How to Daven in These Trying Times

Many of us want to add in tefilos for the safety and redemption of our brethren in Eretz Yisroel. Here’s how you can add depth and meaning to your davening.

By Rabbi Avraham Katz
Mashpia at Yeshiva Bais Shalom of Postville Iowa, and author of “A Practical Guide to Davening”

Right now we are in a time when everyone is davening for the Jewish People in Eretz Yisroel. We feel the urgency of the situation and we pour out our heart to Hashem in Davening and by saying Tehillim. Let’s understand the basics of tefilla and how it works.

The question is: Is there a way to improve our davening now in the merit of the protection and healing of our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel, but at the same time, arrange it so that this deeper feeling we have in davening will continue even after we are victorious in this war with Hashem’s help?

Is there a way to take the realization of the importance davening that we have now in this situation, and use it a catalyst for continued growth in our davening for the rest of our lives? To answer this, we need to first go back to what is the mitzvah of davening in the first place.

The Rambam writes in the beginning of Hilchos Tefilla that the mitzvah of tefilla is to talk to Hashem every day in the following formula: 1- Praise Hashem for the good things He does for us and everyone, and realize that He is the only One we can rely upon to ask for our needs, 2- Ask Hashem for what you need, 3- Thank Hashem for listening to us and for the good things that has done for us in the past and that we trust in Him to do for us in the future.

This formula can be recited in any language, any time of day or night, if you understand and mean what you are saying. This is the mitzvah of tefilla Min HaTorah, to talk to Hashem every day and affirm and strengthen your connection with Hashem, your dependence on Him, and your gratitude for His Kindnesses.

The Chachamim established The Siddur to help us fulfill the mitzvah of tefilla. They gave us the proper words to help us express our praise to Hashem, our dependency on Hashem, and our gratitude to Him. But what if someone just reads the siddur and doesn’t feel like he is talking to anyone? The whole point of the siddur is to enhance our heartfelt outpouring of our soul to Hashem, not to replace it with a text to be recited.

But what can we do? We have to say everything in the siddur, it’s a Takanos Chachamim and every Jew is obligated to say the entire text of the siddur. We can’t just make up our own davening like they did in the times of the first Beis Hamikdash and earlier.

One answer is that we have to add our own personal requests into the davening. The Alter Rebbe (Orach Chaim 119:1-2) says that every day in Shema Koleinu we should add our own personal requests for our spiritual needs (such as Teshuva) and physical needs (such as to succeed in that day’s work for parnasah etc.) The Shelah brings in his Maseches Tamid that one of the pillars to successful davening is “chidush,” to add personal requests and to think about personal things to be grateful to Hashem for.

The proper place for these added requests in davening is in שמע קולנו before כי אתה שומע תפלת כל פה, and in אלקי נצור before the second יהיו לרצון אמרי פי. In these two place in davening, a person can and should ask for their own personal and communal needs.

Today this means to ask Hashem to help the Jews in Eretz Yisroel. But it also means to ask Hashem to help us do our part in being strong in Torah and mitzvos in their merit. And when we say מודים, before ועל כולם יתברך וכו’ we can stop for a minute and think of what we in our lives to be truly grateful for from Hashem.

When we see how bad life can get for many people, we can learn to appreciate how much good we truly have in our lives to be grateful to Hashem for. Also, we can be grateful and thank Hashem for what He will do for us, because we have complete trust that He will save us from our enemies, and He will bring Moshiach and save us from this entire galus.

A possible suggestion: Think for a minute, and write down for yourself what are some things in your life that you really want Hashem to help you with. Write down what are some things in your life that, at least intellectually, you realize you should be very grateful for. Go over that list before davening for a minute. Then, in Shema Koleinu or Elokai Netzor, ask Hashem about those things you want Him to help you with, and by Modim think about why you really should give thanks to Hashem.

If we make a habit now of talking to Hashem in our words in the right places in davening, and of thinking of what we have to be grateful to Hashem for, then, after the war, we can continue to have personal davening every day. We can develop a sense that we are really talking to Hashem, and that He is really listening to us.

The Baal Shem says a mashal about davening in connection with the pasuk “תפלה לעני כי יעטןף ולפני ה’ ישפוך שיחו- a prayer for the poor man when he is fainting, and he pours out his prayer before Hashem”: Once a king let out a decree that, on a certain day, whoever wants can come to the king and ask him for one thing that he wants, and the king will grant it.

On that day, everyone lined up to see the king and their one request. At the back of the line was a poor person, who needed everything. People were wondering what will he ask for? For a house? For nice clothing? For a good job? Finally, he came to the king. The king asked what he wants.

The poor man said “I don’t want anything specific from you my, king. My only request is that I should have the privilege to come before the king every day for the rest of my life.” The king was impressed, and granted him this request, and the poor man could now come to the king every day. Of course, since the king sees him every day, he makes sure that the poor man is also take care of. But the poor more is more interested in being able to see the king on a regular basis.

The same thing with davening: Hashem allows everyone to come before and make a request. But if we are smart, then our request will include the ability to continue to come before Him and connect to Him meaningfully.

This is a time when Hashem is waiting for our davening, when Hashem opens the heavens to hear our requests. Let us request not only the physical salvation of the Jewish People, but also that we should be able to hold on to this deep connection to Hashem. Let us request that He help us connect to Him meaningfully and experience a גאולה פנימית together with the גאולה בגשמיות.

Everything that Hashem does is to bring us closer to Him. For many people, this is the first time in their life that they really daven with all of their heart and soul, from the deepest part of the heart. Let us take this opportunity to continue to come closer to Hashem even in good times, even in victory, which we will see very soon bezras Hashem.

May Hashem help us to strengthen ourselves in davening in the merit of all our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel and around the world, and may Hashem answer our davening with open and revealed goodness, very soon, immediately!

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For more on the topic:
POSTVILLE MASHPIA PREPARES ‘CHESHBON HANEFESH AID’

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