Brachot 31 – Hannah’s prayer

Today’s daf has some more fascinating insights into prayer. It is interesting that we are told that the Rabbis instituted the 3 daily prayer services as these were the times that our forefathers prayed. However we are not told how we should pray at these times (or indeed how our forefathers themselves went about prayer). For that we need to look at the prayer of Hannah. The Talmud learns several laws relevant to prayer from how Hannah prayed.

אמר רב המנונא: כמה הלכתא גברוותא איכא למשמע מהני קראי דחנה: שמואל א’ א’ וחנה היא מדברת על לבה – מכאן למתפלל צריך שיכוין לבו. רק שפתיה נעות – מכאן למתפלל שיחתוך בשפתיו. וקולה לא ישמע – מכאן, שאסור להגביה קולו בתפלתו. ויחשבה עלי לשכרה – מכאן, ששכור אסור להתפלל

Rav Hamnuna said: How many significant [halakhot] can be derived from these verses [of the prayer] of Hannah? (see verse I Samuel 1:13). From [that which is stated] here: “And Hannah spoke in her heart,” [the halakha that] one who prays must focus his heart [on his prayer is derived. And] from [that which is stated] here: “Only her lips moved,” [the halakha that] one who prays must enunciate [the words] with his lips, [not only contemplate them in his heart, is derived.] From [that which is written] here: “And her voice could not be heard,” [the halakha that] one is forbidden to raise his voice in his [amida] prayer [as it must be recited silently.] From [the continuation of the verse] here: “So Eli thought her to be drunk,” [the halakha that] a drunk person is forbidden to pray.

Further on in 31b there is a beautiful explanation of what Hannah was praying for. The Talmud really speaks for itself and we can surely relate to this tale on many levels:

ותדר נדר ותאמר ה’ צבאות, אמר רבי אלעזר: מיום שברא הקדוש ברוך הוא את עולמו, לא היה אדם שקראו להקדוש ברוך הוא צבאות עד שבאתה חנה וקראתו צבאות; אמרה חנה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא: רבונו של עולם, מכל צבאי צבאות שבראת בעולמך קשה בעיניך שתתן לי בן אחד? משל למה הדבר דומה – למלך בשר ודם שעשה סעודה לעבדיו, בא עני אחד ועמד על הפתח, אמר להם: תנו לי פרוסה אחת! ולא השגיחו עליו; דחק ונכנס אצל המלך. אמר לו: אדוני המלך, מכל סעודה שעשית קשה בעיניך ליתן לי פרוסה אחת

And she swore an oath and said, Lord of Hosts (Tzeva’ot) (I Samuel 1:11) Rabbi Elazar said: From the day that the Holy One, Blessed be He, created His world, there was no person who called the Holy One, Blessed be He, Lord of Hosts until Hannah came and called Him Lord of Hosts. Hannah said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, [are You not the Lord of the Hosts, and] all of the hosts and hosts [of creations] that you created in Your world, is it difficult in Your eyes to grant me one son?

[The Gemara suggests] a parable: To what is this similar? [It is similar to] a flesh and blood king who made a feast for his servants. A poor person came and stood at the door. He said to them: Give me one slice [of bread!] And they paid him no attention. He pushed and entered before the king. He said to him: My lord, the king, from this entire feast that you have prepared, is it so difficult in your eyes to give me a single slice [of bread?].

How different the request can be depending on whether you are doing the requesting or responding to the person asking the question!?


About bookabazza

I am an Osteopath and University Lecturer who is trying to keep up with the 7 year daf yomi cycle. I thought I would try and share a few small thought on the daf each week.
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