Ever wondered where your tefilos go when you don’t daven properly? Here, Rabbi Avraham Katz, mashpia in Yeshivas Beis Shalom in Postville guides you on how to direct them straight up to Hashem’s inner chamber.
By Rabbi Avraham Katz
Imagine a troop of Israeli soldiers by the border. They are waiting to enter Gaza for the next mission, but for now, they are just sitting and waiting. They need the commander to come in and actually lead them to their arranged destination. Day by day they sit and wait, as tension is building. They have manpower, they have ammunition, but without the commander’s order and detailed instructions, they are just sitting in frustration.
The same thing happens to our words of Davening.
Your words of Davening create spiritual ammunition, spiritual soldiers of protection. These words go up to heaven wanting to enter the King’s Chamber and send spiritual power to the physical soldiers on earth.
But instead, they are sitting and waiting in the heavenly waiting room.
Because words of Davening said by rote without any connection to thinking pirush hamilos don’t have the spiritual leadership power to enter the King’s Chamber and join the spiritual battlefield.
In this week’s Tanya, the Alter Rebbe mentions an important concept that is very much relevant to us and our success in Davening.
He quotes the Zohar (Pikudei 245b) and the commentary of the Mikdash Melech on that piece to say the following:
Whenever we daven, if we daven with the kavanah of pirush hamilos, thinking about the meaning of what we are saying, then the Davening enters the Chambers of the King Hashem. However, if not, those words of Davening have to sit in the waiting room. When we say those same words with kavanah, then, not only they can enter “the King’s Chamber,” but they take with them the words said before without kavanah, so that both of them can enter.
To illustrate: Someone says Shmona Esre and says the bracha of אתה גבור…מחיה המתים without kavanah, thinking about breakfast, let’s say. That bracha goes up and sits in a waiting room. The next day, the same person says אתה גבור with kavanah for every word. Then, not only this bracha enters the King’s Chamber, but it takes with it the bracha of אתה גבור from the previous day and brings it into the King’s Chamber.
Not only does it bring in the bracha of אתה גבור from the day before, but also every time he said אתה גבור, going back up to after Rosh Hashanah of that year! Meaning, that if a person would think the pirush hamilos of another bracha of Shmona Esre, in addition to the first bracha of Shmona Esre, which is Magein Avraham, that kavanah is required for every tefilla for that bracha, then over three weeks a person can elevate all the brachos of Shmona Esre from the beginning of the year!
For example: Sunday morning he has kavanah in מגן אברהם and in אתה גבור , Monday morning he has kavanah in מגן אברהם and אתה קדוש, next day מגן אברהם and אתה חונן etc., then after three weeks he will have elevated the entire Shemona Esrai to “enter the King’s Chamber.”
Now, let’s say someone wants to elevate their entire Shemona Esrai in one week, so that on Shabbos all of his weekday Davening will ascend, allowing him to reach a higher level on Shabbos. All he has to do is think the Pirush Hamilos of another bracha besides Magein Avraham in each of the 3 tefillos of Shachris, Mincha, and Mariv. We daven Shemona Esrai 18 times a week, 3 times a day for 6 days is 18. That means that if someone has kavanah on Motzei Shabbos Mariv for מגן אברהם and אתה גבור, Sunday morning for מגן אברהם and אתה קדוש etc. then on Erev Shabbos by Mincha he we will be up to מגן אברהם and שים שלום.
Besides for the spiritual effect of having your Davening enter the King’s Chamber, it changes your whole Davening when you know that you will have kavanah for at least one bracha besides Magein Avraham for every tefilla. Even though it’s really not hard to do this, it actually changes how you look at Davening the Shemona Esrai since you push yourself to not just say it by rote every time the same exact way, knowing that every tefilla will have at least one part with special focus in kavanah different than the tefillah before and after.
This system not only applies to Shmona Esre, it actually applies to the entire Davening. The Rebbe mentions in the letters (לדוגמא אג”ק חי”ח אגרת ו’תרכח) that Chassidim have a custom to have special focus in kavanah on one piece every day, and make a mark in their siddur where they got up with that kavanah, and the next day continue from where they left off, and through that go through the entire Davening with Kavanah one piece at a time. Even if you only have kavanah for a few lines of the Davening every day, and it takes you an entire year to go through the entire Davening with Kavanah, from צום גדליה through Erev Rosh Hashanah, it still works to elevate the entire Davening to “enter the King’s Chamber.”
In addition, for most people this is only way for someone to get involved in Davening, when they take one piece of Shachris (besides פותח את ידיך, שמע וברוך שם, וזכירת יציאת מצרים which the Kavanah is מעכב) and one bracha Shemona Esrai (besides Magein Avraham) and know that every day they can have kavanah for at least a couple of minutes, and it’s not that hard to do, it’s something they can stick to. If someone does this, even without enjoying it at first, then eventually he will come to figure out the meaning of the entire Davening, and will end up actually enjoying Davening.
(Note: the same system applies to saying Tehillim. If a person says a few lines of Tehillim every day with Pirush Hamilos, then over the course of an entire year he goes through the entire Tehillim with kavanah, and this elevates all the Tehillim he said the entire year. This comes out to approximately 8 pesukim a day of Tehillim with Pirush Hamilos.)