Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Different Day, Same Old, Same Old

Not being able to concentrate on davening is nothing new, and it is a problem that I am not alone in. In the Talmud Bavli it discusses how long one must maintain their concentration during the Shema, with one commentator suggesting that only for the first word is adequate. That is about where I am most of the time. During the prayer service I find I start to lose my focus somewhere after the word Baruch. I am not talking about not maintaining the proper mystical kavanah for each letter, more on the order of mentally reviewing the day’s chore list. No matter what intentions I start out with, pretty soon I have drifted away. In line with this I recently came across the following passage:

From Likutey Moharan #30:7:
“..all the confusions of the mind and all the disturbances and all the foolishness which we at times experience, are all drawn into our prayers. For all the disturbances, etc., and all the thoughts which a person occasionally thinks, all come to mind precisely at the time of prayer. Precisely then, when he gets up to pray, he hears them all;…
This happens in two manners. One possibility is that they come to be rectified. Because they have seen that the person is praying with proper concentration, they therefore come to be rectified, as this is the time when such correction is possible. For they have in them holy sparks that are in need of rectification. Another possibility is that the person is not fit to pray, and they come to disturb him from his praying.
No matter what the reason, it is precisely then, at the time of prayer, that all a person’s confusions and all his disturbances come and make themselves heard to him.”

Now there is no way I can fool myself into thinking that anything has come by me to be rectified by my deep spiritual intent so that leaves me firmly settled into category number two. “Not fit to pray,” not really the statement that anyone wants to hear. But the elucidation to the passage gives back some hope.

Commentary based on this passage Likutey Moharan vol, IV, Breslov Research Institiute, p.307 :
“Rebbe Nachman taught that when a person sins and then wishes to repent, the Attribute of Judgment denounces him as unfit and puts obstacles in his way. G-d then has to hide Himself, as it were, within the obstacles, thereby holding out a hidden hand to the person to assist him in repenting. In our context, if a person is “not fit” – i.e., he has erred or sinned - Judgment indicts him and creates obstacles which do not let him pray. (Yet, G-d is also hidden within the obstacles to prayer. After all, it is a mitzvah; G-d wants a person to pray to Him even if he is not fit,...”

So all hope is not lost, I can keep hammering away, trying to concentrate, and ask for Hashem’s help, after all, “G-d wants a person to pray to Him even if he is not fit.”

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