35

I tend to daven (pray) without sufficient focus and very quickly. In particular, I find that most of the time that I'm praying, my mind is on things other than the words that I'm saying. And, not that comparison with others is ideal in this realm, but for what it's worth, I frequently find that I am the fastest davener in a given minyan.

I would like to drastically increase my level of focus during davening. Secondarily, and more as a symptom of the primary goal than as a goal in itself, I'd like to daven more slowly. I have made resolutions along these lines in the past, but I find that my mind invariably wanders as my lips speed along, anyway.

Additional data: I was introduced to reading Hebrew and davening as early as preschool. Consequently, I can read prayerbook Hebrew fairly rapidly, have memorized most of the text of davening, and have a good idea of the meanings of most of the Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew words that the davening is made of.

I am looking for techniques for focusing more and speeding less from people who have successfully improved from a similar situation to mine. I am aware that there is plenty of literature, old and new, about focusing on davening, but for this purpose, I am less interested in what has been proposed in theory or proclaimed as successful by saintly sages of old than I am in learning what has worked empirically for regular people of our times.

Consequently, I would most appreciate responses that follow the rough format "My davening was ... So I tried doing ... Now, my davening is ..."

  • 6
    Two years later, what ended up working for you? (I see your positive comment on one answer and your acceptance of another. Did they both work for you long-term?) – Monica Cellio Feb 23 '12 at 1:39
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    @MonicaCellio, Unfortunately, my performance in this area has been similar to that of a New Year's dieter, so I can't offer high-quality testimony as to the effectiveness of various tactics. I'll let you know. ... – Isaac Moses Feb 23 '12 at 3:28
  • 2
    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/26698 – msh210 Feb 28 '13 at 21:32
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    There is a lot more to davening than the p'shat. Have you considered learn some of the deeper perushim on the words in the siddur? Sometimes when I intend to take longer in davening I will learn something before hand ND periodically will take a short pause and think about what I've learned and how it relates to the tefilla – Dude Oct 5 '14 at 20:09
  • 1
    @NoachMiFrankfurt I haven't, but I definitely see how that could be valuable. I researched and gave a shiur on one beracha a few months ago, and that definitely helped with my concentration on that beracha. I plan, beli neder, to continue doing something like that on an annual basis, so that's something. – Isaac Moses Aug 2 '16 at 19:22

25 Answers 25

13

Two things have proven effective for me over the years in this regard:

  1. Davening near/behind people who are more into it than me. This is inspirational not for competitive reasons but because it provides constant reminders that if I fall behind in my concentration I am missing out - for, as the other individual demonstrates, there is something to be missed.

  2. Pursuing a deeper understanding of the prayers independently and in context "off-line" (i.e. not during davening).

  • 1
    I have occasionally experienced #1 and it made a big difference to me at the time -- that time I could more easily focus because I had a good example right in front of me. Carrying this into the rest of my davening has been slow going, sadly. – Monica Cellio Oct 5 '14 at 19:13
18

My rabbi told me a very nice suggestion which seems to help me every time I practice it and it's very simple: Follow along with your finger.

If you have your finger below every word that you say, it will make you have to look at the page that you're reading from causing you to slow down and think about the words that you are saying. Even if you don't understand the full meaning or even part of the meaning, you will at least make a association such that your eyes and finger are connected with the words that you are saying making harder for the mind to be somewhere else.

I've found even doing this is not so easy. But when I do it, it really helps.

