Davening Alone

What should I be mindful of when davening at home alone?

By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin, Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah.

It is important to be dressed respectfully for davening, even at home. Just as you should have a set place for davening in shul, you should have a set place at home where you won’t be disturbed. Shmoneh Esrei mustn’t be recited while facing pictures, paintings, a mirror, or anything distracting. Shmoneh Esrei should be davened silently, however if it helps you concentrate, or to help your child daven, you may recite Shmoneh Esrei out loud—but not too loud—when davening alone at home.

In tachanun, you should omit the 13 attributes of mercy (or read them like a posuk ), and don’t bend over for nefilas apayim. On Friday night, add the paragraph of v’lomar before borchu, and according to minhag Chabad, you recite vayechulu even alone.

The Alter Rebbe writes that one should only daven in Lashon Hakodesh when alone, since he needs the malachim to vouch for him, and they don’t understand other languages. (A tzibur doesn’t require the malachim’s intercession, thus with a minyan one may daven in any language.)

There are, however, several justifications for one who can’t daven in Lashon Hakodesh. Some say this restriction applies only to a personal petition (e.g. for one who is ill) and not to standard set prayers. Others say that the problem is specifically with Aramaic, which is despised by the angels, and not other languages.

Yekum purkan is in Aramaic, and some say that one davening alone shouldn’t say it. The Alter Rebbe, in a different context, writes that it is not a supplication rather a blessing, and that may explain why the Alter Rebbe doesn’t mention in the siddur to skip it. Others explain that it is a standard set prayer. The second yekum purkan is a blessing for the congregation, and that is why the siddur says that one need not say it without a minyan. Similarly, kegavna in Aramaic recited on Friday night isn’t a prayer, but rather a description of what is happening in heaven at that time.

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