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The Power of Pausing

Twenty-Minute Pauses

Everyone agreed that Shimon was extraordinary. His unique personality might not have been readily discernable from the outside; however, after speaking to him, you would agree that Shimon was not like everyone else.

Shimon was extremely careful about whatever he said. In fact, he'd spend twenty minutes formulating what he was going to say. Needless to say, Shimon did not get into long conversations, and he did not have any arguments with his wife.

While Shimon did not say a lot, it was blatantly clear that every sentence he uttered was appropriate and free of speech transgressions. That was because everything he said had been thought out thoroughly.

One of our biggest problems in regard to tefillah is that when we start Shemoneh Esrei our thinking mechanism tends to shut down. We go into automatic pilot, and the tefillah just flows out of our mouth. At times we might even forget that we are praying.

Chazal provided us with the antidote to this dilemma – some moments of pause. Although we are certainly not obligated to wait twenty minutes between each berachah, waiting before, during and after tefillah can assist us in instilling thought into our prayers. Once our hearts and minds are focused on tefillah, our words have the ability to ascend to the highest pinnacles of creation.

Pausing before Prayer

The mishnah writes that “The original chassidim would wait one hour and then pray, in order for them to be able to have the right intentions in their tefillah” (Berachos 30b). An hour is a long time, and it is not easy to fill it up with activity that will aid our prayers. What is one meant to do during this time prior to tefillah?

The main goal of this interlude before tefillah is to prepare one’s heart and mind for the experience of standing before Hashem. One can accomplish this through quiet introspection, reciting Tehillim or other prayers beforehand, learning Torah, or a number of other ways. Thus most authorities rule that the time we spend reciting Berachos, Korbanos, Pesukei D’zimra, Krias Shema and the berachos before and after Krias Shema are included in this hour (Pri Megadim, Eshel Avraham 93,1; Aruch Hashulchan 93,4).

The Gra notes that the order of the wording of the above mishnah is difficult. Why does the mishnah mention that the purpose for their waiting was to have more intention, after the mishnah has already written that they prayed? Seemingly, the order of these phrases should be reversed.

The Gra explains that the “prayer” referred to in the mishnah is not Shemoneh Esrei. Rather, this refers to a special prayer that the chassidim said before reciting Shemoneh Esrei. The purpose of this special prayer was that they should be given Divine assistance to have proper concentration in their tefillos (as cited in the sefer Mei Be'er Mayim Chaim, Berachos 30b).

Text Copyright © 2012 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and



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