Tuesday, September 02, 2008

"Chassidic Zemanim" - Davening Late

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

In spite of the well-known regulations concerning the latest time for davening Shacharit each morning, there has historically been a laxity and sense of disregard for such deadlines by Chassidim, especially the Rebbes. Is there any basis for this practice? And if so, from where?

In the event that one has missed the proper time for davening, which is within four hours into the morning, one is still permitted to daven Shacharit as long as it is before halachic noon, though one will receive no credit for prayer at the proper time. Once midday[1] has arrived, however, it is simply forbidden to recite the Shacharit prayers, and one who does so is guilty of reciting God's name in vain.[2] Nevertheless, one will readily find Shacharit minyanim in Chassidic shtiebels worldwide well into the afternoon, with some Rebbes known for davening Shacharit moments before sunset!

Click here for more informationWhile there seems to be no halachic justification for such conduct, there are some creative Chassidic explanations for it which may allow for some tolerance for the practice. The Rebbe of Tshechenov was once asked how he was able to allow chassidim to disregard the allotted times for prayer. He replied that: "It must be that such conduct is not truly a sin. If it was, we would have been witnessing a wide-scale incidence of "aveira goreret aveira" having a terrible effect on the Chassidim, removing them further and further from the ways of Torah. However, we in fact see the reverse – in most areas of observance it is the Chassidim who are more meticulous than the others."[3] Similarly, one authority boasts "…and if it is a sin, it is the only sin that they [the Chassidim] commit.[4]

So too, it is said in the name of the Rebbe of Ruzin that the deadlines allotted to the various prayers refer to those who come to pray on behalf of their own needs. As the Rebbe teaches, "When one appears before a king to entreat him on behalf of oneself one must be sure to appear only at the times he has designated for receiving visitors. However, when one approaches the king on behalf of the entire kingdom – he can do so at any time".[5] It is also suggested that those Rebbes who daven after the deadlines are individuals whose entire existence is devoted to the community. One who is so devoted to the community is actually exempt from praying, anyways.[6] There are many other such Rebbeshe explanations for davening late.

In a fiery rebuttal to the Mitnagdim, the Rebbe of Liska notes that those who daven late are generally those who wake up early and spend every single moment, from the time they open their eyes until they have davened, in the service of God. Whether it is immersing every morning in a mikva, spending time in hitbodedut or reciting Tehillim – their entire routine is one of "kabbalat ol malchut shamayim" just as is the essence of prayer. So too, these are legitimate preparations, referred to as hechsher mitzva, all of which are in order to be able to daven properly with all the proper kavanot. As preparations for a mitzva are considered to be the mitzva itself it can be suggested that such people aren't truly "missing" the prayer deadlines at all![7]

Indeed, mental and spiritual preparations for prayer are an important concept in both halacha and chassidut.[8] One should ponder the greatness of God and the insignificance of man prior to approaching God in prayer.[9] So important are such preparations for prayer that according to some authorities they take precedence over any concerns relating to deadlines.[10] In fact, the prayers of one who davens without such preparations are deemed to be completely worthless.[11]

Nevertheless, there have been Rebbes in the past who have condemned the practice of missing prayer deadlines asserting that the holy Rebbes who conducted themselves in this way had ample justifications and personal reasons for having done so and should not be imitated by the Chassidim.[12] The Rebbe of Dinov, Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapira even writes: "There is a sickness… that people disregard the set times for Shema and prayers… do they also eat matza after Pesach or sit in a Sukka after Sukkot?"[13] And Rabbi Yitzchak of Skver: "…there are no excuses for missing the deadlines for prayer."[14]


[1] See Mishna Berura 89:7
[2] Rema O.C. 89:1, Mishna Berura 58:26
[3] Eretz Tzvi (Frommer) 36. See there for additional justifications
[4] Minhag Yisrael Torah 89:3
[5] Eser Orot, cited in Minhag Yisrael Torah 89:3
[6] O.C. 70:4, O.C. 93:4
[7] Or Hayashar V'hatov p. 141, cited in Minhag Yisrael Torah 89:3
[8] Brachot 30b, O.C. 98:1,2
[9] Shaarei Halacha U'minhag (Chabad) 1:41
[10] Shaarei Halacha U'minhag (Chabad) 1:43, Eretz Tzvi (Frommer) 36
[11] Rambam Tefilla 4:15,16
[12] The Rebbes of Ziditchov, Dinov, and others, cited in Minhag Yisrael Torah 89:3
[13] Derech Pikudecha Mitzva L.T. 16
[14] Mishmeret Shalom 9:1

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