  • 5.Keep your fingers on the place – SimchasTorah Jul 20 '10 at 17:57
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    Success! I tried this technique tonight, and it really did help me slow down and focus. At one point, I let my hand rest for a minute (late Mincha on 9 Av, OK?), and I automatically dropped right into speed mode. It was just like my surnamesake's hands at the battle with Amalek. Thanks, Chaim! – Isaac Moses Jul 21 '10 at 5:17
  • Awesome! Baruch Hashem! I'm happy this worked for you. – chaimp Jul 22 '10 at 5:59
  • Definitely true for me as well. If you just follow with your eyes, it is easy to skip a word or go by memory. By following with your finger, you are forcing yourself to look at and say every word. It does take practice, though. – Dennis May 10 '13 at 15:08
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    This technique is extremely useful while learning as well. When I find myself in spacey mood, I put my finger to the book and go for it. – user6591 Oct 24 '14 at 13:44
12
+200

I was a major sufferer of the problem you describe, and to be honest, I have not completely cured myself of this; however, there are a few things that I have done recently that have made a huge difference in my level of focus during davening. I think it is important to remember, though, that there is no quick fix to this challenge. As you mentioned in a comment, it can sometimes be easy to drop whatever method you are following to slow down, and end up cruising through davening again without even realizing. I believe that it requires a strong commitment over time to improve your kavanah during davening, and simply changing some behaviors will not be sufficient to make you a consistently better davener immediately. That being said, here are a some things that have dramatically helped me become a better davener.

First of all, the times when I paid the least attention to my davening were always when I was tired. When I'm barely awake and just saying the words to get through them, I would often find myself completing the entire shmoneh esrei in just barely over one minute with hardly any recollection of having said it at all. It was like the feeling that you get when you drive somewhere and pull into the parking lot and realize that you have absolutely no recollection of the entire drive that you just completed. The approach to fixing this is simple: make sure you are getting enough sleep. But be careful not to oversleep, because if you roll straight out of bed into shacharis, you will be drowsy and unable to focus. I daven in a very early minyan, but I am careful to always arrive with enough time to have at least 5 minutes to prepare myself and get situated before davening begins after I have put on my tallis and tefilin. This made a big difference.

Second point is something that I have been doing for a while and it has been quite successful. For all of the brachot of shmoneh esrei, I add my own little bit to the bracha. For shevach brachot, I add my own bit of shevach. For bakasha, my own bit of bakasha. For hoda'ah, my own bit of hoda'ah. In each case my little bit is related to the particular bracha that I am attaching it to. This makes me focus on the meaning of the bracha in order to come up with something to add. I do not allow myself to add the same thing from day to day in order to prevent myself from simply having added to the formula that I speed through without thinking. As always, CYLOR before adding words to brachot. My rabbi told me to not say any extra words out loud for shevach and hoda'ah brachot, so for those I simply add in my head.

My third point is something that I have only started since Shmini Atzeret (a week ago as of writing this post). Before starting shmoneh esrei, I pause to remind myself to add "mashiv haruach". At that same time, I also remind myself to go slowly through davening and focus on the words. So far, this has been very effective. I do not know how effective this will be once I am once again in the habit of saying "mashiv haruach" and no longer need to remind myself at that point.

These three things have helped me tremendously. As recently as a year ago, I was always one of the first people to finish davening, especially in the ma'ariv minyan that I attend. I would finish and then sometimes wait as long as 7 or 8 minutes after I was already done before one of the rabbis of the shul would finish and the shaliach tzibur would start kaddish. Since then, I really feel that I have come a very long way. I was inspired to answer your question because I thought of it when I had a little "mini victory" tonight at ma'ariv when, for the first time, the rabbi finished davening before I did. And it wasn't just because I was davening slowly without paying attention.

8
+50

This is a great question that touches on an area that is so fundamental.

Before mentioning any specific technique that has worked for me, I'd like to share a perspective that has significantly boosted my Tefilla.

People use the expression "the elephant in the room." In Tefilla, I felt that for a long time I had been missing the "God in the room."

While the approach of deepening one's understanding of the words of davening and making a personal connection to that meaning can be of some value, for me, it was much more uplifting to begin pondering in awe the One Who is hearing my supplications.

The way I began thinking of this perspective (in a succinct enough way that I could recall it easily at any point during Shmoneh Esrei) was: I am not standing here to think about me, but You (or even simpler: not me, You). For after all, aren't all of those drifts from our kavanna some concern or another about ourselves? The frequent times that we say אתה might be a good time to infuse this thought.

