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Two types of prayer, siddur prayers and Hitbodedut (personal talk with Hashem in his own language). Are there restrictions?

I have seen people saying that praying during sadness is prohibited and we have to be happy to perform that.

I'm in a deep state of sadness and I’m not getting the strength to pray, and I do not know if it's right to do service in this state of "not wanting".

Hitbodedut is easier.

closed as off-topic by DonielF, Joel K, sabbahillel, Ploni, kouty Jan 7 at 6:41

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    I have no sources at hand and this is a subjective, personal answer. Hence I use the comment function. Let me tell you this: at times of profound sadness, despair, disappointment (I'm right now in a state of the latter, after realizing that a fellow Jew is far from the holy path and created a movie full of aduletry and just disgusting stuff, a so called american western horror movie) I LONG AND TALK with haShem. I clench towards him, hoping that bad things like that won't occur again eventually. A community sidur prayer might be inappropiate at that point, though. When a negative emotion – Ilja Jan 5 at 23:11
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    plagues you, hitbodetut is preferred. Ideally somewhere outside in nature, where you are completely alone physically speaking. No other people around you for a good distance. It can be a forest or a field. There, look up into the sky and start the dialog with haShem. Eventually he will respond to you by sending you various signs. Try to live with him conciously every day. Keep your head up! Better times ahead. – Ilja Jan 5 at 23:14
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    I don't know the official answer for praying an entire service while sad, but during Mourner's Kaddish I've gotten really miserable, enough for my voice to fail, especially in the first few months after the loss of someone precious. Nobody ever chased me out of there...just the opposite- folks came over to support me. – Gary Jan 6 at 0:20
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A barayta (Berachot 31a) says (translations edited from link):

תנו רבנן אין עומדין להתפלל לא מתוך עצבות ולא מתוך עצלות ולא מתוך שחוק ולא מתוך שיחה ולא מתוך קלות ראש ולא מתוך דברים בטלים אלא מתוך שמחה של מצוה

The Sages taught: One may neither stand to pray from sorrow nor from laziness, nor from laughter, nor from conversation, nor from frivolity, nor from purposeless matters. Rather, from the joy of a mitzva.

Thus, praying while sad isn't considered proper.

The Rambam (Laws of Prayer 4:15) brings this as law, according to which one is forbidden to pray while unable to concentrate.

כַּוָּנַת הַלֵּב כֵּיצַד. כָּל תְּפִלָּה שֶׁאֵינָהּ בְּכַוָּנָה אֵינָהּ תְּפִלָּה. וְאִם הִתְפַּלֵּל בְּלֹא כַּוָּנָה חוֹזֵר וּמִתְפַּלֵּל בְּכַוָּנָה. מָצָא דַּעְתּוֹ מְשֻׁבֶּשֶׁת וְלִבּוֹ טָרוּד אָסוּר לוֹ לְהִתְפַּלֵּל עַד שֶׁתִּתְיַשֵּׁב דַּעְתּוֹ. לְפִיכָךְ הַבָּא מִן הַדֶּרֶךְ וְהוּא עָיֵף אוֹ מֵצֵר אָסוּר לוֹ לְהִתְפַּלֵּל עַד שֶׁתִּתְיַשֵּׁב דַּעְתּוֹ. אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים יִשְׁהֶה שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים עַד שֶׁיָּנוּחַ וְתִתְקָרֵר דַּעְתּוֹ וְאַחַר כָּךְ יִתְפַּלֵּל:

Concentration of the mind—how is this condition [to be fulfilled?] Any prayer uttered without mental concentration is not prayer. If a service has been recited without such concentration, it must be recited again devoutly. If a person finds that his thoughts are confused and his mind is distracted, he may not pray till he has recovered his mental composure. Hence, on returning from a journey or if one is weary or distressed*, it is forbidden to pray till his mind is composed. The sages said that he should wait three days till he is rested and his mind is calm, and then he recites the prayers.

*or more accurately: "while one is weary or distressed"

According to this law, a person shouldn't pray if he is so distressed that it prevents him from concentrating. If he did pray, it isn't a real prayer; once he is able to concentrate again, he still has to make it up.

These days, people tend not to put this law into practice. The reason why is because the Maharam of Rotenburg claims that nowadays we don't pray with concentration anyway, so lack of concentration is no longer a reason to skip prayer (Tur Orach Chayim 98, Shulchan Aruch 98:2). For the same reason, the Tur says that we no longer repeat the prayer if we didn't concentrate, because we assume we will fail once again to concentrate (Tur 101, Rama 101:1). Perhaps the only way this law has survived into current practice is in saying Ashrei and other psalms before the prayer, which is supposed to put you into the requisite mood of the joy of fulfilling the commandments (Tur 93, Shulchan Aruch 93:2).

If sayings the psalms or otherwise meditating before prayer isn't enough to take away your sadness before praying, and you want guidance for your specific situation, you may want to seek advice from a rabbi for what to do regarding prayer.

  • Interesting answer. Please permit a question. What does it mean “מתוך”? That sounds like it means, ‘don’t surround yourself with’ these conditions (people who think like this and also that you, yourself, shouldn’t be in these states) when you pray to G-d expecting a positive response. – Yaacov Deane Jan 5 at 23:51
  • @YaacovDeane I'm not sure. I wanted to answer from the parallel wording in Shabat 30b but I realized that it was similarly ambiguous: Elisha was angry, so apparently it could refer to his personal mental condition (Pesachim 66b). But on the other hand, he regained his prophecy by effecting a change in the environment by bringing a musician – b a Jan 6 at 0:02
  • I would suggest that it is the change in “environment” that is being emphasized. And in the context of the question, that with a person who has hope (evidenced by the fact that they want to pray) should not surround themselves with people who aren’t of a similar mindset. – Yaacov Deane Jan 6 at 0:28
  • @YaacovDeane Interesting reading. Some of the other sayings about concentration (Tur 98) do seem to mention the environment but others are clearly about individual concentration – b a Jan 6 at 0:46
  • Rather than one or the other, it may be more efficacious to assume it means both. – Yaacov Deane Jan 6 at 1:44

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