Tag Archives: tefillah

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Pray to Pray

June 20, 2018
Orit Esther Riter

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BS’D

How many times have you tried to pray yet not a single word comes forth clearly? Our minds wander off in a distance. Rebbe Nachman ztk’l teaches that Hashem created this situation down to the last detail in order that we reach deeper into our inner point of truth.

The barriers of the mind may come in different shapes and forms- confusion, airy-headedness or even despair. Yet, the hindrances can turn into openings when we see that these blockages are put there by Hashem to bring us closer to Him.

If we thought for a moment that we could control our thoughts, Hashem shows us we cannot; our mind is a jungle.  We need to pray to Hashem that we can pray to Him (I wrote this sentence correctly).

The most powerful mode of communication is prayer yet it is given to us as a gift. We may have thought that we have the ability to overcome mindless chatter; however, we cannot do so without the help of Hashem.

When we see this truth of how much we need Hashem to assist us in ‘talking to Him’, we will have achieved one of the main purposes why we pray in the first place!

Praying with Emotion

June 11, 2018
Orit Esther Riter

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BS’D

Rabbi Yoseph Soloeveitchik of the Brisker dynasty ztk’l taught that tefillah is the method in which the soul expresses itself through words and is able to release the turmoil within.    How do we pray?  Out of rote because this is what we were taught we must do or with powerful sincerity filled with emotional outburst?  For most, it varies each day.

The challenge is to allow ourselves to get in touch and let go of those emotions. Many of us though subconsciously wish not to acknowledge them.  It is only in times of great difficulty or by contrast immense joy where we can no longer contain them, that we  find Hashem and wish to speak to Him.  Then why are we ‘instructed’ to pray when the feelings are not connected to the lofty essence of tefillah?

Simply speaking, Rav Soloveitchik writes, it is because every day we must view ourselves in the midst of a crisis, c”v.  Every moment we should see ourselves and the world around us in desperate need of the redemption to take place.  If we take notice of the tefillot in the siddur we will find that at times the words express feelings of elated joy and gratitude and yet at other times we profess humbleness and shame and beseech rachamei Shamayim.

The reason is so that we can see Hashem in all our path of emotions; those we encounter in our daily routine and the stormy feelings that arise from the soul.  The spectrum of feelings all lead us to one address; it is all from Hashem and we cannot do anything without His loving care and intervention.  We are forced to acknowledge the emotions, feelings of dependency and vulnerability to HaKadosh Baruch Hu and cast them to His care.

Tefillah is an amazing method that Chazal have devised to ensure the crumbling of the ego and the humbling of the soul.

 

Elevating Words

May 3, 2017
Orit Esther Riter

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BS’D

The Ba’al Shem Tov HaKadosh ztk’l teaches of the immense light of holiness that shines from one universe to the next each time we daven. Our souls become enveloped in a great light each time we attach ourselves to the words of tefillah.  However we often get distracted by extraneous thoughts.

Each time a thought invades our minds during tefillah we should attempt to connect to Hashem through it.  For instance, a fearful thought should be elevated back to its source by relating to yirat Shamayim (fear of heaven)When a thought connected to an unhealthy taiva (desire) comes to mind bind it to the love of Hashem. This is a remarkable process called the ‘release of holy sparks’ from their impure husks and returning them back to their source of goodness; much like redeeming a prisoner from its captives.

Hashem ‘listens’ to every thought, emotion and word; everything is taken into account.  Our ‘battle’ to stay focused and filled with emotion during tefillah is a priceless gift we give to ourselves since we are rewarded with intense G-dly light of clarity and wholesomeness.

Focusing on the words of tefillah enables us to forget our corporal selves (our bodies) and bond to the Shechinah.  Here we are completely alone with Hashem; a genuine soul-union with our Creator. 

Thoughts…

February 22, 2017
Orit Esther Riter

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BS’D

The Ba’al Shem Tov HaKadosh ztk’l teaches that if only we were able to attach our souls to the words that we utter during tefillah, we would be enveloped with a great light of holiness that shines from one universe to the next.  However we are distracted by extraneous thoughts.

Each time a thought invades our minds during tefillah we should attempt to connect to Hashem through it.  For instance, a fearful thought should be elevated back to its source, Hashem, by relating it to yirat Shamayim, fear of heaven. When a thought connected to a teiva, desire comes to mind bind it to the love of Hashem.  Essentially this is the process of releasing sparks of holiness from their husks, outer shells of impurity.  It is likened to redeeming a prisoner from their captives.

Oy, if we only knew the power of our tefillah, the privilege to stand before the King of Kings and speak to Him.  Hashem ‘listens’ to every thought, emotion and word; everything is taken into account.  Tefillah is a priceless gift therefore we should use it to request that Hashem always keep the gates open so we may pour our hearts out to Him at any time. The intimate connection we build by speaking to Hashem breaks down all barriers.  It is the result of emotional words spoken from a burning heart who craves a relationship with Borei Olam.

