillot with the T’midin must refer – at the very least – to the institution of Korban N’davah upon which to build the notion of T’fillat N’davah.




In the Gemara (BT Berakhot 21), we read:

R. Elazar said: If he was in doubt as to whether or not he read K’riat Sh’ma, he should reread it; however, if he was in doubt as to whether or not he said T’fillah, he does not go back and say T’fillah. R. Yohanan said: Ideally a person should say T’fillah all day.”

This ruling of R. Yohanan is subject to various interpretations; but first let’s consider R. Elazar’s ruling:

a) He may intend to say that there is no obligation to say this T’fillah since that specific T’fillah is Rabbinic (since there will have undoubtedly been at least one more T’fillah said that day – even if it said later; keep in mind that even Rambam, who maintains that there is a Mitzvah d’Orayta of T’fillah limits this to one T’fillah per day) and we generally rule that Safek d’Rabanan l’Kula – a doubt regarding Rabbinic law is handled leniently. R. Elazar, however, might still hold that saying this T’fillah is permissible – even positive. If that is the case, R. Yohanan must be arguing that there is an obligation to say this T’fillah (otherwise, what is their dispute?)

b) R. Elazar might hold that saying this “questionable” T’fillah is forbidden – and this on one of two grounds:

1) B’rakhah l’Vatalah – (a vain B’rakhah). Not only is it forbidden to say God’s Name in vain (for no Halakhically mandated purpose), but even saying a needless B’rakhah in such a way that God’s Name is not said in vain (e.g. in another language) is a “branch” of this d’Orayta violation (see MT Berakhot 1:15). If the person is not Halakhically obligated to say this T’fillah, he would be reciting 19 needless B’rakhot.

2) Bal Tosif – The Torah (in two places – D’varim [Deuteronomy] 4:2 & 13:1) forbids us from adding (or diminishing) the number of any particular Mitzvah (e.g. 5 or 3 scrolls in the T’fillin, 2 or 4 blessings in the Kohanic B’rakhah etc.). Since the daily T’fillot are patterned after the daily T’midin (see earlier shiurim), it may be that reciting another T’fillah could be understood as breaching the number system of daily Avodah [worship].

Either of these two explanations leaves us wondering about R. Yohanan; does he merely allow this “questionable” T’fillah to be said, or does he go further and obligate it?

Any way that we understand R. Yohanan – as allowing or even obligating this T’fillah – we have to understand his reasoning. We have, a priori, two options:

a) R. Yohanan sees nothing wrong in saying T’fillot as often as necessary – indeed, he finds this to be laudatory. That being the case, he finds no motivation to rule “leniently” in the case of doubt and holds that in case someone doesn’t know if he said T’fillah, he should repeat it. In this case, he doesn’t hold that either concern (B’rakhah l’Vatalah or Bal Tosif) applies to T’fillah.

b) R. Yohanan sees something inherently positive in the activity of T’fillah; even though in normal circumstances, he wouldn’t encourage saying extra T’fillot (due to one of the concerns raised above), in case of doubt, this positive consideration outweighs the concerns with “vain B’rakhot” and the like.

Truth to tell, from R. Yohanan’s statement in Berakhot, we don’t have enough support to allow for totally voluntary T’fillah – all we have is (at least) permission to say T’fillah in the case of doubt.



In its discussion of R. Yohanan’s statement that “Tish’a b’Av is not considered a communal fast”, the Gemara suggests that the implication is that it has no T’fillat Ne’ilah. The Gemara challenges this inference by quoting our citation of R. Yohanan – “ideally, a person should say T’fillah all day”. The Gemara resolves this with the following split: The one case (ours) is Hovah (obligatory; i.e. our statement is that there is no requirement of saying Ne’ilah on Tish’a b’Av) while the other (R. Yohanan’s “ideal”) is R’shut (voluntary; i.e. that a person is allowed to say non-obligatory T’fillot).

Here we are faced with strong evidence that R. Yohanan’s statement implies totally voluntary T’fillot – not just those said in case of doubt (See, however, Tosafot’s comments at Pesahim 54b s.v. v’ha’Amar R. Yohanan).

Putting these two applications of R. Yohanan’s statement together, we are left with the conclusion that according to R. Yohanan, a voluntary “extra” T’fillah may be said – and, most certainly, in case of doubt. This extra T’fillah, however, is a bit vague. May it be any sort of T’fillah or must it conform to the general structure of T’fillah (e.g. 3 prefatory “praise” B’rakhot etc.)? In addition, must this T’fillah be said within the general time-frame of a T’fillah? Note that both cases we have encountered place R. Yohanan’s “extra” T’fillah into the context of another T’fillah – and within its time-frame. In the case of doubt, we assume that the person is still within Z’man T’fillah (the proper time for that T’fillah) when he is first beset by doubt. In the case of Ne’ilah, the question is whether or not a normative T’fillah, which is obligatory on certain other days (e.g. Yom haKippurim, certain other fast days) may be said at the same time on Tish’a b’Av. This doesn’t necessariliy mean that someone who is moved to say T’fillah may do so in the middle of the day.

