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Is it better to daven the shemona esrei quickly and have less (and possibly no) external thoughts or is it better to daven slowly and more thoughtfully but have (or run the risk of having) more external thoughts?

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    What about quick and have external thoughts? – Scimonster Nov 24 '14 at 19:37
  • Better than nothing maybe? – Gavriel Nov 24 '14 at 19:45
  • @gavriel better than nothing certainly – Daniel Nov 24 '14 at 23:35
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Mishnah Brurah Orach Chaim ch. 98 delves into a somewhat detailed discussion of the type of kavanah required. Basically, he emphasizes 2 principles:

  • To concentrate on the meaning of the words
  • To imagine that he is standing before a human king, and therefore he would concentrate hard on what he says so that he avoids stumbling

The commentaries elaborate further on these areas.

IMO, davening pace does not necessarily correlate to kavanah, in either of the two forms that you mentioned, nor regarding the requirements mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch. I have seen many people who understand the words well that they can daven quickly while still concentrating on the word meanings. Contrarily, there are those who daven quickly and are really concentrating on "going through the motions" so that they can catch the train to work. (Many of these people are shlichei tzibbur, which exacerbates the problem!)

The answer to your question, essentially, depends on the individual, and if you read further in Shulchan Aruch, he implies that one should avoid ANY external thoughts. So, it seems that's the priority, but it has nothing to do with speed.

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  • Did you mean to link to a copy of the Shulchan Aruch with Mishna Berura on it, or just the Shulchan Aruch? ....if the latter (as implied by the wording of your answer), I have a better link for you. – MTL Nov 25 '14 at 1:23
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A friend of mine once asked R' Ezra Neuberger for advice on how to daven with more kavanah. His answer was "daven fast." Apparently, he held keeping focused is the more important kavanah.

The Rambam (Hilchos Tefilah 4:16) defines kavanah as removal of external distractions:

כיצד היא הכוונה--שיפנה ליבו מכל המחשבות, ויראה עצמו כאילו הוא עומד לפני השכינה

What is kavanah? That one turns his heart away from all [other] thoughts ...

So it seems that this is the primary kavanah.

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  • I wish I could upvote again for your source ;-) – MTL Nov 25 '14 at 22:12
  • Maybe the second listed kind is the primary kind? It would seem R Chaim Brisker held that. – Double AA Nov 25 '14 at 22:25
  • @DoubleAA I don't know what you are referring to in either sentence of your comment. Sorry. – Y     e     z Nov 25 '14 at 22:27
  • I'm referring to the part of the Hebrew which you didn't translate. Maybe that's the primary kind of kavana. The piece by Reb Chaim that I refer to is ad loc in his Chiddushim on the Rambam. – Double AA Nov 25 '14 at 22:28
  • @DoubleAA I didn't translate because my intent was in contrast to the other option of the OP. However, I don't see why someone would assume that a) the two clauses are separate points as opposed to being two parts of one point and b) the Rambam meant only the second of the two clauses. – Y     e     z Nov 25 '14 at 22:31

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