Focusing on the words of our tefillah enables us to forget ourselves (our bodies) and bond to the Shechinah through our soul.  At that moment in time we are completely alone with Hashem with no disturbances; a genuine soul-union with our Creator. 

Centering Ourselves

February 15, 2017
Orit Esther Riter
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BS’D

Through tefillah, we are able to bond with Hashem in an irrepressible manner.  Tefillah centers us on how dependent we are on Hashem for everything in our livesFrom the seemingly minuscule to the apparently significant events, all is personally taken care of by HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

However, the messages we receive from the Western world media is precisely the opposite.  ‘Your strength and intellect has brought you success’ is what is being told to us.  Just as soon as we reinforce our minds and hearts with emuna, we walk into the ‘big world’ and our vantage point is smashed to smithereens.

At that point, we are plunged into thinking once again that we are calling the shots, and the more we do, the more we will accomplish.  (The subject of hishtadlut (amount of concerted effort) vs. emuna is beyond the scope of this emuna lesson.  However, if you wish to learn more, send me your comments.)  Therefore, for us to reach a point where we attain a level of unwavering emuna free from worry and anxiety is no simple task. Working on emuna is a lifelong mission for each and every one of us as we are told by Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe ztk’l.

Tefillah is that time of day that reminds us how much we need Hashem every step of the way.  Walking away from tefillah should be an invigorating experience filled with re-connection and realignment to the truth; that Borei Olam is intimately involved and governing the world and therefore we have nothing to worry about!

Not Just Words…

January 4, 2017
Orit Esther Riter

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BS’D

Every word of tefillah affects the entire world. The kavannah behind the words are:

* Hashem exists

* He hears us

* He is interested in what is happening to us

* He has the power to help us

* He intends for our good

* He acts for our benefit

* And we affirm all of these essential tenets of Jewish faith…with every single word of prayer (R’ Yehudis Goleshevsky)

We are Hashem’s eternal nation.  Our covenant is sealed in His holy Torah; this is our eternal connection.

Tefillah helps us recognize that we are totally dependent on Hashem for everything.  Tefillah is not just words. Tefillah is emuna!

Today’s daily dose of emuna is dedicated to the refuah shleimah of Mordechai Menashe ben Henya Ruchama a father of 5 who was recently diagnosed with a very aggressive form of leukemia r’l. May Hashem shine His healing light onto him and all of Klal Yisrael who are sick and suffering b’karov, b’rachamim, Amen.

Personal Prayer in Practice ~ Part III

May 18, 2016
Orit Esther Riter
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In the midst of a trial or nisayon, some of us may struggle to see the good in our lives. What does Rebbe Nachman advise in such cases?

First, during hitbodedut we have to work hard to search high and low for Hashem’s kindness to us, to actively focus on the times when His gracious hand is clearly revealed. But Rebbe Nachman also advises that we should utter words of thanks even if our hearts are not moved. Eventually our words lo lishma will melt the high walls and secured fortress surrounding our hearts. Even in the absence of intense emotion, hitbodedut can still successfully peel away the klipot (shells) covering the heart and transforms our hearts into a vessel that captures Hashem’s light.

Singing or humming holy music or niggunim during hitbodedut is an excellent way of opening our hearts. Such music may awaken hidden feelings or forgotten memories and may inspire a connection to Hashem. Alternatively, we can choose a certain passuk or verse from Chazal and repeatedly recite it with intense concentration. The holy words act as a laser beam, piercing our heart with emotion. For instance, repeating “Ribbono Shel Olam or “Avinu Malkenu” a thousand times may enhance our emotional bond with our Creator.

Even sitting in pure silence during hitbodedut has the power to inject great light into our soul. Despite the absence of words, there remains a strong desire to communicate with Hashem. This type of silence is a spiritual silence, originating from intense feelings that cannot be expressed via words. Though not auditory, we are still connecting with Hashem on a deep, spiritual level. This type of silence goes beyond words and is described in Tehillim, “Lecha Dumia Tehillah (Silence is praise to You…) (see (65:2)”.

Regardless of the method we choose, each hitbodedut session serves to knock down another brick from the wall around our hearts, until eventually we can access our true internal neshama and connect fully with Hashem.

Personal Prayer in Practice ~ Part II

May 17, 2016
Orit Esther Riter
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one comments

BS’D

One remarkable effect of hitbodedut is the ability to deeply connect to Hashem in a close and personal way. This process illuminates our soul. Through emotional discourse – words of praise, appreciation, desire, will, lament, and honest reflection – we are able to bond with our Creator on the deepest level.

Our souls’ true desires are often covered over by the desires of our guf, body. Hitbodedut enables us to shed the layers of the guf and some of the genuine desires of the soul begin to surface. For instance, we may begin to feel and access our desire to be righteous and not transgress, to be happy, to live with zest and strength, to increase our emuna, see good in all things and in everyone, a strengthening of self-worth and honor. Above all, this process enables us to truly feel Hashem’s constant and intimate presence.

