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Pausing During Prayer

The Gemara tells us that in addition to the hour before tefillah, the chassidim also spent an hour reciting Shemoneh Esrei. There are a limited number of words in tefillah. How did these chassidim pray for an entire hour? One of the hardest parts of tefillah is staying focused on prayers for the entirety of Shemoneh Esrei. Even before one opens his mouth, the yetzer hara offers a person a plethora of foreign thoughts to fill his head. Concentrating on prayer is a great accomplishment.

One common problem is that a person’s mind tends to wander. A thought enters his mind, and this leads to another until the person can forget that he is praying altogether. Before he knows it, he is at the end of Shemoneh Esrei.

The Chofetz Chaim offers a practical suggestion to help avoid this problem. He suggests that a person should stop before each berachah and think momentarily about the theme of the blessing he is about to recite. This built-in pause will save him from going into a tefillah by rote mode, and will help him regain his concentration if his mind wanders (Sefer Shem Olam, endnotes to second volume).

Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and



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