Thursday, November 24, 2005

Understanding Davening: רצה

There is an interesting machlokes on how to read the words of רצה. We say והשב את העבודה לדביר ביתך ואשי ישראל ותפילתם באהבה תקבל ברצון. The question is how do we punctuate it. Should we read it as והשב את העבודה לדביר ביתך. ואשי ישראל ותפילתם באהבה תקבל ברצון
והשב את העבודה לדביר ביתך ואשי ישראל, ותפילתם באהבה

In other words, does ואשי ישראל go with the first sentence or the second. It is not just a dispute about the punctuation, it is really a dispute about what the words ואשי ישראל mean, the punctuation depends on the meaning.

This is based on a Gemara in Menachos 110 and a medrash. The gemara there writes that the malach מיכאל brings korbanos in heaven every day. The Tur quotes the medrash that this is what the words ואשי ישראל are referring to in רצה. The Tur has another explanation that when there is no Beis ha'Mikdash, our Tefilos take the place of Korbanos. We therefore pray that our Tefilos, which are now the ואשי ישראל, should be accepted. The Gra holds that ואשי ישראל is going on the korbanos that we no longer can bring like one opinion in Tosafos

The bottom line comes out like this.

Both opinions of the Tur - ואשי ישראל goes with ותפילתם because it either refers to tefila, or it refers to the Korbanos that Michael is bringing, in either case we want hashem to accept it b'ahava along with our tefilos.
Gra - ואשי ישראל goes with the previous statement of והשב את העבודה לדביר ביתך as it is referring to korbanos and we are expressing our tefilla to Hashem that the avoda of the Beis ha'Mikdash be restored speedily.

I don't believe that there is any clear psak about this, everyone should follow their minhag. What is important is that a person should always be consistent 1 way, and understand what the words mean based on how he is punctuating it.

I remember that Artscroll takes a stand 1 way (they have to punctuate it), I don't remember which way.


A Jew Who Once Learned said...

Artscroll follows the Gra, putting a period after "v'ishei Yisroel."

bluke said...

Fascinating, in the Artscroll siddur that I have (English Hebrew pocket edition from a long time ago)they put the period after לדביר ביתך. I guess they changed their minds over the years.

A Jew Who Once Learned said...

Artscroll is (in)famous for having different nus'cha'ot in different editions. When I wrote that Artscroll follows the Gra, I was citing the Yitzchak Yair "First Edition, Second Impression 1994." The original Ahavas Sholom 1st edition (1984) and 2nd edition (1990) both have the period after lidvir beisecho. I will check the most recent printings over Shabbos.

Jewish Exile said...

English/Hebrew artscrolls put the comma before 've'ishei yisrael,' while all-hebrew artscrolls put the comma after 've'ishe yisrael.

Does the gra actually say how to punctuate? Or is it just inferred from what he holds?

I always read with the comma before "ve'ishei," I think it reads awkardly otherwise, and I have a hard time beleiving that was the original intent.

A Jew Who Once Learned said...

Jewish Exile appears to be correct. The current editions of the Kol Yaakov siddur and the machzorim all put the punctuation after beisecha. The all-Hebrew Yitzchak Yair, after Yisrael. They are all Nusach Ashkenaz.

bluke said...

The Gra is in his inimitable says very little. Basically he just refers you to the tosafos in Menachos 110a and says that we pasken like the second opinion. Tosafos in the second explanation writes that ואשי ישראל is going on the phrase that comes before it which clearly means that the period comes after ואשי ישראל.