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I remember reading that you are supposed to pray by reading from a siddur -- that it is not OK to recite the prayers by heart. Is this true? If it is, what is the reason, given that in olden days there were no siddurim and people relied on their memory?

  • I don't have Eliyahi Kitov's Sefer Hatoda'ah before me. But, I recall his mentioning specifically that the Musaph of Rosh Hodesh Heshvan should not be recited by heart. This implies that apparently there was no general problem reciting prayers by heart. Of course, if you are on the road without a siddur and need to daven mincha, I highly doubt that anyone rules that you should not daven by heart just because you have no siddur. – DanF Feb 3 at 2:11
  • Please define your "OK" level? Do you ask if the Halacha allows - of course as you see thousands praying by heart? So what's your question about? – Al Berko Feb 3 at 13:26
  • What is meant by ok? – Dude Feb 14 at 12:57
  • I beileve Rav Eliyashiv recited birkas hamazon baal peh – sam Feb 22 at 18:58
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Mishnah Brurah 93 s.k. 2 writes:

האר"י ז"ל היה מתפלל מתוך הסידור כדי שיכוין מאוד גם שלא להבליע נקודה והכל לפי מה שמרגיש האדם בנפשו

Loosely translated: The Arizal would pray using a siddur in order to aid in concentration and pronunciation, but generally speaking whether or not to use a siddur depends on what the individual feels will benefit his prayer the most.

  • Are you Arizal or the like? Are we? What does it say about the rest of us? – Al Berko Feb 3 at 13:24
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Sefer Hayashar (4, 13) recommends twice closing the eyes during prayer, i.e. praying by heart. It is likely he refers only to the the Amidah, though.

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ומאברי הגוף, העינים, צריך להשתמש בהן כראוי, צריך להיות עוצם עיניו מראות ברע, ומראות עבירה, ואל יישן כל הלילה, וצריך שיהיו עיניו סגורות בשעת התפילה, וישים טוטפות בין עיניו, וישא עיניו לשמים, ויבין כל יצירות האל יתברך, ויתבונן תמיד בתורת השם יתברך.

Another among the organs of the body are the eyes. One must make proper use of them. One should close one’s eyes from looking upon evil and from seeing sin: one must not sleep all of the night. One should keep his eyes closed during the time of the tefillah. And he should put frontlets between his eyes, and he should lift his eyes to the heavens, and he should ponder over the creations of God, blessed be He, and let him meditate always upon the Torah of the Lord, blessed be He.

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וצריך להרגיל נפשו להיות תפילתו בכוונה גדולה, ואם לא יוכל לפנות לבו מן המחשבות, יבקש עצה, כגון שיחשוב בעת תפילתו, כי הבורא ניצב כנגדו ומביט מוצא שפתיו, כמו שנאמר (תהלים לג) ״ממכון שבתו השגיח אל כל יושבי הארץ״. וכשיאמין אדם בזה הדבר, אז יחרד ויפנה לבבו. וצריך שיסגור עיניו בתפילתו, כי זה יעזור על הכוונה.

One should accustom himself that his prayer be with great intent, and if he cannot empty his heart of unworthy thoughts, let him seek a way. For example, let him think at the time of his prayers that the Creator is standing opposite him and looking at every outward expression of his lips, as it is said (Psalms 33:14), “From the place of His habitation He looketh intently upon all the inhabitants of the earth.” If a man believes this, he will have fear and will empty his heart. He should close his eyes when he prays, for this will help him in the matter of intent.

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