|Tractate Berachot, Chapter 6
Rebbi Meir used to say, ‘It says [in the Torah], “And you should love Hashem, your God, with all of your heart …” (Devarim 6:5) [That means that you should love God] with both of your inclinations, with the good inclination and with the evil inclination.2 “… and with all of your soul …” (Devarim 6:5) [That means that] even if He takes away your soul [you should still love Him].3 And so also it says, “Because for Your sake we are killed all the time …” (Tehillim 44:23)4 [But there is also] another explanation. “With all of your soul” [means] with the soul that He created within you,5 as it says “Let my soul live and I will praise You …” (Tehillim 119:175) And [also] it says, “All my bones will say,’Hashem, Who is like You?’” (Tehillim 35:10)’6 Ben Azzai says, ‘”With all of your soul” [means that] you should give over your soul to [the performance] of the commandments.’7
מסכת ברכות פרק ו
היה רבי מאיר אומר הרי הוא אומר (דברים ו:ה) ואהבת את ה’ אלהיך בכל לבבך. בשני יצריך ביצר טוב וביצר רע. (דברים ו:ה) ובכל נפשך ואפילו הוא נוטל את נפשך וכן הוא אומר (תהלים מד:כג) כי עליך הרגנו כל היום. דבר אחר. בכל נפשך בנפש שברא בך שנאמר (תהילים קיט:קעה) תחי נפשי ותהללך. ואומר (תהילים לה:י) כל עצמותי תאמרנה ה’ מי כמוך. בן עזאי אומר בכל נפשך תן נפשך על המצות.
- It is not clear why this Tosefta appears here. It is neither related to any Mishna nor to the previous discussion in the Tosefta.
- It is obvious that when a person does good deeds he should have in mind to do them out of love for God. But Rebbi meir points out that even when a person wants to do something evil due to his pour character when he does it he should keep in mind that God is altimately in charge and hopefully next time he will improve his character and not perform the evil act again.
- Meaning that even if the person has been stricken with a deadly decease or is being executed on an unfair charge he should still continue to love God despite his ordeal.
- King David proclaimed in Tehillim that God should listen to his prayers because many Jews are murdered by other nations and despite that they die for God’s sake, for the sake of preserving Jews and Judaism and proud to sanctify His name even in death.
- What I think Rebbi Meir means by this explanation is that a person should exemplify true love towards God, as opposed to conditional love. A person may love God because He has given him a lot of wealth or power, but that is conditional love. As soon as the wealth and power will disappear the love will fade. Rebbi Meir is teaching us that we should love God unconditionally (i.e. with our soul alone) that even if things do not go so well we should still love Him for no particular reason.
- Both of these quotes from Tehillim are just verses of praise that exemplify how King David expressed his love for God with his whole being.
- Ben Azzai seems to argue on Rebbi Meir’s second explanation. He does not feel that loving unconditionally just by showing emotion has any benefit to it. He feels that love has to be shown by action. According to Ben Azzai the only way a person can show his love for God is by doing God’s commandments. It should be pointed out that Ben Azzai’s opinion is typical of Ben Azzai’s personal character. Talmud Bavli (Ketubot 63a) says that Ben Azzai was briefly engaged to Rebbi Akiva’s daughter, but then decided not to marry her since he wanted to devote all of his life to studying Torah and not get involved with raising a family, despite the fact the she waited for him to marry her for a very long time. Obviously Ben Azzai was not really understanding of love as a pure emotion to another person either which was clearly shown to him by Rebbi Akiva’s daughter.
|Tractate Berachot, Chapter 6
There are prayers that are frivolous. How so? [If a person] gathered one hundred Kor2 [of grain3, and then] said [to God] “May it be Your will that there will be two hundred [Kor of grain]. [A person] obtained one hundred barrels [of wine4 and then] said [to God] “May it be Your will that there will be two hundred [barrels of wine].” All of this is a prayer in vain.5 But a person may pray that they (i.e. the grain or the barrels) should be blessed and not be cursed.6
מסכת ברכות פרק ו
יש דברים שהן תפילת תיפלה. כיצד? כנס מאה כורין אמר יהי רצון שיהיו מאתים, כנס מאה חביות אמר יהי רצון שיהיו מאתים. הרי זו תפלת שוא. אבל מתפלל הוא שתכניס בהן ברכה ואל תכניס בהן מאירה.
- Mishna 3 of chapter 9 says that if a person prays for something that has occured in the past it is a prayer in vain. The Tosefta sites another example of a prayer in vain.
- Kor is a biblical dry measure of capacity. It is roughly equal to 220 liters (58 gallons) although much larger estimates exist.
- I have inserted grain here just for clarity. It could be 100 Kor of anything that is measured using dry measures.
- I have inserted wine here just for clarity. It could be 100 barrels of anything that is stored in barrels.
- If a person asks for something from God to be given to him magically that is normally obtained through regular work it is considered to be futile, frivolous, vain prayer. This should not be confused with natural phenomena such as rain that is considered to be an act of God and therefore requires prayer. Also the Tosefta is not referring to a case where a person is being led to be executed and he is praying for some magical salvation which is although relying on a miracle is an acceptable prayer since the person has no other way out. However in this particular case the person only worked to produce 100 barrels or 100 Kor and not more, so asking God for something more is simply vain.
- Grain and wine in the barrels can spoil. It is not really in the person’s power to control that completely and therefore it is fitting for him to ask God for help so that his venture will be successful.