Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Figure out how to concentrate in tefillah and don't despair

A blogger called Doresh asked some tough questions about kavvana and tefilla. He writes
Many years ago I bought some seforuim on various tefilos are learnt them. However I quickly discovered that given the time to for instance say ashrei, it’s not realistic to be mechavain anything.....The problem with tefilah - is that the point is to communicate and think NOT mumble through an extraordinary number of words per minute and space out. Yet we do. And you see from how the halacha is set up - we are forced to. And despite asking numerous talmidei chachomim and looking around in various acharonim I have never seen any kind of explanation. It’s maddening.
I say that the problem is that people think halakha is like chemistry. H20 = water and all that.

The truth is that if it will aid your tefillah to spend the 10 minutes of pesukei de-zimrah saying only ashrei, then by all means do so. Same goes for all teffilos that are in the siddur. There are certain ones that have priority, and even in the certain ones (such as the amidah) there are certain berachos with priority.

Unfortunately "they" won't tell the rabbim that one really doesn't have to daven every single word if it will damage his tefillah.

Use your head, man. It's like when they tell you that if you say a single word of lashon hara as defined by the Chafetz Chaim then every good thing you did in your entire life promptly disappears. Take it for what it is, a polemical point that lashon hara is a sin.

This is definitely not an argument against being medakdek in halakha or striving for that. But it is an observable fact that it is impossible for a human being to excel in every fine point of every law as codified in the texts, or at least not for an average human being (e.g., most people). What if you don't get out of bed like a lion (first siman Shulhan Arukh)? Does that mean that you "don't follow the Shulhan Arukh" and thus aren't frum? Nonsense. The point of halakha isn't to make people drown, and if someone is drowning in it then they have to assess how they will stay afloat. If in the case of tefillah it is a choice between having kavvana for a couple of things or having no kavvanah at all and frantically mumbling it all out the choice is clear.

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