Often all we need to snap out of a Shmoneh Esrei daydream is a gentle reminder that for these precious few minutes it's not about our relentless plans and desires, but about deepening our appreciation of our Maker.

But the questioner hits on the crux of the problem: Whatever tactic we try and implement, after time we always seem to become reduced to that spaced out davener that we were beforehand. How to improve the Tefilla and keep it on a steady upward trajectory?

The truth is that this is one of the central challenges of life: how to always stay inspired. There of course is no magical trick to staying inspired, but a huge part of the work is in clearly defining to ourselves that this is an important goal in life.

The Gedolim are always seeing and observing things with a new and fresh perspective; they see in every facet of Hashem's Creation powerful inspiration; and it needn't be said that they constantly become inspired by Hashem's Torah.

It takes massive diligence to ALWAYS be inspired but we should work on the belief that it is worth it. For one of the sweet dividends is Tefilla that always soars.

Sure it sounds lofty but-what if? What if- we really could make ourselves inspired people to the point that we tremble with excitement before beginning to daven? What if- God's infinite power and kindness could bring us to tears?

What if- we relished every word of the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah? Not only would we have overcome our mind-wandering nature, we'll have something very special to hold on to for eternity. Lofty? Yes. Worth it? Yes.

  • Hello shmuel. Thanks so much for your perspective! The question is looking for practical tips for improving tefila, so so you have any suggestions on how to keep oneself inspired? – Daniel Oct 27 '14 at 12:24
  • @Daniel Sure: In my answer I mentioned the tactic of thinking "not me, You." For each bracha, what works for me, is to use the bracha (e.g. He Who heals the sick) to deepen my appreciation of the aspect of Hashem it refers to (e.g. our health is completely in Hashem's hands). – Shmuel Wise Oct 27 '14 at 14:13
  • @Daniel (continued) But the main practical advise I am suggesting is a long term plan of: a) developing a deep and focused goal of always being inspired, and b) following our former and current Torah sages' lead in developing an ever-renewing depth of understanding and appreciation of the myriads of Divine gifts that we receive daily (be it wonders of Hashem's Creation, Divine Providence in our personal lives, or wisdom of Hashem's Torah- His very thoughts, etc.). – Shmuel Wise Oct 27 '14 at 14:18
7

I too had this problem. I bought the Artscroll Interlinear siddur. It slowed me down a lot and imbued much more meaning into my davening.

6

Without checking sources: Psukei DeZimra (the psalms and passages from Baruch SheAmar to Yishtabach, before Shema) should be recited slowly, as though one were counting money. Try to pronounce each word separately (in a low whisper), with a pause after each verse. Don't stretch the words out, but savor them (like good wine). The same applies to Shema, and to the Amida. (perhaps Aleinu, too). On the other hand, don't pray so slowly that you always miss out on certain parts of the davenning with the minyan - answering Kaddish, Barchu, Kedushah. Another approach is to arrive earlier at shule, and daven slowly in such a way as to arrive at Shema or the Amida at exactly the same time as the Minyan.

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    Perry Zamek, Welcome to mi.yodeya! Thanks very much for the advice. Is it based on your own experience, or only your memory of the sources? – Isaac Moses Feb 1 '10 at 5:45
6

I experienced a significant improvement in my focus on davening when I discovered that it is halachically preferable to omit much of davening in order to better focus on a smaller part.

The Mishna Brurah (1:12; see also Aruch HaShulchan 51:9) writes : "...if a person assesses that saying more will impinge on his concentration, and he [therefore] shortens his prayers and says them with concentration, it is considered before God the same as someone else who prays at length with concentration, and regarding this we have learned 'the one who increases and the one who decreases are equal, so long as the intention is for God's sake'". (This applies to korbanos, psukei dzimrah etc., but probably not to birchos krias shma etc.)

