In Brachos 33b, the mishna says: "One who says [in his tefilla -Rashi], 'Your [God's] mercy reaches the birds nest'... shut him up."

Rashi says on that: אנשים שהיו מראים עצמם כמתכונים להעמיק בלשון תחנונים ואומרים רחום וחנון אתה ועל קן צפור יגיעו רחמיך, שאמרת לשלח את האם

My best translation is: People who would display themselves as if they were having kavanah (intention) to delve deeply into the language of tachanunim (supplications) and they would say...

My questions are: 1- Is my translation accurate? and 2- What does it mean that people would "display themselves as if"? Were they really not having this intent? Were they showing off?

[The gemara says about this part of the mishna as follows: "...why do we silence one who says "Your mercy is upon a bird's nest"? Answer #1 (R. Yosi bar Avin or R. Yosi bar Zvida): This arouses jealousy among the creations; Answer #2 (The other of R. Yosi bar Avin and R. Yosi bar Zvida): He says that the Mitzvos are due to Hashem's mercy. This is wrong. They are decrees (to publicize that Yisrael are His servants).]

2 Answers 2


The Shulchan Aruch (114:9) brings the Halacha not to add to Hashem's titles other than הגדול הגבור והנורא. Then it adds, this is only during Tefilla because one shouldn't change from how the Chachamim coined things but during private requests there is no issue.

The odd thing is that the Gemara describes it as a problem because you would be leaving things out and the Shulchan Aruch offers a completely different reason, that the issue is veering from the designated text. If this is the whole reason, we wouldn't have picked out adding to Hashem's titles.

The answer lies in the way the Beis Yosef explains this. He quotes the Ri Abuhav that when it is your own request it can be seen as trying to evoke the titles pertaining to your request. Therefore your goal is not to describe the extent of Hashem's greatness. Whereas as a standalone Tefila the purpose is to mention Hashem's greatness.

However, the Beis Yosef seems to take the Ri's opinion further than this, and allows Piyutim full of original praises.

This matches the Tosfos Yom Tov who applies the same standard to saying, "Your pity reached the bird-nest." He explains that when said during a Tefila you are proclaiming this as the reason, but as a Drush reason it is fine. The Tosfos Yom Tov says that he sees this from Rashi who adds, בתפילתו.

Perhaps, if so, Rashi holds like the Ri that these are only issues when you veer from the established Nusach and are therefore making a point and a loud statement about these outlooks. Rashi's seeming derogatory description about the individual is because we are always discouraged from changing the established Nusach. But we are intervening only when there is a bigger issue.

In short, Rashi is letting us know that the issue is, in part, because this person is veering from the norm.

  • This does not answer the question of why Rashi assumes that they did not actually have this intent?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 1:50

Art Scroll 33b3 note 25 says

The mishnah is concerned with individuals who seek to demonstrate the extent of their ability to portray Hashem's merciful kindness.

Your translation appears to be accurate and your questions would be answered to say that they are indeed showing off and trying to convince others that they have deep thoughts on the matter. Since they are showing off, it does not really matter if they think this way or not.

  • But that disregards the Gemara's reasoning. So if you do mean if sincerely it would be fine?
    – HaLeiVi
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 0:04
  • @HaLeiVi No. I would say that even if you mean it sincerely it is still forbidden. He is attempting to show that this is his belief. Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 0:16
  • Is it a מעשה שהיה? Why this extra statement?
    – HaLeiVi
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 0:40

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