Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Davening Advice From the Yeshiva World

In my snooping (or surfing) around the web, I have come across some pretty interesting tefilla related stuff.  Most recently I re-discovered The Yeshiva World, which apparently functions as a news wire.  More interesting is that they have a "coffee room" that allows for readers to post issues and have an exchange of ideas that have observed in other talkback forums.

In the Tefilla/Davening forum, readers have raised the following interesting topics (just to give you a sampling if you are weary to make the jump):

  • Cellphones in Shul
  • Good Kedusha Tunes
  • Davening at Fast Minyanim
  • Shul in Louisville, Kentucky
  • Non-slip Taleisim
  • "Prayer" for jobless people
and my personal favorite with 91 talkbacks:
  • Something I noticed a lot of people do because they probably don't know this
But the topic of today's post is titled "A problem with tefillah":
my problem is that i find it EXTREMELY difficult to daven well. i am always in a rush to get out to work in the morning, and my tefilla is often lip service. and it pains me greatly. ive tried the makom kavua, ive tried concentrating on one small part of davening, and i even tried getting myself an interliner siddur so that i can read the translations of the words. nothing seems to help. and i know, especially in this time period of my life, that i need my teffilos. everyone always says that teffila is a direct connection to Hashem. the thing is, i dont feel in any way that my connection with Hashem is suffering. i talk to Him all the time. and i have a much easier time with saying tehillim then i do with davening. i guess because i dont know the words of tehillim and i HAVE to look inside and concentrate on what im saying. but i REALLY want to improve my daily davening. any suggestions?
I like the honesty of the post and the maturity of the person who seems to be undergoing a process and a struggle.  And the readers responded with some sincere suggestions and a calm debate whether it is better or easier to pray with other people watching or by oneself. 

This comment also stood out:
This always works: Leave time before Shemonah Esrei for 2 minutes to completely empty your head and medidate on the fact that you are literally standing in front of G-d to ask Him for your daily needs and those of the Klal.

Do we teach this concept to our students?  Or provide for a quiet, less rushed moment to reflect before we shuffle and shuckle?  Again I think one of the challenges for educators is that the techniques of meditation are not often taught and sometimes has a bit of hippy dippy stigma to it that pushes many mainstreamers away from trying it.  If davening is a skill that can me taught to the masses, are we really succeeding in imparting the proper tools and desire to practice when they are out of school?  How do you measure this? We are looking for a set of standards.  

1 comment:

  1. I emphasize shemona esrei and how everything is a lead in to that. I have counseled my students to take a moment to gather their thoughts, and to be aware of entering "omed lifnei hashem." I am very interested in this post and the previous one about methodically teaching students how to improve kavana. That it is a skill that needs to be worked on.

    This reminded me of something I read in the Rambam's Moreh Nevuchim (Freidlander, pg. 386) many years ago that knocked me over.

    We must bear in mind that all such religious acts as reading the Law, praying, and the performance of other precepts, serve exclusively as the means of causing us to occupy and fill our mind with the precepts of Gd, and free it from worldly business; for we are thus, as it were, in communication with Gd, and undisturbed by any other thing. If we, however, pray with the motion of our lips, and our face toward the wall, but at the same time think of our business; if we read the Law with our tongue, whilst our heart is occupied with the building of our house, and we do not think of what we are reading..We must not imagine that in this way we attain the highest perfection..

    I will now commence to show you the way how to educate and train yourselves in order to attain that great perfection.

    The first thing you must do is this: Turn your thoughts away from everything while you read Shema or during the Tefillah, and do not content yourself with being devout when you read the first verse of Shema, or the first paragraph of the prayer. When you have successfully practiced this FOR MANY YEARS (capitalization mine), try in reading the Law or listening to it, to have all your heart and all your thought occupied with understanding what you read or hear. After some time when you have mastered this, accustom yourself to have your mind free from all other thoughts when you read any portion of the other books of the prophets, or when you say any blessing; and to have your attention directed exclusively to the perception and understanding of what you utter.

    I was, frankly, shocked, that it would need practice of "many years" in order to be able to concentrate.

    I welcome any specific techniques to teach myself and my students how to concentrate on what we are saying other than "practice."

    Although perhaps what we need is practice. Time during class to practice concentrating on the first verse of Shema without being distracted. And go from there.