Volume 28 Number 21
                      Produced: Thu Nov 12  7:28:48 1998

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Concerns over my Safety
         [Russell Hendel]
Kavanah (3)
         [Michael Poppers, Sheri & Seth Kadish, Gershon Dubin]
Kavanah during Davening
         [Akiva G Miller]
         [Shlomo Godick]
         [Richard Wolpoe]
Nifty tricks to Increase Concentration in Prayer


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 19:47:24 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Concerns over my Safety

I thank all the private email coming to me since I posted that I pray
with cavannah while driving home--a trick to gain more time. Several
people have expressed alarm (and others amusement) at my endangering

Allow me first to thank everybody. Also...I thank people for the implied
complement that I am thinking about prayer and not about the road!? But
what I am doing increases safety. Several pointers may help.

* I do this on the highway not on side streets...it is well known that
driving 15 miles per hour down a side street is more risky than doing 60
on a highway. Highways are made for fast driving. The only real caution you
need is to have ample space between you and the next driver. But then 
maintaining a cruising speed requires very little concentration. You
can listen to Rabbi Fran, the radio or pray.

* I do not daven shmoneh esray...just psookay dzimra, shmah and bracoth.

* Since I don't want to get home before I finish davening I usually go
slower because I am deliberately not in a rush...thus my safety

* Considering some of the family squabbles that occur in cars and the
phone calls that can be made in them (I believe Great Britain has
recently outlawed calls in cars) I really can't see that praying is a

As I said...try it...you really get this delicious feeling of spending
20 minutes on Kriath Shmah and her blessings.

Russell Jay Hendel;Phd ASA Rhendel @ mcs drexel edu


From: Michael Poppers <MPoppers@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 12:12:22 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Kavanah

Jonathan Marvin wrote:
> Based on my paltry
research, the two types that seem to be required for all or at least
parts of davening (bideavad) are translation of the words and awareness
of being in Hashem's presence.  Since this mitsvah falls upon all, we
are talking about an awareness that a 13 year old boy could have.  So
the halakha is not asking us for anything we cannot do. <

A 13-year-old boy under Torah-environment circumstances, perhaps.  I've
worked with a number of not-observant-from-birth Jews via Aish HaTorah's
One-on-One Program over the last several years, all of whom either knew,
to at least some degree, the translation of the words in the daily
prayers or already possessed, to at least some degree, that 'dah lifnei
mi atoh omeid' awareness...but not both!  As we know, there are Jews who
both know what they are reading and possess the awareness, and I'm sure
that the reverse is true as well -- in its own way, we've thus
constructed another example of the 'arbah minim' that we bind into one
'agudah.'  Let us all strive to enable those who currently cannot
accomplish both to reach that plateau, which includes the "y'chavein
libo..." and "kavonas ha'd'vorim" components that you referred to, so
that your statement can someday indeed apply to every 13-year-old!

All the best from
                              Michael Poppers

From: Sheri & Seth Kadish <skadish@...>
Date: Mon, 09 Nov 1998 21:37:59 +0200
Subject: Re: Kavanah

	Sheldon Sherman wrote that little or no kavvana in the daily
prayer of nearly all Jews is not a new phenomenon at all.  He is
completely correct; this is by no means a "modern" problem!  The
Yerushalmi he mentioned is "must" reading for anyone interested in the
topic; here it is in full (Berakhot, end of 2:4):

	Rabbi Hiyya said, "I have never concentrated during 
prayer!  Once, when I wanted to concentrate, I instead 
thought about who will meet the king first: the Arkafta 
[a Persian high official] or the Exilarch [the head of 
the Jewish community in Persia]?"
	Shemuel said, "I count clouds [during prayer]".
	Rabbi Bun bar Hiyya said, "I count the layers of 
stones in the wall [while I pray]." 
	Rabbi Matnaya said, "I am grateful to my head, 
because it bows by itself when I reach 'Modim'!"

