Entering and Exiting our Beit Midrash

Mishna, Chapter 4, Mishna 2
When R. Nebunyah b. Hakanah would enter the Bet Midrash and depart, he would offer a short prayer. They asked him: What place is there for this prayer? He said to them: When entering I pray that no stumbling block should arise through me and when I leave I give thanks for my lot.
(Ber akhot 64a): “Whoever leaves the House of Prayer and enters the Bet Midrash to study Torah merits welcoming the Divine Presence, as it is said: ‘They go from strength to strength; they shall appear before the Lord in Zion” (Ps. 84:8).
(Berakhot 28b): “What does one say upon entering the Bet Midrash? – ‘May it be Your will, 0 Lord my God, that no blunder occur through me, that I do not err in a matter of halakhah, so that my colleagues rejoice over me, that I do not declare impure to be pure, or pure, impure, that my colleagues do not err in a matter of halakhah so that I rejoice over them.’ And what does one say upon leaving the Bet Midrash?- ‘I give thanks to You, 0 Lord my God, for having set my portion among the scholars of the Bet Midrash and not among the idlers in the {market} corners. For I rise early and they rise early; I rise early to the study of Torah, and they rise early to idle vanities. I labor and they labor; I labor and receive reward, they labor and receive no reward. I run and they run; I run towards the World to Come and they run towards the pit of destruction.”
In his Mishnah commentary, Rambam declares these two prayers to be “mandatory for all who enter the Bet Midrash, for the baraita did not state ‘What was R. Nehunyah ben Hakanah used to saying,’ but ‘what does one say”, i.e., what does every man say when entering the Bet Hamidrash. These two petitions are also called Tefillah, since it is common usage to call all petitions “prayers”.
These tasks are both oral and written. First, discuss each point below with your chevruta and then answer question #1 in writing (about one page in proper English, i.e. spelling and grammar). Be prepared to share your answers to all questions, orally, with the class. If you need to, take notes from your conversation.
1. As we begin our Beit Midrash for Citizenship and Bible, what prayers, if any, do you have?
a. If you do not have prayers, please express your hopes, goals and dreams as a product of this work.
b. If you still feel uncomfortable, write your own “petition” to the instructor about your needs.
2. Please reflect on any differences you may feel in prayers for citizenship and Bible.
a. Whether you see a difference or not, whether you have prayers, hopes, goals or dreams, reflect on the differences between citizenship study and Bible study.
3. Please analyze or criticize (or both) the approach that Rambam takes to the text in the Mishna. You must address the literalism of his attention to exact words and the meaning he makes of them.


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