By Anash.org Staff
With All My Heart, a new course by JLI, aims to make davening more meaningful to a broader audience.
One of the staples of Chassidic life is Avodas Hatefillah, focused Divine service through davening. The sichos and maamarim of our Rebbeim are replete with words on this topic, including guidance, encouragement, and at times harsh words directed at those who have slacked off from this elemental way of Chassidic life.
Chassidus makes it clear that davening with the appropriate kavana requires intense dedication and preparation; this is why it is referred to as an avoda. One must devote time to studying the secrets of creation and the Creator, and to subjugating one’s self to this greater truth, as discussed at length in the teachings Chassidus. This regimen of study must then be followed by a system of hisbonenus, deep contemplation on these ideas.
“Even those of us who are quite serious about davening still seem to struggle with the actual implementation of this fundamental part of our Chassidic life,” Rabbi Avrohom Levin, a magid shiur at Rabbinical College of America in Morristown shared with Anash.org. “If implementing Avodas Hatefilla is such a challenge even for those of us who understand its importance, certainly the same holds true for those who have not been steeped in the understanding of this vital avoda!”
With All My Heart, a new six-session course by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), seeks to highlight the importance of this topic and find ways to make davening meaningful to people at various stages in their journey towards Yiddishkeit.
To this end, JLI has brought on Rabbi Laibl Wolf, founder and dean of Spiritgrow and author of Practical Kabbalah. Rabbi Wolf has had much success exploring methods that people often turn to in search of spirituality, and channeling them into avodas Hashem.
What is Jewish prayer? How do we achieve deep connection with Hashem? What is the mystical meaning, power, and impact of our prayers? If prayer is a journey, what is its destination? How do we practice focused mindfulness while engaging in our day-to-day responsibilities? These are questions being examined by 18,000 students at over 400 locations where the acclaimed JLI courses are taught.
When asked about the meditation taught by Rabbi Wolf, Rabbi Levin replied, “I don’t believe those techniques should be taught to bochurim in Yeshiva, but we need to learn from Rabbi Wolf the importance of finding creative ways to guide bochurim toward meaningful avodas Hashem through davening.
“The issue of laxity in avodas hatefillah is not a new problem of the internet age; a quick perusal through the Frierdiker Rebbe’s sichos will reveal that Chassidim struggled to daven properly even then. If this was true before, certainly in our times tefilla is an art that few manage to master.”
Another mashpia who spoke to Anash.org concurred with Rabbi Levin’s words. “It is well known that the same pill which can be life saving for one individual may be life threatening for another. Similarly, certain methods of meditation can be an amazing tool to bring someone closer to Yidishkeit and davening, and still be potentially damaging for those who have merited to have a traditional Chassidishe Chinuch.
“At the same time, it’s important for anash and temimim to be aware that this course is being taught in batei Chabad. When we see that even those who are not yet shomer torah and mitzvos are thirsting to make davening meaningful, it wakes us up to our own achrayus to daven the way Chassidus demands of us.”
In the words of Rabbi Yosef Plotkin of Chabad in Greensboro, North Carolina, “Every JLI course forces us, the Shluchim, to reexamine the subject matter that we’re tasked with teaching. If I’m guiding my students in the importance of davening and Avodas Hatefillah, then I must ask myself, vu halt ich, what am I doing in this regard?”