In other words, davening isn't a race to get a certain number of words out of your mouth in a given time. Knowing that you don't have to say everything in the siddur and maintain concentration takes a certain pressure off of davening, and I've found that when I give myself permission to say just this paragraph, but say it well, with absolute focus and feeling, it helps immensely towards doing just that.

Of course, I still have my ups and downs, but this has been responsible for many of my 'ups'.

  • 2
    While this is true of many parts of Davening, it is important to brush up on the laws of what is really essential before implementing this. +1 – Double AA Aug 2 '16 at 17:49
5

Sometimes, (when I'm feeling particularly not into it,) I pause before I begin every beracha of amida and ask myself:

  • Do I want to say this beracha?
  • Why do I want to say this beracha?

Helps me a lot, and I hope it can help others too.

5

Copied from my answer here:

  1. Take a minute to clear your mind and try to fee the presence of Hashem all around you.
  2. Daven to Hashem to help you daven with Kavanah
  3. Every time you catch your mind straying, ask for Hashem's help again
  4. Keep reminding yourself that Hashem and all the Heavenly hosts are counting on you.
  5. Keep your fingers on the place.
  6. Learn the meaning of what you are saying
  7. Say only one phrase at a time.
  8. Daven aloud and if you are able try singing the words.
  9. Invest each Bracha in Shmoneh Esrai with personal details
  10. Specify your indebtedness to Hashem,embellish your praise and detail your requests
  11. Try to daven near those who pray with Kavanah

This is very basic summary, and additional answers to those already provided. (From: Ezras Nashim)

4

The Koren-Sacks siddur can be worth a try.

Also worth a try is a siddur with a different version of the text than the one you're used to (Nusach Sefard, real Sfaradi, etc). Makes it much harder to plow through the text.

Of course, it's certainly possible you just adapt to this over time, and then need some other trick. But it's a start.

  • 5
    I was going to suggest Nusach Sefard also, but was wondering if there are any halakhic implications? I know that if you are in a shul davening Sefard, than you can also, even if you regularly daven Ashkenaz, but if you are Ashkenaz in an Ashkenaz shul, is there room to change minhag? – Jeremy Mar 16 '10 at 15:05
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    Yes, there is a halachic problem with switching Nusach's. There is basis if you are going to switch to Nusach Sefard (or vice versa) permanently, but lechatchilla one should not bounce back and forth. An alternative would be to daven at a minyan which uses an alternative nusach, in which case there are poskim who say you should use the kehillah's nusach for out loud portions, but you should consult your Rav about the implications first. – Yirmeyahu Apr 9 '10 at 6:13
  • I don't know how long the effect would last, but along similar lines, I was once slowed down by a different edition of the same siddur I was used to -- so it was the same text, but the line breaks were sometimes in different places (different margins I guess?) and the pagination was different. I was much slower that day. – Monica Cellio Oct 5 '14 at 19:18
4

I recently tried enunciating the letter ע more while davening. This makes you go slower, at least until you get so used to it. Then, once you're going slower and paying more attention to the words, you end up having better kavanah.

  • 3
    I've tried to do that too (not specifically for this reason, but to be more precise in my pronunciation), and I've found a helpful side-effect: I'm getting better at spelling! (Because if I write a word just from memory I often get homophones wrong.) – Monica Cellio Oct 26 '14 at 17:56
  • Improving my spelling would be a sufficient motivation for me. I too struggle with spelling on those sorts of similar sounding letter issues. – Ze'ev Felsen Jan 19 '15 at 6:38
4

I read the following piece of advice in a pamphlet somewhere, and I tried it and it worked for me.

Concentrate on the meaning of Hashem's name whenever it comes up. You can pick whichever meaning you want for it to work, although Halacha has an opinion about which one is the main one.

There are two reasons why I think it works. One is that Hashem's name comes up often enough that if you just refocus every time it comes up, you'll be on track for most of Shemoneh Esrei. The other is that I think the phrase ברוך אתה ה sends many people, even if they are putting effort into focusing, into "auto-pilot," after which they stay that way. If you consciously invest in focusing on the "auto-pilot" triggers, then you'll avoid the problem.