	So instead of kavvana, R. Hiyya thought about Persian politics
when he prayed.  Shemuel and R. Bun counted things in the scenery around
them.  Rabbi Matnaya's problem with this was so severe that he thanked
his body going through the motions of prayer, even though he himself was
completely removed from what he was doing!
	The problem has been a severe one for as long as prescribed
Jewish prayer has existed (though there is much evidence that it
worsened after talmudic times).  The gemara Sheldon mentioned about lack
of iyyun tefilla being one of the 3 things that "a person cannot avoid
them every day" (Berakhot 164b) is more evidence that this is a very old
and widespread problem.  In the first chapter of my book I collected
these and several other sources all with the same basic thrust.
	I think the point of the Rabbi Eliezer story Sheldon mentioned
(Berakhot 34a about hazzanim who are "too long" or "too short") is
really that quality is important, not quantity.  As the examples from
Moshe hint, halakhic prayer in tannaitic times was not fixed
word-for-word, but each sheliah tzibbur would be "long" or "short" as
his spirit moved him.  This especially because R. Eliezer himself was
the tannaitic sage most concerned about issues of kavvana.
	Ibn Ezra on Kohelet 5:1 is good reading (which I personally
sympathize with), but balance it out with Maharal, Netiv ha-Tefilla (end
of chap 12) for an interesting defense of piyyutim.
	R. Yose's admiration for those who say hallel (=pesukei
de-zimra) every day clearly implies that in his opinion it is
meritorious but not obligatory (Shabbat 118b).  Instead of asking
whether Ashrei only counts with kavvana (a la R. Hirsch), perhaps what
we should ask is whether the particular text for praise that matters, as
long as the prayer is sincere.  R. Hirsch is simply saying that the
words alone are not a magic "passport" into the world to come.
	Jonathan Marvin's two definitions of kavvana come from a famous
hiddush by R. Hayyim Soloveitchik.  But like he wrote, they by no means
exhaust the spectrum of opinion on the topic throughout millenia of
Jewish thought.  I tried to outline the broader possibilities in my
	I think Jonathan (and perhaps others) misunderstood what I meant
about the 1-2 hours for shaharit.  I wasn't clear enough.  What I meant
was that IF it were possible to say ALL of shaharit sincerely (as to a
human king) it couldn't possibly take less than 1-2 full hours.  But I
am fully aware this is far beyond what we are capable of both in terms
of time and emotional energy.  By no means do I think daily shaharit
should take more than the 35-45 minutes it takes in most minyanim.  What
I do think is important (and what I myself do) is to say far *less* than
the full shaharit in the siddur, not to worry at all about keeping up
with the impossible speed-reading pace of the hazzan, and to leave
"breathing space" for personal expression within halakhic limits.  A few
moments of mental and emotional preparation are important too, as one
person recently reminded me.
	I'm glad MJ provides a forum for people who care deeply about
topics like this to discuss them openly.

Seth (Avi) Kadish

From: <gershon.dubin@...> (Gershon Dubin)
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 19:16:59 -0500
Subject: Re: Kavanah

>I am now at the university. I have an 8 mile ride home. It takes 20
>minutes. So..quite simply...I daven Maariv (till Shmoneh Esray) while 
>I am riding home. That gives me a FULL 20 MINUTES FOR SHMA and THE
>BLESSINGS. After I park I go into my house and daven shmoneh esray.

	In my experience this has been a BIG detractor from kavana.
This is the reason that the halacha, as a matter of fact, proscribes
doing anything else while davening or saying a bracha.  Driving requires
concentration of at least minimal effort, which is not available for
davening.  Saying Shma while walking home might be possible, but would
require more effort than standing in one place.  Perhaps what is in
order is an examination of why we are so busy that in 24 hours we cannot
spare an additional 5-10 minutes per tefila to say them with kavanah.
Surely not all that we do all day long is t h a t important?



