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Elsewhere I ask whether it's sufficient to pray in a whisper. See there, please, for a description of whispering and how it differs from speaking quietly.

Answers to that question indicate that whispering prayers is sufficient. Those answers are IMO not completely convincing; nonetheless, let's suppose whispering prayers is, indeed, a fine way to pray.

My question now is about whispering while inhaling. It is possible — try it! — to whisper while inhaling: the same, or very nearly the same, sound issues as when whispering while exhaling. Would whispering while inhaling be a sufficient way to pray? (I suspect it may not count as speech or prayer, because the usual way of speaking is by means of exhalation.)

Any source or argument is most welcome.

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I was trying to get around to asking this; thank you for posting! – yitznewton Nov 26 '12 at 12:12
I've seen it and, rarely, done it. It tends to happen most often when someone's tired and they start whispering the words while yawning. Incidentally, it is also possible, though, much harder and less common, to vocalize words while inhaling, along the same principles. – Seth J Nov 26 '12 at 14:48
Now that's what I would call an inspirational prayer! – Dave Nov 26 '12 at 22:04
why in the world would you want to do this? – ray Jul 7 '13 at 20:23
@ray, try whispering any prepared speech. You'll find (or, at least, I find) that inhaling part of it is a very natural way of speaking then. – msh210 Jul 7 '13 at 22:45

2 Answers 2

Yes, for sure:

Forming the words with mouth, tongue, and lips without any hearable voice is sufficient after the event. Indeed, at least some chassidim hold that shmone esrei should not be audible at all. A "backhanded" voice cannot be worse than no voice at all.

I checked my own reasoning by asking a couple of very learned and stringent people. They agreed.

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Not only Hassidim, see Birke Yosef (Orah Haim 101 Beshem HaAri, and for another insteresting opinion see Od Yosef Hai Mishpatim 3). – Hacham Gabriel Aug 11 '13 at 15:56
Quoting unusual chassisic prayer practices is not necessarily a good source for the rest of us. – Double AA Aug 11 '13 at 20:14
@DoubleAA "Any source or argument is most welcome." – NBZ Aug 11 '13 at 20:59
@DoubleAa the Mekubalim also hold like this. – Hacham Gabriel Sep 10 '13 at 14:29
+1 because "Any source or argument is most welcome." – Seth J Sep 10 '13 at 15:28

The Nefesh HaChaim in שער ב פרק יד writes the following:

והענין שעבודת התפלה היא במקום עבודת הקרבן וכמו שענין הקרבן היה להעלות נפש הבהמה למעלה. וכל עיקר הכפר' היה תלוי בזריקת הדם הוא הנפש. וכן הקטרת הא מורים עיקרם היה לכוונת העלאת הנפש. כן עיקר ענין התפלה הוא. להעלות ולמסור ולדבק נפשו למעלה. כי כח הדבור של האדם נקרא נפש כמ"ש ויהי האדם לנפש חיה ות"א לרוח ממללא. וכן נראה לעין שבכל דבור שהאדם מוציא מפיו. יוצא מפיו רוח והבל הלב. והדבור הוא עיקר נפש האדם שזה יתרון האדם מן הבהמה. א"כ כל תיבה היוצאת מפי האדם היא כח וחלק מנפשו

Translation of the bolded words: And therefore it seems that a person should look into every word that in every word that comes out of his mouth, there comes out of his mouth wind and heat from the heart (translation mine).

No heat comes out when you inhale. The Nefesh HaChaim says you should make sure heat comes out. (It is in this way that prayer is עבודה שבלב, because the faculty of speech is through the heat that comes up from the heart.)

Therefore, according to the Nefesh Hachaim, inhaling words would not be considered fulfilling the עבודה of prayer.

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Wow. Great answer! – Yochanan Michael May 5 '14 at 19:58
@YochananMichael Thanks! – yEz May 5 '14 at 20:04

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