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The Value of Praying “Vatikin” and Studying Torah Before Prayer

The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (9b) cites the testimony of Rabbi Yosef Ben Elyakim who reported a tradition among the Jews of Jerusalem that "whoever adjoins the blessing of Ge’ula to his prayer does not suffer any harm the entire day." This refers to the Halacha of "Semichat Ge’ula Li’tfila" – avoiding interruption between the Beracha of "Ga’al Yisrael" and the beginning of the Amida. After reciting this Beracha, one should immediately begin, "Ado-nai Sefatai Yiftah" and proceed with the Amida, without making any interruptions, including answering "Amen," responding to "Nakdishach," and even silently motioning or gesturing. The Gemara teaches that one who fulfills this requirement, and avoids all interruptions between "Ga’al Yisrael" and the beginning of the Amida, is protected from harm the entire day. (Some claim that the Gemara refers to protection from physical harm, whereas others claim that it refers to protection from spiritual harm.) The Gemara then adds that Rabbi Brona would smile the entire day after fulfilling this Halacha, confident that he had earned G-d’s protection.

Tosafot (commentaries by medieval French and German scholars; listen to audio recording for precise citation) raises the question of why the Gemara considered "Semichat Ge’ula Li’tfila" a source of such special merit and protection. After all, this is a Halacha that everyone observes. Why does one earn special protection for fulfilling this basic Halachic requirement of avoiding interruptions between "Ga’al Yisrael" and the Amida?

Tosefot answers that the Gemara refers to one who prays exactly at sunrise, reciting the Beracha of "Ga’al Yisrael" just before sunrise, and then beginning the Amida right at sunrise. This is, indeed, a high level of Misva performance which only few people reach, and thus the Gemara extols the value of this practice and the merit one earns by praying in this fashion.

This special protection is alluded to in the Book of Tehillim. Chapter 19 concludes with the Pasuk, "Yiheyu Le’rason Imreh Fi Ve’hegyon Libi Lefanech Hashem Suri Ve’go’ali" ("May the words of my mouth be accepted, and may the thoughts of my heart come before You, Hashem, my rock and my redeemer"). The final word in this chapter is thus "Go’ali" – "My redeemer" – and the next chapter begins with the promise that Hashem will assist us in times of distress – "Ya’ancha Hashem Be’yom Sara." This alludes to the fact that one who properly fulfills the Halacha of "Semichat Ge’ula Li’tfila" earns G-d’s special protection.

The Beneh Yissaschar (Rav Svi Elimelech Shapiro of Dinov, 1783-1841) comments that if one spends time studying Gemara before he prays in the morning, then four angels bring his prayers directly before the Heavenly Throne. These angels are Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Uriel, and the first letters of their names spell the word "Gemara," alluding to the fact that they come through the study of Gemara. In light of what we have seen, we cannot even imagine the immense power of prayer recited right at sunrise when one has studied Gemara – such as Daf Yomi – before prayers. This is a formidable "1-2 punch," if you will, guaranteeing the acceptance of our Tefilot and G-d’s bestowing His mercy and protection upon us throughout the day. By learning early in the morning and then praying at sunrise, we earn the fulfillment of the Pasuk, "They shall go from strength to strength; he shall be seen by G-d in Zion" (Tehillim 84:8).

 


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