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Author Topic: Communal Vs. Personal Prayer  (Read 3799 times)
Chana2
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« on: December 16, 2007, 11:00:15 PM »

Sometimes I find davening, praying, long and tedious, with me just reciting the words without meaning them. I find it easier to talk to G-d in my own words. What is the proper thing to do?
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« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2007, 05:03:47 PM »

Thanks for your question.  We will forward it to one of the Na'aleh Rabbis and will post his response as soon as we can.
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Rabbi Hershel Reichman
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« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2007, 03:26:51 PM »

There are 2 important principles involved in prayer.  The first principle is that prayer should be Avodah Shebalev, the service of one's heart.  Therefore emotional feeling and expression is the central part of prayer.  For this reason , the Shulchan Aruch, the code of Jewish Law, rules that it is better to pray with fewer words and to have more feeling in the prayer.  Using that lgic, one should not attempt to say al the words which the congregation is saying if that will result in less emotional focus and concentration during prayer, and it woud also mean that one could and perhaps should say certain prayers in one's native tongue, ike Englis instead of Hebrew.

The second principle of prayer is that it is preferable to pray with a congregation rather than to pray alone.  In order to achieve this, it is therefore better to say prayers together with a congregation, and to answer Amen to the various blessings which are recited by the Chazzan.  It would also seem to make more sense to pray in the same language as the congregation, Hebrew rather than English.

In your case, there seems to be a conflict between the two principles.  I would therefore resolve this conflict by suggesting that you cut down the amount of prayers and words you say with the congregation to a basic minimum, and increase the words and prayers you say in your language, and with your own thoughts and feelings.  You would have to consult with your personal Rabbi to come up with an exact plan.  If you want, I can come up with such a plan for you in a private communication, but I would have to know how much Hebrew you know, at what speed you pray, which prayers you understand, and which you don't understand.

With warmest regards,

Rabbi Hershel Reichman
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Fraidi1
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« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2007, 11:20:32 AM »

Perhaps give yourself more time before davening to prepare...think a bit about what you're about to do and say, or maybe read a little from a book on tefilla. The Chassidim of old used to spend hours preparing themselves (i.e. "getting into the mood"), it seems logical that spending a couple of minutes doing the same could only be helpful.
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Brochi
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« Reply #4 on: December 25, 2007, 07:52:54 AM »

Another good suggestion is trying to learn the meaning of the prayers.  Once you understand the translation of the words, the beauty ad poetry of the tefillos will touch you and inspire you.
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Hally2
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« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2007, 01:28:56 PM »

Can the Rav recommend any readings to help us work on our kavanah?
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Chasida
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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2008, 12:11:19 AM »

I've heard that the book "Praying with Fire", written by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman is very inspirational.
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Theresa
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« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2008, 10:53:35 PM »

I hear what Chava is saying. My Hebrew is basic at best, and often times I become frustrated by my inability to fluidly follow the service at shul, and don't feel connected to prayers in Hebrew that I cannot understand. Is it better to daven in English, and understand the words one speaks, or more important to be in sync with a congregation praying collectively?
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Tzippy2
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« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2008, 02:56:05 AM »

Based on what Rabbi Reichman wrote before, I would think that at some points - like kedusha, kaddish, and shma, one should pray collectively with the congregation, even when one doesn't understand the prayers.  At other times, one can pray at their own pace in a language they understand.
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