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Repentance before Prayer

Throughout the course of prayer, our yetzer hara is constantly battling with us to distract our attention. As in any war, the victor will generally be the one who takes the time to analyze his enemy. Knowing one’s opponent allows for a plan of strategy that can successfully defeat him.

According to the Zohar every sin creates a klipah, a barrier that prevents the acceptance of our tefillos. In this light, transgressions are one of the greatest causes for distraction. Attempting to repent before starting to pray removes these barriers and allows our tefillos to pass (Responsa Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 4,27).

For this reason, two berachos relating to teshuvah precede the greater part of Shemoneh Esrei, which is comprised of requests. First we ask Hashem that He should help us to return to His Torah and to assist us in doing teshuvah, and afterwards we beseech Him for forgiveness. By thinking about teshuvah while reciting these two berachos we eliminate many of the barriers that are impeding our prayers, enabling us to pray with greater concentration.

Speaking before Prayer

One major factor for distraction during prayer is the vast number of extraneous thoughts lingering in our minds. For this reason we are obligated to try and clear our heads prior to tefillah. Once our minds are free from these disturbances, we will find it much easier to pray to Hashem.

The Sefer Chassidim advises us how to minimize invasive thoughts. “A person should not speak to someone else before he prays” (158). “How praiseworthy is a person who can be careful not to speak about mundane matters from the time he wakes up until after he has completed Shacharis” (Kaf Hachaim 89,12)

Conversations on the way to shul should be kept to a minimum, since they can easily distract our thoughts. The great Kabbalistic master the Rashash would not say anything until he finished the morning prayers (Kesher Gadol 24,2).

Text Copyright © 2012 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and



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