We have seen that if we accept R. Yohanan’s opinion as normative, we seem to have unearthed the Halakhic possibility for voluntary T’fillah. We do not yet know which of the two approaches to understanding R. Yohanan (above) is accurate. In addition, we do not know how far afield this T’fillah may exist from the regulated three T’fillot, nor do we know to what extent this T’fillah must conform to the usual liturgical considerations of T’fillah.



Two sugyot which are juxtaposed to our first encounter with R. Yohanan may offer us some insight:

R. Yehudah said in the name of Sh’mu’el: If someone was saying T’fillah and realized that he had already said [that] T’fillah, he should stop, even in the middle of a B’rakhah…

This statement seems to contradict R. Yohanan’s ruling, as we pieced it together. As pointed out above, Tosafot (both in Pesahim and here in Berakhot s.v. v’Rabbi Yohanan) indicate that R. Yohanan’s ruling only applied to a case of doubt (our second approach above), but in case he knew that he had already said that T’fillah, he would not permit saying another.

While it certainly possible to challenge this reading and maintain that R. Yohanan rejects Sh’mu’el’s ruling, there may be another way to “hold on” to T’fillat N’davah without leaving it a subject of dispute.

Beginning with R. Hai Ga’on (Otzar haGe’onim, Berakhot, pp. 50-51), followed by Rif (Berakhot 12b-13a), Ra’aviah (#64) among many other Rishonim, the following solution was proposed:

Sh’mu’el’s ruling only applies to someone who begins his (repeated) T’fillah intending it as an obligatory T’fillah. This is a violation of either B’rakhah l’Vatalah or Bal Tosif, therefore he must stop in the middle. (By the way, Sh’mu’el’s ruling seems to favor B’rakhah l’Vatalah; since, if he was concerned with Bal Tosif, that has perhaps already been violated.) He would, goes the thinking, agree with R. Yohanan that a voluntary T’fillah may be said without fear of violation.

There is a third way to understand Sh’mu’el: He was not ruling that this “erroneous” T’fillah must be stopped in mid-B’rakhah – merely that it may be stopped. If, however, the person wished to continue (as a N’davah), this is okay. Although this is a difficult approach to reconcile within the Gemara, it is RABD’s understanding of Sh’mu’el vis-a-vis R. Yohanan. (In his glosses on Rif, Berakhot 13a in Rif pages.)



Following Sh’mu’el’s ruling about “remembering” that T’fillah has already been said, we find a second statement in his name:

R. Yehudah said in the name of Sh’mu’el: If he had already said T’fillah [in a non-communal setting] and found a Tzibbur (community – at least a minyan) who were saying T’fillah; if he can innovate something in [his T’fillah], he should say T’fillah and if not, he should not say T’fillah.

This statement, besides underscoring the heightened experience of T’fillah b’Tzibbur, introduces a new concept into T’fillah – Hiddush (innovation).

We are presented with the idea that a second T’fillah may be justified with two conditions: That there is an increased Halakhic or experiential value to this T’fillah (in this case, the fact that it is being said with the Tzibbur) and that some new idea is introduced into the T’fillah.

We can then look back at R. Yohanan and posit two possible approaches:

a) In order to lend validity to this second T’fillah, there must be some enhancement of the experience of T’fillah and a new idea must be introduced (which may serve to “justify” its being said). Regarding the enhanced experience, we could argue that whatever is motivating this second T’fillah (a desire to be closer to God, a “forgotten” special request, a new desire or need which was not expressed previously etc.) serves as the corrolary for the T’fillah b’Tzibbur in Sh’mu’el’s formulation. This leaves us requiring some measure of innovation to justify this T’fillah. This approach synthesizes R. Yohanan and the second statement of Sh’mu’el.

b) It is possible that Sh’mu’el’s ruling is not relevant to R. Yohanan’s. It is possible that Sh’mu’el was addressing a purely Halakhic and obligatory hierarchical value judgement (T’fillah said along vs. T’fillah B’Tzibbur) and his demand for Hiddush was presented to assuage any concern that by saying the second T’fillah, it would cast aspersions on the earlier one and perhaps lead someone to think that T’fillah said alone is invalid. R. Yohanan, on the other hand, seems to be addressing a situation where an individual who earnestly prayed (even b’Tzibbur) is moved to say T’fillah again. This act is itself a monumental Hiddush and needs no liturgical Hiddush.

