Thursday, April 03, 2008

"I Couldn't Keep Silent"

(Painting by Zvi Malnovitzer)

Yitz commenting on The Voyage Of Prayer:

With exponential (deserved) respect and honor to Avakesh, who is a much more learned person than myself, I feel compelled to state my difference of opinion on one particular matter mentioned.

Shortly after I made Aliyah, in the fall of 2000 (5760) I was praying Mincha very hastily and without a minyan. I pondered why it was that sometimes I was able to pray with great kavanah sometimes, and other times it felt like I was an empty automaton. At some point I realized, "Wait a minute! my prayers aren't lacking because HaShem has no interest in connecting with me. He is unchanging and always there waiting for us to call out, he has literally infinite patience. It must be that I'm not connecting because I don't care enough to invest the energy to do so."

And so I stopped rushing through Mincha and slowed down and slowed down and slowed down, determined no matter what to connect.

In the end it was a spectacular tefillah.

Since then (almost eight years ago) I know without a doubt that whenever my tefilla is less than phenomenal, it is because I'm not investing the energy. You ALWAYS have the option of sticking out your tefillah no matter how long it takes, if you really care and really yearn and really strive, and never give up, you can ALWAYS have the highest tefillah.

Note that this insight should never be a source of depression or cause tefillah to feel like a burden, rather it should be a source of comfort, to know that HaShem is ALWAYS there ready to hear you and rejoice in your company. [If you don't feel up to the challenge, then fulfill the halachic requirement of tefillah and rejoice in the fact that you didn't let your yetzer get you upset about your simple tefillah. This is a very lofty accomplishment.]

Another (tantamount) thing I learned over the years is that you never lose any time to tefillah. If you take the time to pray properly, you never suffer for it.. no matter how long you take. So many times I cut short because I was in a rush or running late or had other commitments.. and every time I got stuck in traffic or couldn't find a bus/cab or something else came up (hefetz hashud) that ensured that I never gained anything with the time I spared skimping on my tefillah.

Avakesh, I ask mechilah for disagreeing with you in this context. It is just so important and close to my heart, I couldn't keep silent.


At April 3, 2008 at 10:52:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think you're right. The main thing is to pay attention. Speaking only for myself, if I am in a rush, then my tefillah is an empty exercise, I excuse myself by saying that this time is just for practice, just to memorize another section, or something like that. The experience is much different if I concentrate, take my time, and try to mean what I say. On the other hand, a tefillah is a tefillah, and I agree that Hashem will rejoice with us to the extent that we can rejoice, so nothing is wasted. I think the sort of attitude expressed in stories about the Berditchever is right.

At April 3, 2008 at 2:59:00 PM EDT, Blogger Cosmic X said...

I agree.

At April 4, 2008 at 11:47:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Litukei Eitzot (available below in English), in the section on prayer (look under P; it's alphabetically arranged), Rebbe Nachman has some relevant lessons. He mentions, as discussed in the previous post you're responding to, the issue of feeling pride during prayer, as well as the problem of distractions and so on. This stuff is also in other sections. Just like you say, he says you have to muster up the energy to put all your energy into your prayers, even when you're not feeling like it.


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