Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Machnisei Rachamim

First, here is Mordechai Ben David singing it:

and here, from YUTorah, a good summary of the controversy concerning it:

Machnisei Rachamim: The Controversial Prayer

There is a prayer printed in many prayer books titled "Machnisei Rachamim." This prayer calls upon the angels (those who bring in mercy) to beg for forgiveness on our behalf. Maharal of Prague, Netivot Olam, Netiv Ha'Avodah no.12, objects to reciting this prayer because it appears as if we are praying to the angels and not to the Almighty. He therefore amends the text from "machnisei rachamim hachnisu rachameinu" (those who bring in mercy bring in our plea for mercy) to "machnisei rachamim yachnisu rachameinu," (allow those who bring in mercy to bring in our plea for mercy) which is directed towards the Almighty. R. Moshe Sofer, Chatam Sofer, Orach Chaim no. 166, records his personal practice to skip that prayer. He implies that it is not sufficient to amend the text because the notion that the angels should serve as ambassadors is objectionable even if we don't pray directly to them.

The opinions of Maharal and R. Sofer notwithstanding, a justification for this prayer can be found in Shibolei HaLeket (R. Binyamin HaRofei, 13th Century) no. 282. He notes the existence of this prayer and notes the same question that Maharal would ask three hundred years later. He then quotes his teacher, R. Avigdor who explains that although there is a prohibition against praying to angels, one may directly address the angels and request that they pray on our behalf.

See Maharal, in Netivot Olam, siman 12, here. What follows is an excerpt, but keep reading inside.
אכל כאשר מתפלל שלא יהיה לו מקטריגים שוב
על הדבר שהוא מבקש אין מקטריגים , ומזה
משמע שיתפלל אל הש״י שלא יהיה לו צרים אבל
שיתפלל ולומר למלאכים אל תהיו צרים לי זה
אין ראוי רק שיהיה זה דרך התפלה אל הש״י.
אבל אנו נוהגים לומר מכניסי רתמים הכניסו
רתמינו לפני בעל הרתמים ו ג ו , . ואין זה ראוי כי
לבר זה כאילו מתפלל אל מלאכים שיכניסו רחמינו
ולא מצאנו זה .
Chatam Sofer can be read inside here. An excerpt of the beginning of it appears to the right.


Yosef Greenberg said...

And so what...

Unless your opinion is coming in a future post.

joshwaxman said...

well, my opinion doesn't really count.

but see here, from a year ago.

basically, i think that there is something objectionable about it. and if people did understand what the words they were saying meant, and they really thought about it and intended it, it could be problematic. but by and large, i would guess that they don't.


Yosef Greenberg said...

Well, there is a way of properly understanding and directing your kavonos with these words. I think the reason would be because people misunderstand the proper meaning.

Although the Chasam Sofer disagrees.

joshwaxman said...

my guess is that the "proper", by which i mean original, intent would be quasi-heretical. and also that one is not supposed to address angels directly, despite the misinterpretation (imho) some have of the gemara about angels not understanding aramaic.

but of course, it is a machlokes. though i disagree greatly with this practice, i think both those who do and those who don't say this are practicing authentic judaism. [ ;) ]


Yosef Greenberg said...


There should be a limit to what is considered "authentic Judaism". Probably fodder for a future post. You did discuss Dr. Marc Shapiro's book in similar context in the past though.

BTW, I was out for the summer and just finished going through you back posts.

I see that what heard in yeshiva and posted here in the comment thread was proven correct here. Nice.

joshwaxman said...


i agree. there has to be some limit, for if absolutely anything goes as "authentic" then there is no definition whatsoever.

yeah, it certainly is comforting that he doesn't hold that one may not maintain heliocentrism. it doesn't necessarily mean that he himself holds of it, but if yes, great! and if no, at the very least it shows awareness of the issue and perhaps an acceptance of other positions as authentic Judaism as well.

the question still stands on other issues, where the facts do not seem (to some) as so clear-cut. for example, the report from Rabbi Eisenstein that Rav Elyashiv holds one should pasul as a dayan for geirus anyone who believes in an ancient universe (meaning older than 5769 years old, but rather billions of years old).

kol tuv,


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