Whereas it would seem that R. Hai Ga’on, Rambam, Rabbenu Yonah and most Rishonim accept the first approach, RABD clearly rejects it. In his gloss on our Halakhah, RABD permits a T’fillat N’davah to be said without Hiddush. (Note that RABD, in his glosses on Rif, indicates that Sh’mu’el’s earlier Halakhah about stopping in the middle of a T’fillah, is only permission to stop and not an obligation.)



As we noted, Rambam (and most Rishonim) do insist on a Hiddush in the middle B’rakhot in a T’fillat N’davah. (By the way, this Hiddush is, as Rambam points out, some personal request which is associated with the theme of that B’rakhah. For instance, asking for forgiveness for a particular transgression during the B’rakhah “S’lach Lanu” would constitute a Hiddush.)

Whereas Sh’mu’el’s Halakhah (upon which our assigning the requirement of Hiddush to R. Yohanan is presumably founded) seems to require only one Hiddush, Rambam introduces the ideal of Hiddush in each of the middle B’rakhot. What is his reasoning here?

We have to consider a person’s motivation in saying a T’fillat N’davah. Rambam compares this to a Korban N’davah (see introduction). He may be saying this formulistically – that in order to justify this T’fillah within the scheme of T’midin, we may assign it correlation to a Korban N’davah. There may, however, be another dimension to the Korban-T’fillah correspondence here.

What is a Korban N’davah? It isn’t just an obligatory Korban brought under other circumstances or with other motivations. The entire motivation and environment of a Korban N’davah is different – it speaks not of obligation and duty, rather of a passion to come close to God. As such, the entire Korban is, to cite the verse, a “pleasing odor to YHVH”.

In much the same way, Rambam maintains that there are two possible approaches to God: The obligatory and the voluntary. The obligatory approach – which is the sine qua non of the Halakhic experience – is formulated in norms which apply to all, regardless of internal passions which may or may not be brewing at the time. The voluntary approach speaks to everybody at their station in life at that particular time and calls them to come close to God at a pace commensurate with this motivation. T’fillat N’davah is not an obligatory T’fillah said by someone who wants to “do it again”; it is an wholly other experience. In order to accentuate this, the very core of T’fillah (request) must have each of its parts (like the limbs of the Korban) set aside as unique – with a Hiddush.

In the final analysis, however, even if only one Hiddush exists which sets this T’fillah apart – it serves to indicate the particular nature of this T’fillat N’davah.

now, to the questions:

– Q1: Isn’t it obvious that we do not say any less than the mandated number of T’fillot per day? Why does Rambam have to begin this Halakhah with this statement?
YE Yitz Etshalom ([email protected]):
Rambam is building on the language of the Mishnah (Megillah – 4th chapter) which identifies the various occasions for the public reading of the Torah (e.g. Monday & Thursday, fasts etc.) and indicates the required number of Olim (people called up to read from the Torah) with that formula: “We do not diminish the number and we do not add” (whenever 3 or 4 are called up) or “We do not diminish the number but we may add” (when more than 4 Olim are called for). This pattern is simply easy to memorize (as was the need in the case of the Mishnah). Rambam is utilizing this form to indicate that although the d’Orayta obligation is one T’fillah a day (as above, Halakhah 3), the Rabbinic mandate of 3 is the Halakhic standard which may not be diminished. One might mistakenly think that just as there is the possibility of a T’fillat N’davah above and beyond the three minimum daily T’fillot, similarly, any T’fillot said after the first one that day are considered a “N’davah” and may be omitted.

– Q2: What is the meaning of – and source for – the ruling that a person may say T’fillah all day?
YE: R. Yohanan (BT Berakhot 21a – see shiur above).

– Q3: Why does Rambam have to “align” added T’fillot with N’davot?
YE: See introduction to shiur above.

– Q4: Why does the connection with N’davah imply the need for an innovation in the T’fillah?
YE: See shiur above.

– Q5: What is the nature of such innovation?
YE: See shiur above.

– Q6: Rambam presents and ideal (innovation in each request) and a minimum (one request); what is the rationale behind this?
YE: See shiur above.

– Q7: RABD suggests a more lenient approach; but the wording is enigmatic. Is he saying that no innovation is necessary or that a T’fillat N’davah said without one is still valid?
YE: See shiur above.

– Q8: Why are the first and last three B’rakhot “untouchable”?
YE: Since the essential motivation for T’fillah is Bakashah (request), this then becomes the area of (permissible) (ideal) innovation. To maintain the structure and consistency of T’fillah, it is imperative that the (prefatory) praise and (concluding) thanks conform to general composition.