I also used to have something I would do before Shemoneh Esrei (which maybe writing it here and preaching it to others will inspire me to resume), which I instituted based on some reading of meditation techniques. One of the most basic techniques of focusing your mind in meditation is to execute subconscious processes consciously. So I used to take a few seconds (or longer at Mincha, when there is more time immediately before Shemoneh Esrei if you start Ashrei early enough) to focus on my breathing, counting 5 seconds to inhale, 2 second pause, 5 seconds to exhale, and I found that this helped to settle my mind and help me focus.

3

One piece of advice that has helped me and more than one person that I know is to think about the meaning of the words before saying them. Generally, people intuitively gravitate towards thinking about the words afterwards and then find that they can't hold concentration. Instead thinking about the word or phrase one is about to say and then saying it can really increase focus and concentration.

3

Try to be the sheliach tzibbur as often as possible. I find that when I lead the prayers I'm much more focused on them.

Partly this is because representing the congregation is a serious undertaking, so it encourages kavannah. It also helps that everyone's watching, so it's much more awkward to have a two-minute shemoneh esrei.

If it's not possible to lead the prayers, try to be near the front of the synagogue, so you'll have the "everyone's watching" benefit.

3

You should consider getting a Siddur with Kavanot. Before I used one I was around 1.5x faster than I am now. Now I take my time and I feel better after I finish. P.S. If you are Sephardic I recommend the Siddur called Kavanat Halev.

  • I, too, try to solely use Kawanat HaLev. They have published siddurim, mahhzorim and Haggadot Shel Pesahh. – Lee Sep 10 '15 at 12:44
3

Rabbi Dov Fischer (of Young Israel of Orange County) wrote a very nice article in which he discusses how adding personal prayers within the brachos of the Amidah increased his concentration and devotion. Here are some selections:

"For me, that revelation – that you may add your own private prayer – was my first breakthrough. So, if someone was sick, I suddenly was going to start inserting a request at R’fa’einu. So, now, I suddenly wanted to understand that paragraph more. I got very involved in Soviet Jewry, and I started to add a personal prayer at '[t]ka’ b’shofar gadol . . . v’kabtzeinu yachad mei-arba’ kanfot ha’aretz.' Well, I needed to understand that paragraph better, if only to craft my own insertion.

When the contractor who was building my home in the new American neighborhood in Karnei Shomron went bankrupt with my life’s savings, I started adding a prayer in “Bareikh Aleinu.” So I needed better to understand that brakhah – and what does wind and rain have to do with my finances? As I grew more, evolved more – and it takes many decades in my narrative – and started recovering from the hubris of my teens and college years and my 30s and a chunk of my 40s, realizing ways in which I had messed up my life, I started adding prayers to 'S’lach Lanu.' People in my extended family veered from the derekh, people in my shul community would come to me crying about this or that personal tragedy, and I would pray for them in 'Hashiveinu Avinu l’Toratekha.' So I wanted to know – and to feel – that paragraph better.

My life took many hard turns, very hard setbacks. Yet, each time that I felt like I was mamash bound on my akeidah, there would be some miracle to turn my life around. In time, I found that even the non-petitional prayers ofhoda’ah compelled me to pause for greater clarity to say thanks to HaKadosh Barukh Hu for miracles that are with us every day — evening and morning and afternoon."

To Pray, To Daven, To Feel: So Where’s the Fire?

  • This was also R Eliezer's solution to avoid "reading prayers like a letter" and having them therefore "not be petitionary". (Yerushalmi Berakhot 4:4) – Double AA Mar 2 '17 at 19:30
3

I think the problem is that we spend so much time focusing on learning. We overly focus on intellectual stimulation. On another question LN6595 repeated their teacher's advice:

[I]t is imperative to periodically learn a new commentary on the Siddur in order to find new meaning in the old words.

But that will only help for a short while, until you find the next seifer... And what do you do when you're between siddurim and a new one didn't come out yet?

