A student once led the prayer service in the presence of R' Eliezer.[1] He recited a much longer prayer than was usual.

"How long he prays," the other students complained.

"Is his prayer longer then than Moshe's," asked R' Eliezer. "Of Moshe the verse says, 'I fell before Hashem, forty days and forty nights ...'"

On another occasion, a student led the service, saying the prayers in a short way.

"How short he prays," the other students complained.

"Is his prayer then, shorter than Moshe's," asked R' Eliezer. "Of Moshe the verse says, And Moshe cried before Hashem, "Hashem please, heal her please"; [saying only five words]."[2]

(Brochos 34a)

Flowing Smoothly

Rabban Gamliel's son once, became very sick. He sent two scholars to R' Chanina ben Dosa to request that he pray for him. When R' Chanina saw the scholars coming, he went up to the loft, and began to pray.

On coming down, he greeted them, saying, "Go now, his temperature has dropped."

"Are you a prophet?" they asked him.

"I am not a prophet, nor a trainee prophet," he answered, "but I have, as a tradition in our family, this guideline: if my prayer flows smoothly, I know that the heavens have accepted it; if not, they have rejected it."

They noted the time of this conversation, and then returned to Rabban Gamliel.

"I assure you," Rabban Gamliel told them on hearing this story, "it was this moment, no earlier, no later, that his fever left him, and he asked for water to drink."

(Brochos 34b)


At All Times

R' Chanina ben Dosa once, went to learn Torah [in the yeshiva] of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai. Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai's son fell sick.

"Chanina, my child," Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai asked of him, "pray for my son that he might live."

R' Chanina rested his head against his knees, and prayed, and the boy lived.

"Was ben Zakkai to hit his head against his knees all day," Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai commented to his wife, "they would pay no attention to him."

"What," asked his wife, "is he greater than you are?"

"No," he answered, "just that he is like the servant of the king, who enters and leaves the king's presence without permission, whereas I am like an officer, and not in the habit of walking in at all times."


[1] A Torah scholar living in E. Yisrael, around 100 c.e.

[2] The quality of the prayer -- which comes from the person who recites it -- is more important that its length.

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