Sunday, December 05, 2010

Nusach HaGra

Once again it has been a long time since I wrote. I get home from work and just want to collapse. Now I know what it's like having a job. Hm...

Anyway, I'm writing today about the Vilna Gaon's nusach for davening (prayer). It's basically Nusach Ashkenaz, but with a few changes (not like Nusach Sfard). A lot of them are vowel changes on words, (from "v'shivchacha" to "ushvachacha" for example), he takes out whole t'filos (Tehillim 30 before Baruch She'amar, Shomer Yisrael in Tachanun). In a lot of these changes, the explanation on the bottom says "In every old siddur, it's like this, but then the [Arizal/Shlah/Ravah] changed/added this." There is a general rule that once the Gemara was closed, we're not allowed to argue with the rabbis in the Gemara. The one's who put together the davening which we know today was put together by the Anshei K'neses Hagdolah, right before the 2nd Beis Hamikdash was built. Therefore, no one had the right to change the davening.

One thing the Vilna Gaon says is very weird, and I never understood it. He says we're not allowed to say Tehillim in public, which means to two things: 1) no Kabbalas Shabbos on Fri night (he says to say it at home if you want to say it at all), and 2) the Shir Shel Yom is only one Perek of Tehillim. Meaning, on Rosh Chodesh you just say Tehillim 104, instead of the regular Shir Shel Yom in addition to Tehillim 104. On Shabbos Rosh Chodesh we only say Tehillim 104 (this is the only Shir Shel Yom that pushes off Shabbos's SS"Y), etc. etc.

As I said before, I never understood as to why he would say that, and in what capacity. Does that mean that we can't have tehillim rallies, like we had during the intafada, or that are most probably going on right now for the fire? Are those not allowed? Or just tehillim added later to davening, like Kabbalas Shabbos?

I don't remember when, but I realized at some point that it might be to make sure that people realize that Tehillim isn't really part of the davening. Except for the SS"Y and Pesukei D'zimra, which was established by the 120 Tzaddikim of the Anshei K'neses Hagdolah.

To illustrate this point, I am going to relate to you something that actually happened a few Shabbosim ago. I was at shul one Fri night a few weeks ago when a guy came in really, really late to Maariv. Late as in, right before Shmoneh Esrei. And what did he start with? Not with Shmoneh Esrei with the shul, as the halachah states he should (and after Shmoneh Esrei he would say the rest of Maariv), and not even Shma. He started at Lechu N'ranina! And that's the point! He actually thought that Lechu N'ranina was part of davening! Is it? Of course not, it was added by the Arizal in the 1500's. It's a nice thing, but not actually davening. It's just Tehillim.

Now understand, when I say "just Tehillim," I don't mean to take anything away from it. Obviously it's holy, it's part of the Tanach and all that, but if someone says it, it doesn't take him out of his obligation of davening.

I'm not even against Kabbalas Shabbos, mind you. It's actually a nice idea. According to R' Yaakov Kaminetzky, Tehillim 90 - 100 was written by Moshe Rabbeinu (Tehillim 90 starts with "a Prayer to Moshe...") and said every Shabbos by B'nei Yisrael when we were slaves in Egypt.

My point is that people have to realize what's important, and what isn't. Saying Shmoneh Esrei with the congregation, is. Lechu N'ranina, not so much.



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