And yet, it is critical advice. After all, at different times in our lives we want to say to Hashem different things. The Rambam emphasizes the role of the "sages, and among them many prophets" of the Great Assembly in founding the core of our siddur because it takes prophecy to create such a rich palimpsest of potential meanings out of a single text.

We have a problem when teaching tefillah. Teach it too late, and the routine is never established. Teach it too early, and the routing is to run through a bunch of syllables that have no meaning. Rav Shlomo Wolbe has an exercise in which one says "Adon Olam" paying attention to how one says it. Not saying it with more kavanah than otherwise; watching the kavanah ebb and wain -- aware that this will indeed influence the results. I found it very hard, at least in the first weeks, to still be thinking about what I was saying through to the end of the poem. And non-coincidentally, I learned to say Adon Olam in Pre-1A. Those habits die hard.


I think we need to be much more in touch with the experiential side of things. Tefillah is not about the brain, it's about the emotional experience of turning to one's Parent and both discussing the things that are bothering me, as well as getting in the habit of discussing the things that are supposed to be bothering me.

For me, two things have helped, but I fear there is no one-size-fits-all solution:

1- Try the practice Rav Nachman miBreslov called "hisbodedus". Go someplace quiet, alone, preferably in touch with nature, and simply talk to the Creator. It will be artificial and awkard at first. But eventually you get used to it.

And then that ability to "speak to G-d" in your own words carries through to how you relate to davening a formal liturgy.

2- Rav Reuvein Leuchter has an approach based on Kelm's version of what Rav Yisrael called "hispa'alus" (literally: working on oneself). There are different ways of imbuing words with experiential and emotional power. Novhardok's involved yelling and they and Slabodka heavily used music. Hispa'alus isn't tied to a specific how; it's just about doing words in a way that they make impacts.

In adapting hispa’alus to contemporary prayer in a contemporary synagogue, perhaps Kelm’s style of hispa’alus that is quieter then Novorodok’s impassioned cry would be more useful. Kelm's approach was more intellectual. (In fact that's true in general. Their ideal [in my own metaphor] is for the intellect to be a conductor of an orchestra of middos, so that each middah chimes in when appropriate, instead of whenever it wants.) The bridge they used in hispaalus to get to the emotion is that we tend to connect emotionally to our own creations. Any prayer in which you find your own insight becomes more yours.

The Alter of Kelm describes a process:

  1. Intense and single-minded concentration on a single thought. One phrase, sentence or paragraph, repeated out loud and with a tune, to help keep away extraneous thoughts. A beginner should start with five minutes and work his way upward. But that meditation-level thought on one phrase itself causes emotional response.
  2. Through the extended concentration, one can find a chiddush a new insight into the thought. As many corporate managers learn, if you want your employees to “buy into” a new project, you hold a brainstorming session. By getting each person to contribute ideas to the project, they get a sense of possession. The project becomes “theirs”. Through this chiddush the person develops an attachment and “takes ownership” of the idea.
  3. Last, the person deepens the insight into profundity on Torah, one’s own nature, and the interaction of the two. How the Torah speaks to my condition, and how the uniqueness of who I am and how I see things speaks to the Torah.

How does this become a style of prayer? Obviously, saying every line of the siddur with five minutes of concentration apiece (and that’s just when you’re starting out!) is impossible, both humanly, and because of the finite time of the day. Instead, certain parts of tefillah call for this kind of attention: the first berakhah of the Amidah, the first line or paragraph of Shema, maybe the verses in Qorbanos about bitachon (trust in G-d) which the siddur tells us to repeat three times each, or whichever tefillos speak to you and where you’re up to in life.

Rav Leuchter explains the mishnah's notion that we are supposed to enter tefillah in a mental state of "koveid rosh -- heaviness of head", usually translated "seriousness". But what to we know about heavy objects? They have inertia. They are hard to move. Similarly we speak of "yishuv hadaas -- a settled mind". If you enter tefillah with koveid rosh, you are approaching it as something you naturally wouldn't be distracted during.

