In the last segment, we mentioned that the words of the Shemoneh Esrei were written by the 120 Anshei K’neses HaG’dolah (the Men of the Great Assembly), which included prophets. HaRav Chaim Volozhin writes (Ruach Chaim, Avos 1:2) that the words rise to the most exalted part of the world. These words were designed by Hashem to achieve great impact merely by our focusing on each word before we say it, as discussed in the last segment.
At the same time, we know that one of the primary purposes of tefilah, arguably the greatest purpose, is to connect us with Hashem – d’veikus. That happens through mind and heart as we praise Hashem, plead for all of our needs, and thank Him for His endless kindness. The Rishonim write that tefilah without kavanah is like a body without a soul. Let us examine one line, which HaRav Chaim Volozhin writes about the words having been formulated through prophecy and ruach ha’kodesh. In his sefer Ruach Chaim on Avos (1:2) he writes:
Everything is included in it, and all people of Yisrael: Each one davens according to his [best] understanding.
The Chasam Sofer writes that even the 120 Elders were not aware of all the possible meanings each person would think about as he or she recites them. Every possible meaning was infused into the words by Hashem. This understanding opens up limitless opportunities for us to personalize our Shemoneh Esrei, which helps us to achieve d’veikus in a much more profound way than merely thinking about the English translation of the words. A powerful example is when HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky told someone that he asks Hashem daily, as he recites Birkas HaMazon, not to need a blood transfusion. Where is that written? “Lo liy’dei matnas basar va’dam.” The simple understanding is not to need any monetary gifts from anyone. However, using this concept, he was able to take these words, written by Kings David and Shlomo, and personalize them to something none of us would dream they meant when they wrote those words. However, since the words were written through prophecy and ruach ha’kodesh, Hashem put into the words all future needs over time and throughout the ages, which anyone may think about while reciting them. This concept is extremely powerful to remember when we recite Shemoneh Esrei.
If we combine what we have seen in this segment with last week’s segment, we can transform our tefilos. Every tefilah is a precious gift and opportunity to have a significant impact on the world(s) and to bring us ever closer in our relationship with Hashem. We can achieve both of these lofty goals by combining gazing and focusing on the actual words, together with thinking about their meaning in conventional and personalized ways. As always, we suggest starting slowly. Pick one brachah for each component to start. The first brachah of Shemoneh Esrei is most important, in general, making it the logical choice to work on focusing on the words themselves. At the same time, a different brachah, which resonates most to you personally, may be the ideal place to begin the personalization aspect discussed in this segment.
Let us remember that often the greatest tool we have to remove painful decrees is tefilah, even more powerful than learning Torah and doing chesed. With elections coming up, COVID ongoing, and other decrees that are affecting our yeshivos and shuls, every tefilah is crucially needed at this time. Let us begin or enhance the two aspects of tefilah discussed, to show Hashem that we appreciate and value the precious opportunity He has gifted to us to come closer to Him and to have a meaningful and vitally needed positive impact on the world(s).
To access Audio, Video, and Archives of previous Tefilah segments, please visit www.WeeklyTefilahFocus.com.
You can direct any questions or comments to Eliezer Szrolovits at 917-551-0150.