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Adding Concentration

A Trip to the Kosel

It had been a difficult flight, but he was finally there. Avraham had never set foot in Israel before and was excited about his first trip, a fulfillment of his most ardent desire. He had always dreamed about praying at the Kosel HaMa'aravi, so that would be his first stop. He left the terminal and hailed a cab, instructing the driver to take him directly to the Wall.

Once at the Kosel he found a minyan and joined them for Shacharis. But shortly into Shemoneh Esrei, pandemonium broke out. Arabs stormed the Kosel and violence ensued. Avraham was worried, but continued praying despite what was transpiring around him.

Though havoc was raging around him, Avraham kept going. He had waited for the opportunity to pray at the Kosel for years, and he was not going to let anything stop him. Love overpowered his rationale, and he continued to recite Shemoneh Esrei.

Suddenly Avraham felt his whole body being thrust forward. Afraid that he was being attacked from behind, he looked around, only to realize that he was not in Yerushalayim, but in New York. What had happened?

During the berachah of U’vneh Yerushalayim Avraham’s imagination had temporarily taken over his prayers, and he started dreaming about his trip to Israel and Yerushalayim. One thing led to another until he was completely transported by his thoughts of the Kosel. It was while bowing down during the berachah of Modim that he came back to reality.

We all share in Avraham’s plight, and no one has an easy time concentrating for the duration of Shemoneh Esrei every day. Chazal suggested a number of advance activities to help enhance our concentration during tefillah. Let us try and implement them into our schedules, so that we will not find ourselves traveling with our prayers.

Torah before Prayer

Chazal tell us (Pirkei Avos 1,2) that the world stands on three pillars: Torah, avodah (Temple service) and gemilas chasadim (acts of kindness). While these three pillars certainly have a profound effect on the world as a whole, they can influence our personal lives as well. By involving ourselves with them before tefillah, each one can have a profound effect on our prayers.

The Zohar speaks about the connection between studying Torah and tefillah. “The Torah is a 'tree of life for those who desire it.' He who desires that his tefillos be accepted should learn Torah before tefillah” (Zohar, Mikeitz 202b).

Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz adds, “Were it not for the study of Torah a person would not be able to pray with intention. Happy is the person who can designate time for Torah study before his tefillah, so that afterwards he can pray with heartfelt desire. There is no doubt that the gates of Heaven are open for such a person” (Ya’aros Devash 2,10).

From midnight until dawn, the attribute of mercy is very potent, and Torah study is especially powerful. For this reason many Gedolei Torah like Rav Elyashiv, shlita, wake up early in the morning to learn Torah. Torah learning during this time has a major impact on the morning prayers that follow.


Text Copyright © 2012 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org


 
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