On Sunday evening, December 20, Chazaq, TorahAnytime, Mosaica Press, and Congregation Sons of Israel of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, hosted a virtual shiur with Rabbi Ephraim Epstein, author of the new sefer titled Davening Divine. He shared the famous quote from Pirkei Avos that the world stands on three things: Torah, Avodah, u’G’milus Chasadim. “The world was created for t’filah.” He taught that “everyone wants a meaningful t’filah experience. Everyone wants a deeper connection with his Creator.”
He posed the question: “Why isn’t davening the Divine experience it could and should be?” One reason is that people don’t think about what they’re doing. “What if you had a meeting with the CEO of a company who could give you the job of your dreams? Every day, three times a day, we have a meeting with the greatest CEO in the entire world, who can help and impact us in so many ways we can think of ways we don’t think of.” If we had this mind frame of this opportunity we have every day, it would make a difference in our davening.
The Chofetz Chaim taught that if a Jew was given mann in the desert and he didn’t think about what it would taste like, then the mann would be tasteless. So, too, our mitzvos: If a Jew does mitzvos without thinking, he misses the feeling and meaning and its tasteless.
Rabbi Epstein then shared how we can transform our davening or strengthen it. He noted how the chasidim of ancient days used to prepare an hour before davening, then they davened an hour, and then they needed an hour to come back down to earth. We have a meeting with the King of Kings who oversees everyone’s life all over the world.
The problem is first that we say the same words every day and also that we may have learned davening at a young age and we need to inject adult meaning into our prayers that we learned as a child. He offered three ways we can work on this problem. First, we need to understand the meaning of the words. Second, we have to understand that we are standing in front of Hashem. Third, we have to understand the context and the order of the t’filos.
We all experience moments of inspiration, but this eventually fades away. “What can we do to make our davening as Divine as possible?” T’filos were instituted by N’viim. “Don’t we owe it to ourselves to understand what we’re saying?” Today there are so many translations of our t’filos. “I recommend that you have to take time and make a seder in t’filah once or twice a week. Choose one t’filah that you will really understand. After you understand it, then practice saying it over and over, injecting the thoughts you have about it while you are davening. He said, “As great coaches of sports teach, ‘How you practice is how you play.’” He added, “So, too, how you practice is how you pray.” When you practice, it makes a difference for real-time davening.
He then explained that the sefer is divided into six parts according to the services on Shabbos. He shared some of the ideas in the sefer. Many t’filos are written in an acrostic. Ashrei is the quintessential acrostic, covering the whole Alef-Beis. It’s as if we are praying to Hashem with every letter in the alphabet.
The Gemara says that a person reciting Ashrei three times a day is a ben Olam HaBa. He pointed out that we always recite Ashrei before a K’dushah.
Every Shabbos celebrates three famous Shabbasos in world history. The Friday night Amidah celebrates Creation. The Shabbos morning Amidah celebrates Matan Torah, and the Minchah Amidah celebrates the time of the Mashiach. So, every Shabbos is a celebration of Creation, Revelation, and the time of G’ulah.
Rabbi Epstein taught that this same pattern is reflected in our everyday t’filos. We begin with Creation after Barchu, we reflect on Revelation, and then in Sh’ma we reflect on the Exodus and thank Hashem for taking us out of Egypt, and then we daven the Amidah.
He shared that “knowing the road marks along the way centers you.” We thank Hashem for Creation and Matan Torah, and then we are ready to accept Hashem’s Kingship and we know that the Ultimate Redemption will come. It’s important to plan before davening. “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” he imparted.
There are three things we want to accomplish in our davening: 1. Strengthen our emunah. 2. Communicate with Hashem. 3. Unlock blessings waiting for us. The depth of a relationship with Hashem is a blessing. “When you attend to your relationship, it has to improve.”
We have to remember that we have an open-door policy with the King of Kings. “T’filah is a journey of the soul and mind towards Hashem’s throne and the upper chambers of Heaven.”
This shiur can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber