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Staying On Your Toes

Yet even after implementing the previous suggestions, it is extremely difficult to avoid invasive thoughts during prayer. Sometimes we invest great effort in advance preparation, and our concentration is nevertheless impeded. After having commenced praying, what can one do to clear his head?

The Sefer Chassidim advises pressing one's toes to the ground and lifting himself slightly off the ground. While he is doing this one should make sure not to lean on the wall. Assuming this position when necessary will banish foreign thoughts from his mind (Sefer Chassidim 28).

At times, grasping an object of kedushah can help us concentrate on our prayers. Some suggest that holding onto his four tzitzis will clear his head of foreign thoughts (Makor Chaim 98,1). A person should utilize whatever methods are at his disposable to help him to concentrate and focus on his prayers.

Praying in Private

When Rabbi Akiva prayed in public he would pray quickly in order not to be a burden on everyone else. However, when he prayed privately he bowed down and prostrated himself and infused his prayers with so much intention, that he would start at one side of the room and conclude on the other (Berachos 31a).

Rabbi Akiva teaches us an important rule for tefillah. When a person is praying alone and in solitude with his Creator, he can express his feeling of closeness to Hashem in whatever way he sees fit. Rabbi Akiva would pray with such fervor that he would literally move across the room while praying.

However, when a person is praying in the public eye, he should be more careful. In that situation, his outward gestures might be a subconscious attempt for drawing attention. He should make an effort not to differ from the rest of the people there (Pri Megadim 95,1 as cited by Mishnah Berurah 95,5).

In general, a Jewish man must try and pray with a minyan, and must be cognizant of how he acts in public. In rare instances or in extenuating circumstances, a man may have to pray in private. He should view these situations as opportunities to reinforce his ties with Hashem.

Women are not obligated to pray with a minyan. They have the advantage of establishing a daily meeting with Hashem in private. Family circumstances permitting, if a woman is able to find a quiet place where she can pray every day, she can use this opportunity to strengthen her relationship with her Creator.


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


 
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