So we need to give the words of tefillah mass.

Picture building within ourselves a palace for the Almighty. "Bilvavi mishkan evneh -- I will build a Tabernacle in my heart", as Rav Hutner wrote (and the songwriter popularized). Each line of tefillah can be a stone in that palace. But to be a worthy palace, we need expert masons, going over each side of the stone. Making sure its corners are truly square, and its sides truly smooth. To go over it an over it, polishing the stone until it sparkles. Until it belongs in a palace, a sanctuary, for Hashem Himself.

Or at least, until we have done the best we could, and the practice with this sentence has become habit and boring. After all, as we say in Nishmas, "even if our mouths were filled with song like the sea bed [is filled of water], and our tongues with melodies of praise like its mighty waves... we would still be insufficient to give You Your tribute..."

And as we polish the stone, it becomes more tangible. More real in our lives. It has emotional import because we take possession of our perspective into our sages' words. The stone gains mass.

This is what hipa'alus gives us.


Perhaps it’s best to explain by inviting you to experience it. I ask you to try the following next Shabbos morning, The middle blessing of the Shabbos Amidah begins:

Yismach Mosheh — Moses will be happy

bematnas chelqo — with the giving of his portion,

ki eved ne’eman — because a reliable servant

qaraso lo — You have called to him.

The line looks simple enough, however riches lie underneath, with a little concentration. Rather than spell out what they are, and my opinion on what they mean, I am going to list some questions to think about and give you a chance to find your own chiddushim, your own relationship to the text.

Why does it say “yismach” in the future tense? Wasn’t Moshe’s happiness at the time?

“Yismach” is from the word “simchah”. Think of some of the other words for happiness: sason, gilah, etc… How do they differ in usage? What does the choice of “yismach” here indicate?

“Bematnas” with the giving of his portion. What does it mean that Moshe is happy with the giving of his portion, his lot in life, rather than referring to the happy is caused by the portion itself? The mishnah says “Who is wealthy? One who is samai’ach bechalqo — happy with his lot.” Nearly the same phrase, but without “bematnas”. The lot itself. Am I to be happy with my lot, or with the giving of it?

“Ki eved ne’eman — because a reliable servant…” Rashi says the word “ki” has 7 meanings, “because” is only one of them. The others are: rather, when, that, perhaps, if, reason. Why did they choose a potentially ambiguous word? What happens to the meaning of the phrase if we try some of these other translations?

“Eved ne’eman.” What does it mean to be an “eved Hashem”, servant of G-d. What’s the added point of being “ne’eman”, a reliable servant in particular?

“Karasa lo” — You called to him. Why not “qarasa oso”, that Hashem called him, why “to him”?

Why does being a servant make Moshe happier with his lot? Or, in light of the above questions, why does being called to as a reliable servant make him happy — and the kind of happiness we call simchah — with the giving of his lot? And is “because” and “why” the only connection implied?

And most important, what does this say of my worship and my happiness?

Look! “Treasures buried in the sand”, repeated with minimal or no thought every week holds worlds of meaning about ourselves and how we should relate to G-d. Through hispa’alus we can not only find them, but use them to enrich ourselves.

  • I think this is an eloquent and well thought-out answer, which is probably true for many, many people. However, my own personal experience has been that it is specifically the intellectual appreciation of prayer which makes it meaningful to me, and if I find my inspiration waning, reviewing the depth of meaning restores it for me. It may be enhanced by having developed my own synthesized approaches and not just things I read in sefarim. Thought I'd share that perspective. +1 – Y     e     z Mar 15 at 19:58
2

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in Jewish Meditation discusses visualizing the words as black fire on white fire. Focusing on visualizing one thing on its own is very hard. Doing it for the whole prayer takes a LOT of practice. This slowed me WAY down.

