May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Meira Chaya Nechama Beracha a”h bat David Mordechai Sheyichyeh.
Why Do We Long for Israel?
Rav Meir Shapiro, the founder of the daf hayomi, explained our Gemara as teaching about the nature of Jewish love for the land of Israel. Our Gemara taught about the blessings of bentching. It teaches that anyone who ends the blessing of bentching about the land of Israel with, “Blessed are You Hashem who gives lands” and closes the blessing about Jerusalem with “Blessed are You Hashem who redeems Israel,” is an ignorant boor. A person needs to mention the covenant and Torah in the blessing about the land and the Davidic dynasty in the blessing about Jerusalem in order to fulfill his obligations. Why did the Gemara particularly connect other lands with the blessing about the land of Israel?
Rav Shapiro explains that there all Jews feel a longing and love for Israel. But there are two types of love for the holy land. Some Jews feel the pain of exile among the nations, they see the anti-semitism which afflicts Jews, and the fact that a Jew is never secure in the exile—from time to time he must take up a wandering stick and go from place to place. These Jews care for the welfare of the their nation and they deeply desire an independent homeland so that Jews can live like others, secure and independent. For these Jews there is really no difference between Israel and any other land, they merely want a place that Jews will call their own. They are not necessarily connected to Jerusalem. They might accept Uganda as a homeland. These Jewish nationalists might seek to thank Hashem for giving lands and instead of talking of David and Jerusalem pray for redemption, for they are not truly connected to the land of Israel, they are seeking a Jewish homeland. The Gemara criticizes such a world-view and calls them ignorant boors.
Righteous Jews long for Israel for different reasons. Loyal Jews know that the land of Israel was sanctified with ten sanctifications. They feel that even when the land is in ruins, the Divine presence has not left the land. They know that Hashem has sworn to give us this land and His covenant endows the land with great sanctity. The loyal Jews are drawn to Jerusalem. They remember the virtue of David and Hashem’s promise to Him. For these religious reasons they seek the land of Israel and Jerusalem and they are not merely interested in a secular homestead that might provide shelter for the Jewish nation from its enemies. This is the lesson of our Gemara, to fulfill the obligation of reciting the blessings the right way you must mention the covenant and Torah in the blessing about the land and the Davidic dynasty when praying for Jerusalem. Our love for the land is only because of religious reasons. We long for this land because of Torah and the covenant. This longing is what will sustain us and ultimately bring us to true redemption (Daf al hadaf).
Should You Try To Daven With A Hundred Jews?
Our daf seems to teach that there is a special holiness manifest when a hundred Jews gather together to do a mitzvah. Imagine a man who has a choice of two synagogues, one which has a hundred people praying and in the other, with him, here will be ninety-nine men. Which shul should he choose? Rav Zilberstein suggests that the sources in our Gemara would seem to indicate that he should choose to pray in the shul with a hundred individuals for there is a greater revelation of Shechinah in a place in which one hundred Jews gather.
Our daf teaches about a dispute regarding zimun. If three adults ate together they are to begin the bentching with the invitation, “Nevarech she’achalnu mishelo,” “Let us bless the One whom we ate from.” If ten ate together, they begin with “Nevarech Elokeinu she’achalnu mishelo” “Let us bless our God whom we ate from.” According to Rabbi Yossi Haglili, if a hundred ate together, they begin with “Nevarech Hashem Elokeinu she’achalnu mishelo,” “Let us bless Hashem our God whom we ate from.” Rabbi Akiva disagrees. He points out that in shul both when there are many and when there are few in attendance we say, “Borchu es Hashem Hamevorach,” “Bless Hashem, who is blessed,” so too when bentching both when there are ten and when there are a hundred or more we are to say, “Nevarech Elokeinu she’achalnu mishelo” “Let us bless our God whom we ate from.” Tosfos (s.v. Amar) point out that Rabbi Akiva’s comment seems to indicate that all agree that during prayers we do not distinguish between crowd sizes; we always say, “Borchu es Hashem Hamevorach,” “Bless Hashem, who is blessed.” Why is there a difference, according to Rabbi Yossi Haglili, between prayer and bentching? Why do we have a different sentence when a hundred bentch and we have no difference between a hundred or less who pray? Tosfos answer that really there should have been a change in the text of the prayer to appreciate a hundred who are praying together. The reason the text of the Borchu in prayer is uniform is because the Chazzan cannot always tell who is in the room. There may be times when he will start with a group of a hundred and some might step out and he will not notice. If he is supposed to recite a different text when he is leading less than a hundred, he may not be aware of the fact that he has less than a hundred with him and he will recite the wrong text. Bentching is different. People do not leave until they finish the recital of the grace after the meal so there is no fear that a person might start thinking he has one amount when he really has a different amount of respondents. This Tosfos seems to indicate that the presence of a hundred people praying should have garnered a special text to appreciate the fact that a hundred are present, for apparently there is a greater degree of giluy Shechinah, revelation of the Divine presence, when a hundred Jews are in one place. If this is the case, in our scenario the person should choose to pray with the minyan that has a hundred men for in this way he will merit to pray in a place that has a greater revelation of the Divine presence.
Rav Zilberstein adds that there are other sources that also indicate that a hundred Jews in one place garners a special status. Meishiv Davar (Chelek Dalet Siman 4) points out that Gemara Horayos (3b) says that a Sanhedrin of one hundred would issue the most important rulings and Mishnah Berurah (Siman 687:7) teaches that we must stop everything to go hear Megillah, even if a hundred are learning, we need to interrupt the learning of Torah to hear Megillah, the fact that he mentioned that a hundred learning is a special achievement also indicates that according to Jewish law there is a special presence of Hashem when a hundred get together to do a mitzvah. Perhaps, then, a person should choose to pray with the minyan that has a hundred instead of the group of ninety-five (Chashukei Chemed).