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Rosh Hashana Prayer Skills I

From an unedited transcript of a shiur: If you could turn to page 232, 233. Anyone care to read it to me in Hebrew or in English? I can’t see well enough to ask someone to do it but if someone could just please volunteer to read it in Hebrew or English, whichever way you daven.

Psalm 90, okay, in English. Is that what you want, psalm 90?

Yes, psalm 146.

Hallelu-ya – praise Hashem, oh my soul, I will praise Hashem while I live, I will make music to my G-d while I exist. Do not rely on nobles who are human beings for you will know no salvation

Okay, you sound like a priest. I don’t know who it is. Or even worse, you sound like a Rabbi saying Tehillim at a funeral.

You want it with feeling?

Yes, how else would you daven?

Once more with feeling. Once more, should I start over or continue?


Start over?

Hallelukah – praise Hashem oh my soul, I will praise Hashem while I live, I will make music to my G-d while I exist. Do not rely on nobles nor on human beings for he holds no salvation.

Alright, so now we have the first skill that’s necessary to daven. Say the words as if we actually mean them and in order to have a good demonstration of that, I arranged for the baby to be there so you’d know that when you talk to G-d it’s a proper feeling, the way the baby does. That’s how G-d sees us. Right, to let you know the famous story with Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdetchiv?

No, he went into the market place, he climbed on top of a crate and he started going, abbididididididah. So the whole town is gathering around the Chief Rabbi of the city, the holy tzadik,  Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdetchiv’s going Rebbe, Rebbe, what are you doing? He said abbidididdiddah. Rebbe, Rebbe, what are you saying? He said I’m just imitating the way you daven. And they said to him, Rebbe, when a baby cries and when a baby talks, does it sound any different from abbbidadadadah. No. But the parent knows exactly what the baby is saying. When we speak to the Ribono shel Olam, we speak the same way. He knows exactly what we’re saying. So it’s important to know that Hashem can hear us as long as the words are coming from the heart. But if we’re just reading it the way a Rabbi would at a funeral, or most Rabbis, not Rabbi Cohn of course. He can’t, he’s a Kohen. Then we already are losing, we’re forfeiting the effectiveness of the words we’re saying. So the first skill is to learn how to say something the way I want to say it, what the words are saying. Now of course that will cut into my time, I won’t have the opportunity to say everything that everyone is saying, if I really want to take the time and daven that way. So its okay to skip, so that’s why you have minimums of what you need to daven. So why don’t we try the shemoneh esrei and lets see if someone wants to see how to daven Shemoneh Esrei.

One of the skills of davening is called shtimmer tanasin – silent dancing. Where you close your eyes and you imagine yourself singing, or you imagine yourself dancing or you imagine yourself screaming at the top of your lungs, but it is a silent scream and a silent dance, and it is so internal that once we can get past that moment of discomfort and just get into that silent dancing, silent davening, it becomes very powerful.

So number one with this sentence its most important to understand. If you look up Proverbs, Mishlei, chapter 16, verse 1, the pasuk says, all we have to do when we daven is arrange in our hearts what we want to daven for. That’s it. We just have to know what we want to daven for. Ma’adam archei lev. A person just has to arrange everything in his heart, umei’Hashem ma’aneh lashon – and Hashem will give us the word to articulate our deepest feeling, as long as we approach it that way and that is the key to this sentence. So the first thing is, if I’m desperate I have all of these things that are inside my heart. I have all these things I want to daven for, especially on Rosh Hashanah when my life is on the line, my spiritual life, my physical life. I could not possibly articulate everything that’s on my mind, everything that I want and certainly not everything that I need because I don’t even know what I need. So I’m desperate for Hashem’s help. So in that first moment when I take those 3 steps up. I take 3 steps back, away from everyone around me, I take the 3 steps back away from my life, so to speak, and then I take 3 steps forward into my private audience with the Creator of the Universe. And the first thing I want to say is I can’t possibly say everything I want to and take full advantage of this opportunity, so I go, whether it’s the day when I go, Ado, like that, please Hashem, or it’s just a silent Ado, please, a more gentle but almost a more desperate, sefasai tiftach – open my lips, u’fi yagid tehilasecha – so that my mouth can say over your praises. I need Your help. And so I am right away saying to Hashem, I have prepared my thoughts, my feelings, my wishes inside my heart and what I want to do now, what I’m asking You right now at the beginning of this private audience to give me the ability to articulate everything I want. So too, if we begin to speak the words as if we are actually in a conversation our tefillas become much more powerful. And that’s the way the entire Shemoneh Esrei should work. So Ado, like that, sefasai tiftach – open my lips. When I go to, Ata Gibor le’olam Hashem, there’s a difference between saying – You are very mighty forever my Lord, You are eternally mighty my Lord. That’s okay, that’s a good word, but You (emphasis), are eternally Mighty (emphasis), my Lord, like that, it changes the quality of our davening. So the primary skill is to say the words as if these are the actual words of the petition in front of the King.

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