2

I have a similiar experience with my davening

Recently I started learing Reb Shimshon Pincus's sefer on tefilla as suggested by a friend and its working already... Here's a link.. no I don't get a conmission

When you start to understand what and why your davening, it makes a world of a difference

Hatzlocha!

2

In addition to the other answer that I have already written on this question, something else that helps me is standing in front of somebody who davens slowly. Since I can't take my three steps back after Shmoneh Esrei until the person behind me has done so, if I finish very quickly, I just end up standing in place unable to move or complete my davening for a long time. Since I know that is going to happen, I tell myself that I may as well take my time with davening since I'm going to be stuck in place for the same amount of time either way.

This may not work at first, but eventually you get tired of being stuck in place and you either give up on this method or you slow yourself down.

2

Learn about the greatness of G-d. study in depth shaar yichud of chovos halevavos, shaar yichud v'emuna in tanya and moreh nevuchim.

Also study the marks of divine wisdom in nature. the more you will know the infinite wisdom of God the more you will be humbled and prayer will become meaningful.

This is what I have found from personal experience.

I also wrote an article to force myself to study the divine wisdom in nature. It is available at: Daf Yomi Review.

  • Could you edit this answer to address I am less interested in what has been proposed in theory or proclaimed as successful by saintly sages of old than I am in learning what has worked empirically for regular people of our times. Consequently, I would most appreciate responses that follow the rough format "My davening was ... So I tried doing ... Now, my davening is ..."? – Isaac Moses Oct 24 '14 at 13:41
  • @IsaacMoses ok, but strictly speaking this is not an answerable question. primarily opinion based. – ray Oct 24 '14 at 14:19
  • 4
    Experience is something one reports, unlike opinion, which is something one makes up. – Isaac Moses Oct 24 '14 at 14:42
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I've tried many of the above answers. Each has worked.. for at least the first day. What works best for me is the simplest. Simply change your routine! The best is to use a new siddur that you're unfamiliar with. Change place -preferably next to someone that says the birchos hashachar alous so that others answer amen, and sings through pesukei dezimra. Find something that changes the monotony and that works for you!

1

i heard from Rabbi Aharon Feldman to put your finger every time you see a shem Hashem ahead

he said at least it will save you from saying many shemos without kavana. some have suggested similar answers here but not quite exactly the same.

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    Put your finger where? – Scimonster Oct 26 '14 at 17:51
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Some things that have been helpful to me personally:

1) Get enough sleep, which puts you in a better mood.

2) If you are a coffee or tea drinker, drink before davening (after the morning blessings, though). This also puts you in a better mood, as well as enhancing concentration.

3) Whenever you say a name of Hashem, slow down and say it clearly, drawing it out a bit, while closing your eyes and thinking of your longing or love for Hashem (one way to do this is by imagining your soul extending toward Hashem, "To you, O Lord, I lift my soul" (Tehillim 25)).

4) Instead of continuing to daven while breathing in, close your eyes and cease davening while breathing in. This will put you in a meditative state conducive to spiritual feelings (and directing your heart to Hashem while you daven.)

5) Read the words with expression, as if you're doing a dramatic reading in front of a crowd, using changes in tone and inflection in your voice to express the underlying meaning of the words.

6) As Rambam suggests, put your hands on your heart while davening. This can remind you to pray from the heart and involve your emotions in davening.

7) Experiment with praying with and without reading in the siddur. I sometimes find that saying certain brachos of the Amidah by heart with my eyes closed enhances concentration and devotion.

0

Sing the tefillos. That seems to work to help slow you down.

  • I have to leave this open as by definition anyone's thoughts constitute an answer. That's why the question is off-topic. – mevaqesh Aug 2 '16 at 5:01
  • Ezra, can you edit this to address I am less interested in what has been proposed in theory or proclaimed as successful by saintly sages of old than I am in learning what has worked empirically for regular people of our times. Consequently, I would most appreciate responses that follow the rough format "My davening was ... So I tried doing ... Now, my davening is ..."? – Isaac Moses Aug 3 '16 at 4:51

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