Sacred Texts  Judaism  Index  Previous  Next 

Tractate Berakoth, by , by A. Lukyn Williams, [1921], at

The Posture and Attention in Prayer.

M.V. 1. Men stand 4 not to pray save with solemnity. 5 The pious of former time used to wait for one hour and then pray, so that they might direct their intention upon God. 6 Should the King 7 salute him, let him not return the

p. 36

M.salutation. And should even a snake 1 twist round his heel, he should not make a pause.

T. III. 4. Ben Azzai says: Everyone whose body suffers because of his learning 2—it is a favourable sign for him; if his learning because of his body, it is a bad sign for him. Everyone whose mind is disordered because of his learning it is a favourable sign for him; and everyone whose learning is disordered because of his mind, 3 it is a bad sign for him. He that prayeth must direct his intention to it. Abba Saul 4 says, The Memoria technica 5 for the Prayer is, "When Thou directest their heart, Thou wilt cause Thine ear to hear." 6

5. R. Judah said: When R. Aqiba was praying with the congregation he used to shorten [his prayers, hurrying] in front of them all; when he was praying quite alone, if a man left him on this side (of the room) he would come and find him on the other side, because of the bowings and prostrations that he used to make. 7

6. Perhaps a man should pray the whole day long? He has clearly said in the case of Daniel: "three times a day was he kneeling upon his knees," 8 etc. Perhaps [this was] from the time that he came into Captivity? It is expressly said: "as he did aforetime." Perhaps one should say it loud enough for oneself to hear? He has clearly said in

p. 37


the case of Hannah: "Now Hannah, she was speaking in her heart1 etc. Perhaps we should include them all (the Eighteen) at one sitting? He has expressly stated in the case of David: "Evening, and morning, and noonday," 2 etc. "Evening "that is, evening prayer; "morning"—that is, morning prayer; "noonday"—that is afternoon prayer (Minchah). Perhaps one should ask for what one needs and then depart (without saying the Benediction)? He has expressly stated in the case of Solomon: "to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer3 "cry"—that is chanting (in praise), and so he says: "Cry aloud, ye righteous, in the LORD," 4 etc. We do not say anything after "True and sure," 5 but we do say things after the Prayer, even though it be the Order of Confession of the Day of Atonement. 6

14. A blind man, and whoever is not able to determine the direction in which he faces, direct their intentions to God 7 and pray; for it is said: "and they shall pray towards the LORD." 8

15. They who stand [praying] outside the [Holy] Land set their intention opposite the land of Israel, and pray; for it is said: "and they pray towards the LORD in the direction of their land 9 which Thou hast chosen." They who stand in the land of Israel set their intention opposite Jerusalem and pray; for it is said: "and they pray towards this city." 10

16. They who stand in Jerusalem set their intention opposite the Sanctuary, and pray; for it is said: "and they pray towards this place." 11 a If they find themselves standing on the north [of the

p. 38


temple] their faces should be towards the south, if standing on the south their faces should be towards the north, if standing on the east their faces should be towards the west, if standing on the west their faces should be towards the east, and so all Israel find themselves praying to one place.

17. A man may not stand upon a bed, nor upon a seat, nor upon a bench, and pray, for there may be no high position before God; 1 for it is said: "Out of the depths have cried unto thee, O LORD." 2 if he is old, or ill, behold, then it is permissible. 3

20. Suppose a man is standing and praying in a camp 4 or in an open highway, behold, he avoids an ass or an ass-driver or a seller of pots; 5 he does not pause [in his prayer]. They say concerning R. Chanina ben Dosa, that he was standing and praying, and an ‘arod 6 bit him, and he made no pause. His disciples went and found it dead on the mouth of its hole. They said: Woe to the man whom an ‘arod has bitten; [but] woe to the ‘arod which bit ben Dosa.

21. We do not stand up to pray straightway from conversation, nor from laughter, nor from frivolity, nor from idle talk, but (we do) from learned discourse.

And so a man should not take leave of his companion straightway from conversation, nor from laughter, nor from idle talk, nor from frivolity, but from learned discourse. For so we find in the

p. 39


case of the prophets of old 1 that they closed their words with words of praise and supplications. 2


35:1 ten Benedictions. The first three and last three of the Eighteen, three for New Year's Day (SA, pp. 241 sq.), and one for the sabbath (see Laible).

35:2 nine [(Benedictions)]. Not adding a special Benediction about the sabbath.

35:3 SA, p. 238.

35:4 stand. i.e. to say the Eighteen (cf. pp. 4 sq.).

35:5 with solemnity. The phrase is literally "with heaviness of head," i.e. with bending it down, but probably the expression is here solely metaphorical, in contrast to "lightness of head," i.e. irreverence, cf. T. III. 21 (p. 38). It is not far removed from the phrase "the poor in spirit" (Matt 53).

35:6 God. Lit.: the Place (p. 29). B has "their Father who is in heaven."

35:7 the King. An Israelite, for to a heathen king one must answer, for fear of the consequences (Bartenora).

36:1 a snake. An ordinary one, which does not generally bite. But in the case of a viper or a scorpion, which certainly bite and kill, he should pause (Bartenora).

36:2 learning. Lit.: "wisdom," and so throughout this section.

36:3 mind. da‘ath, perhaps constitution.

36:4 Abba Saul. Of the third generation of mishna teachers, c. 130-160 A.D.

36:5 memories technica. Lit.: "sign."

36:6 Ps. 1017.

36:7 The section shows the earnestness with which the great teacher prayed.

36:8 Dan. 610. The phrases in the case of Daniel, Hannah, David, Solomon are literally "in Daniel," etc., and possibly are of the same type as on p. 79.

37:1 1 Sam. 113.

37:2 Ps. 5517.

37:3 1 Kings 828.

37:4 Ps. 331.

37:5 "True and sure" (’Emeth wyatzib), cf. p. 7.

37:6 After the Prayer (Tephillah) serious variations may begin, exclusive of minor variations in the Tephillah itself.

37:7 God. Lit.: "the Place."

37:8 1 Kings 844.

37:9 their land. Not verbally in 1 Kings 844.

37:10 Again, not verbally correct.

37:11 this place. This also is not verbally exact.

38:1 = the Place, and so, often.

38:2 Ps. 1301.

38:3 On this section see "The Hebrew-Christian Messiah," p. 237.

38:4 camp. στρατεία.

38:5 a seller of pots (qaddar). But Kahan's emendation in Laible to qarrar, or rather qârār (waggoner) may be accepted.

38:6 an ‘arod. Usually a wild ass, but here evidently a species of venomous snake. The story comes also in T. J. V. 1. (p. 9a), but rather differently in T. B. 33a.

39:1 the prophets of old. Literally "the former prophets," but this technical term for the Books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings can hardly be intended here.

39:2 For the principle compare the direction of the Massoretes to repeat Isa. 6623 after ver. 24.

Next: M. V. 2; T. III. 9. The Mention of, and the Petition for, Rain, also the Habdalah, in the Prayer