One highly beneficial part of hitbodedut is to utter words of gratitude. This demonstrates our contentment and our firm emuna that Hashem does everything for the best and that He listens to our tefillot. Expressing appreciation also motivates us to continue to pray with anticipation that the ultimate good will be revealed. We all have friends, relatives and others who support and assist us; B’H we are not alone in this world. Thanking Hashem for our loved ones keeps our blessings coming.

If we are stuck for something to thank Hashem for, Chazal suggest that we visit a hospital or a cemetery. By comparing ourselves to others in the community who are less fortunate than us, we automatically feel appreciation for what Hashem has blessed us. This process of contrasting ourselves with others may minimize the need for Hashem to send us intense challenges in order to encourage us to appreciate the beauty of an ordinary day.

Personal Prayer in Practice

May 16, 2016
Orit Esther Riter
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BS’D

The process of pouring our heartfelt thoughts and feelings to Hashem often enables us to feel cherished and uplifted. Rebbe Nachman explains that hitbodedut is meant to be a deep, intimate talk with Hashem in order to reach heart-felt issues that need to be addressed. Chiseling through the fortress surrounding our hearts requires a significant period of regular time to open up and acknowledge our feelings and emotions. He therefore advises us to do one hour of hitbodedut a day in order to reach this deep, penimi place, this deep place within.

In terms of location, Rebbe Nachman suggests that the most effective hitbodedut is achieved in a private space or in the fields. The fields offer open space and views of nature , which may enhance our connection with Hashem. Though we should also bring Hashem into our everyday lives and speak with Him during all activities, whether driving, folding the laundry and/or washing the dishes, this is not Rebbe Nachman’s hitbodedut per se’. Rather, Rebbe Nachman is referring to talking to Hashem, ‘face to face’ while not engaging in any other activity other than perhaps taking a drink which doesn’t disturb our mode of focus.

Ideally we should set aside a private spiritual ‘corner’ in which we regularly pray, learn and do hitbodedut. We may associate this holy setting with spirituality and this association may enhance our spiritual connections. However, such a separate space is not crucial and we can carry out hitbodedut even while traveling as a passenger and pretending to read a book or while walking in public, while sitting in a public space or in bed under the covers (being careful not to fall asleep!).

Regardless of where we carry out the process, the main thing is to be alone, without being disturbed. The crucial element of this practice is to open ourselves up honestly and connect with Hashem’s presence.

Today’s daily dose of emuna is dedicated to the refuah of Binyamin Yitzchak Yosef Leib ben Faiga, a young father who is in serious condition in need of a lung transplant. May Hashem shower him with a complete healing among all of Klal Yisrael who are sick and suffering, b’karov, b’rachamim, Amen.

 

Personal Prayer ~ Part III

May 11, 2016
Orit Esther Riter
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BS’D

The Higher Heavenly court asks each of us an interesting question: “Did you appoint regular times for learning Torah?” One lesson we can extract from this question is the importance of regular, consistent practice as opposed to sporadic, albeit heartfelt prayers. Although it is a beneficial and admirable to ‘run’ to Hashem and talk over our deepest emotions and concerns the long-term benefits of hitbodedut is achieved best via everyday ‘ordinary’ talk.

Every hitbodedut session is a personal encounter with our Creator. Practiced on a regular basis, hitbodedut forges a deep connection with Hashem that cannot be severed easily. It is called “a lofty level greater than all” Rebbe Nachman ztk’l teaches. Consistency, routine and repetition work best, even at times when it appears there is nothing special to discuss.

Many question Rebbe Nachman’s teaching of the importance of one hour of hitbodedut. Some are concerned about the unrealistic nature of setting aside a whole hour dedicated to Hashem every day. In actual fact, Rebbe Nachman writes, “… one hour or more…”! He teaches that we should ideally strive towards transforming our entire lives to one dynamic intimate conversation with Hashem.

Let’s begin with setting aside a consistent block of time to open our hearts and mouths to our Creator. Let’s choose an authentic length of time, no matter how short a time period, at the most convenient time of day Then, gradually, we can build up towards our “one hour per day” goal. And in order to succeed, we can pray to Hashem to help us set aside this time to achieve our goal.

Today is memorial day in Israel. It is special to take a moment to pray for the souls who have departed from this world and their families.  May Klal Yisrael merit the geula without pain and tragedy, Amen.

Today’s daily dose of emuna is dedicated to the refuah shleimah of Ahava Emuna bat Chava Etta, a young bother battling stage 4 cancer with tremendous pain and difficulty.  May Hashem shower her family with strength and heal her, b’riut hanefesh v’b’riut haguf among all of Klal Yisrael who are sick and suffering b’karov, b’rachamim, Amen.

 

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