Looking Ahead by Looking Backwards (26a-26b)

Note to self: look into Ezra’s decree(s); compare Ezra to Moses. How did Ezra’s efforts form a people?

Continue to pay attention to R’ Yehudah. He seems to continue towards leniency in every case even if it requires changing his mind and backtracking (not necessarily a bad thing) …

And now we turn to prayer in general and to the Shemoneh Esreh or Standing Prayer in particular.

The Gemara says two things about prayer. On the one hand “prayer is in place of sacrifice” and on the other hand “the prayers were instituted by the Patriarchs”. Since the time of the Patriarchs pre-dates the sacrificial system of The Temple it is clear that both statements cannot be simultaneously true.

And yet a Baraisa is brought to teach that Abraham instituted the morning prayers (shacharit), Isaac instituted the afternoon prayers (minchah), and Jacob instituted the evening prayers (ma’ariv). 

Furthermore, the Gemara states that “R’ Yose the son of R’ Chanina would say to you: In reality I will tell you that the prayers were established by the Patriarchs, but the rabbis subsequently came and supported them upon the sacrifices.” So – are we to understand that the prayers came first, and that the sacrifices were based on them (the prayers) and that once The Temple was destroyed we returned to the more original form (ie the prayers)?

“Rabbi” ArtScroll argues (see footnote 31 daf 26b) that while the Patriarchs “initiated the system of praying thrice daily, their conduct does not impose an obligation on us to do likewise. The Rabbis subsequently connected the prayers to … the sacrifices, in order to make the prayers’ recital obligatory”. 

We humans yearn for our practices and rituals to have a reality that extends back in time as we imagine that what we do was done by our parents, and grandparents all the way back to Abraham and Sarah; and in the same way we hope that these very same practices and rituals might extend forward in time through our children and grandchildren. We yearn to be the stewards of these practices rather than their creators even as we must acknowledge the fictive logic that would support this view. Are we concerned?. 


This entry was posted in Daf Yomi, Hevruta study, Talmud. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Looking Ahead by Looking Backwards (26a-26b)

  1. Charles Hollander says:

    A Koren footnote points out that some claim the three Amidas (nice movie, right?) to be linked to the three offerings in the Temple as a memorial after the Temple’s destruction, while others point out that the prayers were in existence in substantially their present form during the Second Temple period. Thus the Talmud links the Amidas to the patriarchs as a sign of their antiquity and to the offerings as a sign of israel’s continuity in the post-Temple period. Both myths are charters, in Malinowski’s sense, parallel founding stories allowing us to locate our origins.

  2. elenizl says:

    Lovely Charlie! Yes we need our charter stories to help us locate ourselves in time and space …history ….

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