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In Berachot 7a it quotes a braita that says Gd prays everyday, and He says insert long prayer. Then right after this they bring a braita that Rabbi Yishmael went into the Kodesh Kodashim and blessed Gd with this exact same prayer (pretty much the same themes, except Rabbi Yishmael just expanded it a tad).

So which came first? Did Rabbi Yishmael only bless Gd with this prayer because he knew that Gd prayed this to Himself, or does Gd only pray this to Himself because He was blessed with it by Rabbi Yishmael and hence got the idea?

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The Maharsha states:

ואמר ונענע לי ראשו כי זה גם תפלתו ית' ב"ה כדלעיל

[R"Y] stated that God nodded his head. [Maharsha continues] For this was also God's prayer as [indicated] above ...

This leads me to believe that per the Maharsha, the reason that God nodded after R"Y's blessing was to acknowledge that R"Y's blessing aligned with God's prayer. Sounds like God's prayer preceded the blessing.

What is fascinating about this Maharsha is that prima facie the Gemara is using the fact that God nodded His head as 1) proof that the blessing of an ordinary person should never be unimportant in your eyes, but 2) NOT as proof that God enjoyed this particular blessing because it happened to match His original prayer too:

Berachot 7a

וְנִעְנַע לִי בְּרֹאשׁוֹ. וְקָמַשְׁמַע לַן, שֶׁלֹּא תְּהֵא בִּרְכַּת הֶדְיוֹט קַלָּה בְּעֵינֶיךָ. [The Holy One, Blessed be He] nodded His head [and accepted the blessing]. This [event] teaches us that you should not take the blessing of an ordinary person lightly.

Let me put this another way - if God nodded His head only because He was familiar with/the author of this particular blessing/prayer then the Gemara would not extrapolate this episode as general proof that everyone should not take the blessing of an ordinary person lightly.

I suppose that the Maharsha sees both aspects in the nod.

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  • A translation would help those who are not fluent in Hebrew. Great answer!
    – Lo ani
    Dec 31, 2023 at 22:38
  • @Lo ani. Thx. "And R"Y stated that God nodded his head for this was also God's prayer ..."
    – GratefulD
    Dec 31, 2023 at 22:48
  • Sorry about the nitpick, but I'd perhaps put a period after "head" in your answer, because that is the end of the quote of the gemara of what he said.. And then have "for this was also God's prayer", and replace the ... with "as above", making it clear that this is Maharsha's explanation. In terms of extrapolating the blessing of a commoner from the episode, despite the juxtaposition of the nodding at the end of the story, the fact that God asked for the blessing from a mortal in the first place shows the point, יִשְׁמָעֵאל בְּנִי, בָּרְכֵנִי. Jan 1 at 12:28
  • @ josh waxman I agree. Thx.
    – GratefulD
    Jan 1 at 12:34
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I don't believe that it is possible to know. However, if we look at the speakers of the respective statements in Berachot 7a, we find that:

  • It is not a brayta that says this. It is Rabbi Yochanan (a quasi-first, second-generation Amora) who quotes a fifth-generation Tanna, Rabbi Yossi, that Hashem says a prayer.
  • The specific prayer is not specified by the Tanna. Rather, it is a first-generation Amora, Rav, who is cited by another Amora, Rav Zutra bar Toviya. There were surprisingly two such Amoraim in Bavel by that name, one in the third-generation and one in the fifth-generation of Amoraim.
  • Meanwhile, what is clearly a brayta, which specifies the prayer, is the story involving Rabbi Yishmael. There were two such Rabbi Yishmael ben Elishas. The disputant of fourth-generation Tanna Rabbi Akiva is the later one. The Kohen Gadol is earlier, a second-generation Tanna, while the Beit HaMikdash stood.

While these sources might have been floating around for a while, and while of course, Hakadosh Baruch Hu precedes Rabbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol by an infinite amount of time, assuming that these midrashic / hashkafic ideas were asserted approximately the time they were thought of, the simplest assumption would be that the brayta with the text and the earlier Tanna (Rabbi Yishmael I) preceded Rav with the text explaining the later Tanna (Rabbi Yossi).

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