Sunday, March 30, 2008

Do Angels Know Aramaic?

The Gemara in Shabbos 12b mentions that one shouldn't daven in aramaic because "the angels don't understand aramaic". The clear mashmaos of the gemara is that one is allowed to pray to angels who will then deliver the prayer as messengers.

Rav Ovadiah Yosef in Yabia Omer Chelek Alef Siman 34 deals at length with this gemara. He brings the Kaf HaChaim O.C. 581:26 that asks - isn't it Hashem Himself that answers our prayers? Doesn't it say in the Torah "K'Hashem Elokenu B'Chol Koreinu Eilav"? Rav Ovadiah answers that the pasuk applies b'tzibur, when the Shechina is shoreh. Rav Ovadiah brings a proof that this is the case because we are also lenient in davening by kivrei avos. Again, we see that b'yichidus we don't mind davening in this type of fashion.

This issue of davening by kivrei avos is also a very big discussion. The Iggros Moshe O.C. 5:43:6 deals with this issue. He brings the Shach in Y.D. 179:15 who brings a MaHarach that goes back and forth on the issue. When dealing with this issue we also have to deal with the issur of Doresh El HaMeisim.

He also brings a minhag from R' Chaim Volozhin not to say Malachei Rachamim and instead subsitute the phrase Avos HaOlam Ahuvei Elyon to avoid the possible issur of davening to the angels.

All of this is related to whether you actually can pray in aramaic if you are b'yichidus. The Yabia Omer concludes that in fact you can't because the angels do not understand that language.

Many Briskers are very machmir in this issue and do not say Malachai Rachamim. They hold that there are significant mekoros prohibiting davening to any being but Hashem and that it is even m'ein avodah zarah to pray in any other fashion.

As an interesting aside Tosafos in Shabbos d"h She'ein mention that the angel Gavriel is an exception and does understand aramaic. He brings a gemara in Sotah 33a to prove it because it says that the angel Gavriel taught Yosef HaTzaddik all 70 languages.

Finally, Tosafos end with an interesting question. How can it be that the angels don't understand aramaic if they can even understand what a person is thinking!?

*Note - When I speak of "davening to angels" of course I mean as mediators to Hashem. I thought that was self understood. Sorry if it was unclear.