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Chapter 18: 4-6
Laws Pertaining to Shemoneh Esreh

4. A person who prays should concentrate in his heart on the meanings of the words he recites, as [Psalms 10:17] states: "Direct their hearts, Your ear shall hear." Many siddurim with translations of the prayers in Yiddish [the vernacular] have already been printed, and thus, any person can learn and comprehend the meanings of the prayers he recites.

At the very least, a person who cannot concentrate on the meanings of the words of prayer should think about matters that humble the heart and direct it to his Father in heaven during prayer, he should remain silent and wait until the thought ceases.

5. He should position his feet one next to the other, as if they are only one, in order to resemble the angels [concerning whom Ezekiel 1:7] states: "And their feet were like a straight foot. " He should bend his head slightly downward and close his eyes, so as not to look at any other matters. If he prays from a siddur, he should not remove his eyes from the siddur. He should place his hands on his heart, the right hand above the left hand.

A person should pray wholeheartedly, with awe, fear, and humility, like a poor man standing at the doorway requesting a gift. He should pronounce the words with care and concentration.

Each person should pray according to his nusach, whether Ashkenazic, Sephardic, or other, because the foundation of them all is in the peaks of holiness. However, he should not mix prayers from one nusach with those of another, because the words of each nusach are carefully counted in accordance with the mystical secrets [of the Kabbalah]. One should not add to them or subtract from them.

6. One should take care to pray in a hushed tone, so that only he, and not a colleague standing near him, can hear what he is saying, as [I Samuel 1:13] states in regard to Chana: "Only her lips were moving; however, her voice could not be heard."

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Halacha-Yomi, Copyright (c) 1999 Project Genesis, Inc.

 

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