From: <kennethgmiller@...> (Akiva G Miller)
Date: Sun, 08 Nov 1998 14:20:02 EST
Subject: Re: Kavanah during Davening

Several of the rebbeim in our yeshiva (JEC of Elizabeth NJ) recently
discussed this question among themselves one morning after Shacharis.
They mentioned all the positive and negative points of both slow and
quick davening. To me, the wisest comment made was from Rabbo Baruch
Witkin, who said, if I remember it correctly, "It doesn't matter so much
whether you daven fast or slow, as long as it's not the same every single
day." I understood this to mean that no matter how one davens, if it is
the same every day, that is a sign that nothing new is happening, and
that there are no new thoughts being added, which is a sure sign that he
is not really paying attention to what he is saying.

Akiva Miller


From: Shlomo Godick <shlomog@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 03:34:58 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Kavanna

Regarding some of the questions about kavanna raised recently in this
forum, I just saw the following interesting psak of Rav Shlomo Auerbach
as reported in Rav Daniel Neustadt's Weekly-Halacha article (Copyright
(c) 1998 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc;
email address: <learn@...>, URL: http://www.torah.org/):

"One who must leave for work at a certain time and is faced with
a choice of davening in a slow minyan (such as a yeshiva or
kollel) and leaving before the end of davening, or davening in a
quicker minyan where it is difficult for him to daven properly,
should rather daven in the slower minyan - even if it means that
he will miss kerias ha-Torah on Mondays and Thursdays.
(Written responsum from Harav S.Z. Auerbach (published in
ha-Tefillah B'tzibur, pg. 250) who adds that he should make sure
that the other congregants - who see him leaving early - are
aware of the reason for his early departure. Harav Auerbach adds
that even if he is the tenth man who completes the slower
minyan, and his early departure will break up the minyan before
the last Kaddish, he should still do so.)"

Kol tuv,
Shlomo Godick


From: <richard_wolpoe@...> (Richard Wolpoe)
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 13:16:11 -0500
Subject: Kavannah

I had the privilege of davening on occasion with a certain "godol" whose
private shemoneh Esrai was clearly audible across the room.  I found
this most disturbing; not so much the volume, but the deviation from the
standard practice of not being audible to one's neighbor, that I had
great difficulty in focusing.

It would seem that any major deviation from an accepted minhog hamokom
might be equally distracting, including banging, etc.  One neighbor of
mine in shul chided me for klopping ki chotonu too loudly...

Richard Wolpoe  


From: <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Sun, 8 Nov 1998 12:01:34 -0500
Subject: Re: Nifty tricks to Increase Concentration in Prayer

On Sun, 08 Nov 1998 08:07:25 -0500 (EST) Russell Hendel
<rhendel@...> writes:

>I am now at the university. I have an 8 mile ride home. It takes 20
>minutes. So..quite simply...I daven Maariv (till Shmoneh Esray) while I
>am riding home. That gives me a FULL 20 MINUTES FOR SHMA and THE
>BLESSINGS. After I park I go into my house and daven shmoneh esray.

I would say that this is not a good idea because if you have adequate
concentration on davening, then how could you have kavanah on davening.
If you have kavanah on the davening, then you are not paying attention
to your driving and are putting yourself and others in saccanas nefoshos
(danger to life).

I have heard of various poskim who have stated that one should daven
from the siddur *even if one knows the davening by heart*.  There are
many stories of gedolim who would not say even the slightest bracha by
heart (isn't there a story of the Rav with this idea?).

There is the story of the father of the first Lubavitche Rebbe who was
davening mincha while on his lunch break working for a Polish nobleman
(I may have the story wrong as to who it is).  The nobleman thought he
was taking too long to daven shemonah esrai and threatened him with a
gun.  He said "I will shoot the gun and if you flinch, I will kill you".
The Rebbe's father was so intent on davening that he did not hear him,
nor did he notice when the gun went off.  That impressed the nobleman so
much that he did not object to his davening in the future.

In any event, kavana would preclude noticing other cars etc., especially
while davening the shma.



End of Volume 28 Issue 21