Thursday, March 31, 2011

Injecting Power in Your Tefillah

The following question was submitted anonymously. If Hashem hates it when we do things by rote (mitzvas anashim milumadah), then why do we say so many tefillos in davening? I love Hashem, I love talking to Hashem and I love tefillah. It's just that when I haven't yet gotten to the point where you can say every tefillah with immense kavvanah then should I not be saying all the "smaller" tefillos?
B"h I've conquered
shmoneh esrei, ashrei, and shema. And I can say that I am very proud of my concentration and understanding of those tefillos. But what about the rest of them? Do you think I'll ever get that far that I can really pay attention by every hallilukah, etc? You have to take things step by step, no? Why do they pile on so many tefillos whith out teaching them to us when we were younger?

I want you to know that I really respect you for asking this question! I see that you are someone who wants to grow and perfect your tefillah and you are not satisfied with just saying the words without the proper concentration. Here is part 1 of my answer to you.

There's a quote, "Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you will still be among the stars."
Applying this to tefillah and specifically to your question, I would say that you need to aim high. By aiming high, even if you don't reach your goal, you'll still be getting somewhere.

R' Shimshon Pincus zt"l compares tefillah to dynamite. How is a bomb able to cause a giant wall to crumble? The power of a bomb lies in those little particles that are inside of it. When that bomb is thrown against the wall, it's the little pieces of powder that give the bomb the ability to break mountains.
How does tefillah have so much power? It's in those little letters combined to make words, written by the anshei knesses hagedolah with ruach hakodesh. The words themselves are filled with incredible power and just by saying them, you can break barriers and make things happen. Just by saying the tefillos, you are accomplishing so much!!

The way you'll be able to reach the level of concentration you are hoping to get to in even the "little tefillos" is by realizing that they are not so little. They may be short, they may be tefillos you say every day really quickly, but the first step is to tell yourself that there is amazing power behind these words. They were written by people much greater than us and there are deep meanings in these words.

No, you will not be able to reach the proper level of concentration overnight. But you can get there if you try to do it one by one. And it's normal if sometimes your mind wanders and you are not fully focused on the meaning of each and every one.
By telling yourself that you will never get there you will not be able to even reach the first step! That sounds like a tactic of the yetzer hara.

The Chofetz Chaim in his introduction to sefer shmiras halashon says that the yetzer hara uses this specific approach to get people to talk without thinking. He says, "the laws of shmiras halashon are so detailed and will rule every aspect of my life. The only way I will be able to ensure that I never violate the rules is by not speaking at all. Since this is impossible, I might as well just throw it all away and just say whatever I want whenever I want."

By not trying at all, by not saying the "smaller tefillos" you are not giving yourself an opportunity to work on achieving kavannah in those tefillos! There is a purpose in saying them because slowly, you'll be able to have the proper concentration, if you tackle each tefillah one at a time. Yes, it will take work but you will feel so good about it afterwards - when you see that you have conquered yet another tefillah! Each tefillah has something unique about it. Delve into the meaning behind tefillos and you will find so much depth there!

There is still plenty more to say on this topic but I want to hear from you first. How does this help you? Do you still have questions?


  1. what about the mitzvas anashim melumadah aspect? your saying that if we never stated saying them when were younger than thier would be no hope 2 ever conquer them?

  2. Amazing post. Thank you so much for addressing this.

    I personally feel that a person can start out doing mitzvot anashim meulmadah, but if you keep doing them and working on injecting kavannah in them, then they'll begin to have real meaning for you.

  3. Anon-yes, if you never said those tefillos in the first place, you are not giving yourself a chance to try to get better at them!
    Also, by saying those tefillos without proper concentration, it might hit you one day to try to work on it. Like, hey, I should be trying harder! And you can work on it takes work but you can get there one day!
    I'm also writing another post about tefillah and hope to include some tips and ideas of how to add enthusiasm & excitement to your tefillos.



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