By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
Recently, on a Monday morning while I was davening, my mind drifted off to how I had a lot on my plate to do that morning. With a feeling of frustration, I thought to myself, “Oy, it’s the long Tachanun. And then there’s leining.” As I was thinking this, my conscience smote me and I right away thought of the dictum of Chazal, “Al tihiyu tefiloscha k’masui – Never let your prayers be like a burden.” Then, I thought with chagrin how far I was from the ideal attitude that we profess in the Kedusha of Musaf, namely, “Pamayim b’ahava shema omrim – Twice with love we proclaim the Shema.” ‘When,’ I asked myself scathingly, ‘was the last time I said Shema with feelings of love?’ At best, I said it on time and with kavanah, proper concentration. But lovingly? I couldn’t remember such an emotion.
In a similar vein, when we say ‘Let’s chap a mincha,’ or ‘Goody, we can daven mincha and maariv together and have the whole night to ourselves.’ Or when we fret on Shabbos morning, ‘It’s already 11 o’clock and we’re not out of shul yet! What’s going on? There wasn’t even a long leining.’ Or, we find ourselves already removing our talis at Ein Keilokeinu, are we portraying a fondness for our time with Hashem or are we sending the clear message, ‘Let’s get this over with as fast as possible?’
Here’s another thought. In shuls world over, there is on the amud where the chazzan davens, a chart delineating the times allowed for each segment of the prayers. 8:00, brachos, 8:10, Rebbi Yishmoel, 8:23, borchu, etc. Admittedly, this is sometimes a necessary evil since the people of the minyan have to catch express busses and punch in at the office. But, Rav Eliyashev, zt”l, zy”a, the Poseik HaDor said that such lists, when not absolutely necessary (for example on a Shabbos and in most cases on a Sunday), are in direct violation of the attitude taught in the Mishna of Pirkei Avos, “Al taas tefiloscha keva – Do not make your prayers a fixed routine.” Rav Eliyashev elaborates, How can you make a set amount of time for the Shemone Esrei? Perhaps one’s spouse is ill and his ‘refa’einu’ needs to be lengthy. Or, maybe he has a critical business meeting and his ‘bareich aleinu’ is fraught with urgency? Perhaps his or his friend’s shalom bayis is on the rocks and his ‘sim shalom’ is said haltingly, with deep-felt passion.
When I realized my deficiency in the correct posture towards my devotions to Hashem, I looked around for a place to pray for help. One of the more blatant prayers we say in this regard can be found right before we proclaim the Shema. There we say, “V’keiravtonu l’Shimcha hagodol, Selah b’emes – Bring us to your great Name with sincerity (not just lip-service), L’hodos lecha ul’yachedcha b’ahavah – To thank You and declare Your Uniqueness LOVINGLY.” Another good spot for this kind of request is in the bracha of Hashiveinu in Shemone Esrei, when we say, “V’karveinu Malkeinu la’avodasecha – Bring us close, our King, to truly service You.” Yet another place is when we say in U’va LeTzion, “V’hachein l’vovom eilecha – Direct our hearts towards You.”
This discipline, to daven not because we have to but because we want to, is the very spirit of Elul. As we know, Elul is an acronym of Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li – As I am to my Beloved (Hashem), My Beloved is to me.” We need to strive during this month to work on a loving relationship with Hashem and this manifests itself in our loving conversation with Him while we pray. In that merit, Hashem will certainly reciprocate and be loving to us, bequeathing upon us a New Year of good health, happiness and everything wonderful.
Please learn and daven for the refuah sheleima of Miriam Liba bas Devorah, b’soch shaar cholei Yisroel.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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