The Peril of Confusion; The Peril of Clarity

Daf 29. Summary. Why don’t they remove Shmuel HaKatan when he forgets the “blessing of the heretics”? Does a righteous one ever become wicked? Does Shmuel? “Yohanan the High Priest served in the High Priesthood for 80 years and ultimately became a Saducee.” Shmuel HaKatan, however, simply forgot or became confused in the middle of the “blessing”; he clearly did not intend to omit it.

The gemara traces the origin of the blessings added to Amida on particular holidays. Concern is expressed that additional prayers may cause the prayer leader to become confused.

Rabbi Eleazer says, “One whose prayer is fixed, his prayer is not supplication.” Rabbi Zeira says, “I could introduce a novel element in every prayer, but I am afraid that perhaps I will become confused.”

A form of abbreviated prayer is permitted for those who must recite their prayer in “places of danger.” Several examples of abbreviated prayer are presented. And Rabbi Ya’akov says, “It is not only good advice but established halakha that anyone who sets out on a journey must recite the traveler’s prayer prior to embarking.”

Comment. This daf acknowledges that mandated variations in the prayer, regardless of the reason, may have an unintended consequence: confusion. Nevertheless, a lack of variation may have its own unintended consequence: a mechanical prayer stripped of intention, and, thus, meaning. The challenge for everyone who prays is to infuse their prayers with their own individual expressed need for supplication without getting confused by the novelty.

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2 Responses to The Peril of Confusion; The Peril of Clarity

  1. elenizl says:

    About innovation in prayer: you may remember that we read that one interpretation of “anyone who does not recite his parer in a supplicatory manner” (ie with real intention, kavanah, rather than in a “fixed” way, kevah) …. is “anyone who is unable to innovate something”. It seems to me that the “innovation” is to bring one’s self to the prayer in that very moment, the moment that is new and has never been before. The “innovation” is not the words, but the feelings that energize the recitation of the words. The feelings are always new reflecting as they do an ephemeral “now”.

  2. charleshollander says:

    I understand the pressure of producing kavanah daily–for me there is kavanah in the names I include in the blessing for health, and also in the other blessings when I can grip the meanings as they go by. Rote recitation is a problem, but so is the confusion from variability. In those parts of the Amida which have standard variables, such as “v’sabeinu mi’tuvah” and “v’sabeinu mi’tuvecha” in the prayer for the year, I will use one or the other based on how I feel. The Daf’s expositions of the problems involved and the Rabbis’ interpretations are very helpful.

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